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Recommendations for first timers, please!(33 Posts)
After decades of longing for a dog from a distance, my weak resolve has been toppled by the combined will of my children. I have only ever kept fish so no useful experience and after lurking on this board for months I know your opinions would be really helpful. It is not exactly straightforward ... We have a yard, not a garden but live across from a large community green, which many dog walkers frequent and near a few big parks. I am at home most of the time. Children are aged 8 & 13 and (mostly) calm and caring in their nature. We also have my sister stay with us about one week per month who needs a lot of physical support and assistance - she is mobile but limited. I am therefore hoping to find a medium(?) sized dog, as one that is small and fast in the house could cause her to fall. We definitely need a dog that doesn't shed a great deal and really don't want a yapper. I have learnt from these threads that you will find dogs of the same breed with very different personalities but it seems there are general expectations of behaviour by breed. I have not yet approached rescues, don't know if we would be considered and don't really know whether or not an older rescue dog is advisable for us. All suggestions will be appreciated, many thanks.
I would have said you can't go wrong with a show-line Labrador Retriever but I think they do shed quite a lot! A greyhound would probably be my top choice for your requirements - they only have one very short coat that doesn't shed a lot, good for first timers, large enough that they won't run under your feet and trip you up, tend to be quiet and don't need a great deal of exercise - they love to run fast in bursts but they are couch potatoes in the house. There are so many ex-racing greyhounds in rescue, it would definitely be worth enquiring to see if there are any that may be suitable for you!
Thanks, @TeacupRex, I love greyhounds and will enquire. I really don't know much about keeping dogs, appreciate it if anyone could give me a rough idea of what I could expect to spend each month - or is this a 'how long is a piece of string' type question?
It definitely can vary, but you can figure out a rough estimate on regular things (not like emergency vet treatment or unexpected health issues) - larger dogs obviously will require more food than a smaller one, some food brands are more expensive than others based on quality and ingredients - www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk is a great website to compare different dog food brands, how much it will cost per day to feed, ingredient information.. There's also flea/worming treatments, it's usually purchased every 3 months - different vets will charge different prices for this, so if you can get a prescription and order the treatment online, you can buy in bulk (think you can order up to a year's worth) and it usually ends up a bit cheaper than getting it through the vet. Bit of extra hassle but some vets really take the mick with upcharging on parasite treatments!
There's also pet insurance (if you choose to get your dog insured) which can vary based on breed/age. Greyhounds generally tend to be quite healthy (on average compared to other breeds) but different insurance companies have different rates and policies so it's definitely worth doing some research if you decide to insure.
Rescues should come spayed/neutered and microchipped which will save you about £100-200.
This site may be useful www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/the-cost-of-owning-a-dog Very rough estimates but a medium dog will cost around £80 per month.
But it really depends what you mean by "I am at home most of the time". The key question is, how often are you not at home?
I'd also recommend a lurcher, whippet or greyhound. Parents in law have whippets and a big lurcher, absolutely lovely animals and theirs aren't barkers and are very relaxed. Lots of lurchers need rehoming too.
Another vote for lurchers or greyhounds in your situation. There are plenty in rescue and lurchers come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, coat types and colours. I've known quite a few lurchers and greyhounds (both rescues and not) and they are generally really nice dogs, though if you get a rescue lurcher that has worked, you might find that it's very prey driven. They are lovely, chilled, affectionate dogs round the house though, without being yappy and annoying.
(And I say all that as someone who doesn't own one and prefers a different type of dog, which suits us brilliantly, but would probably not suit you.)
I work from home or sometimes at my parents' home so school runs, shops, general appointments are my norm. At weekends I am usually in woods/parks/beaches with kids. Our holidays/breaks are becoming more cottage on the coast affairs. I presume greyhounds and perhaps whippets have raced, does this include lurchers too? Does this mean a very long walk every day or twice per day? Also, can I assume there is a period needed for bonding if we rescue (as opposed to training)? If they need a fast run, am I looking at a run to the countryside everyday (would be tricky) so they cam bolt? And what if they don't come back? I told you I know nothing!
I have a pointy dog and they don't need loads of exercise.
We've had our Lurcher since she was a tiny, abandoned pup. She's super affectionate and super lazy!
We walk her once a day, usually off lead in the field behind our house.
They make brilliant pets & we're hoping to rehome another one soon.
Be prepared to lose your sofa though!
A retired greyhound will have raced; most whippets these days seem to be bred as pets but I could be wrong there. Lurchers aren't bred for racing, but (if not just as pets) for work - with ferrets after rabbits, for example, or illegal hare coursing, or for fox control.
In my (limited) experience, they are not famous for their recall, but they do tend to only want a short race round before they decide they've had enough (unlike working-bred gun dogs who can, and do, go all day). Someone who knows more than me should be along to give you more accurate info, but I do know lurchers (including rescues) who can be let to run off-lead.
Lurchers are generally working crosses - bred for things like general pest control, lamping, hare/rabbit coursing. They're one of the most common type of dog you'll find in rescues, because sadly they get dumped when they are no longer of working use to their owners..
Because so many crosses can technically create a Lurcher (Greyhound x Border Collie, Whippet x Jack Russell, Greyhound x Staffordshire Bull Terrier) it can be a bit of a mixed bag, especially as most rescues can't really guarantee what breeds are in each Lurcher as they wouldn't know the history. Lurchers might be used for amateur racing, but as each one is unique there's no guarantees. I'd think with Lurchers, each one is an individual and would be fully temperament tested by the rescue to make sure they're a good match for your family.
Whippets are less commonly used than Greyhounds for racing, and are a bit harder to find in rescues. A Whippet is basically a medium-sized version of the Greyhound.
Greyhounds actually don't need a lot of exercise as they were built for speed, not endurance. They will zoom around for a few minutes but don't need extremely long walks. Some Greyhounds can be let off lead with a solid recall but others absolutely cannot, a lot of them have very strong prey drives and will take off after wildlife. Not all will, of course, but it's something to keep in mind. A long line or a safe enclosed area where they can run around without escaping is essential for Greyhounds that do bolt. In the first few months, I'd keep them on lead or have a long line (usually about 10-20m long) attached to the dog so that they have more freedom to run, but you'll be holding the end so that they can't run off. Unfortunately they are a breed where there is a real risk of you not being able to catch them once they start running! It might be worth signing up to some dog training classes, they will show you how to teach recall to your dog along with other useful things.
As all rescues come from different circumstances, some might bond straightaway, others may take longer. Some rescue dogs may have come from a loving family home due to personal circumstances and have been housetrained, some are ex racers who have only ever known living in a kennel, some may have been rescued from abuse (but I don't think a rescue would place an abuse case with someone who is completely new to dogs so don't worry). A lot of rescues will not be trained, so basic training is still essential. A good rescue will always been on hand with advice and guidance.
This is probably a bit too much of information overload, but most of it you learn along the way. I only got my first ever dog 4 years ago!
@LatteLover12 thanks for sharing about your lurcher, that sounds doable and I have actually kept hold of an old sofa just in case we do this. There are so many things to consider. The children respectively are drawn to labs and collies (the sheep dogs?). I am actually drawn to lurchers/greyhounds/whippets anyway, this thread has made me a little thrilled. I realise it is really about the kind of home/life we have to offer rather than what we like the look of but I want to consider their opinions too before we start actively looking. I have now looked on a few greyhound(esque) rehoming sites and have to ask - am I crackers to think I could take two dogs that need rehoming as a pair? I'm hiding behing my dog-free couch waiting for answers.
@TeacupRex and @GrumpyMiddleAgedWoma
You're welcome @straysocks
The rescue would be able to advise about a suitable pairing.
In my experience pointy dogs seem to be drawn to each other. It's very sweet.
I'd advise against a sheep dog as a first pet. They're extremely intelligent and need lots of input to keep them happy. Also, if you end up with one from a working line, the instinct to herd the children can be strong!
Oh, I also meant to say, my girl has great recall. It took us a while to get there but it's great now. It can be done!
I would probably avoid rehoming a pair if you are completely new to dogs and definitely avoid getting two puppies of the same age together. Responsible rescues wouldn't allow the latter, but young puppies brought up together can be prone to developing 'littermate syndrome'. They bond more closely to each other rather than their human family, which can cause all kinds of behavioural issues in the long run. I would say focus on the one dog first, get the training sorted, then you can always bring home a second at a later date
I've got 2 spaniels, and they're crazy on walks but very calm in the house. They're also incredibly loyal, trusting and don't shed too much (we had a lab before and went through hoovers like nobodies business). But they are velcro dogs and hate being left.
I spend around £60 a month on food, and around £50 combined on their insurance. I probably also spend at least another £20 on dog toys, tennis balls, spare leads etc. I also put around £30 a month into a savings account for vet bills (wormers, flea treatments, annual vaccinations etc) . I'd recommend a charity shop for lots of towels... you can never have enough in winter, and a warm cosy bed.
Having a dog is so good for your soul. Mine are my absolute world - they drag you out of the house in all weathers, and most other dog owners are very friendly.
Labs are wonderful family dogs but I find them very 'bouncy'. From my limited experience they don't really ever grow up though our chilled considerably around age 8. Just wonder if this is going to pose a problem with your sisters mobility?
Also ours shed. A lot!
Schnauzers are lovely dogs, and cocker spaniels. Those were the first two that came to mind when I read your OP. Can't say I'm a huge fan of greyhounds, I'd consider them large dogs as opposed to medium too.
Yes, @Girlintheframe my limited experience of other people's dogs say a lab is a no for us right now. I have never heard of Scnauzers, @EnglishRain, will check them out but think Spaniels are too low to the ground - some vision issues too. Thanks for taking the time to respond
I don't think you should be looking for a specific breed or a specific size dog, but rather for a specific dog that meets your requirements. What I mean is that any size dog can knock an adult over, usually by running into them from behind and taking their feet/legs out from under them, so the size alone is not going to help.
I think you should talk to a small local rescue and see if they can find you the right dog. Some animals have an innate understanding of the needs of more fragile humans. I've seen horses understand this and literally tread very carefully around disabled children. You need a dog that has a calm temperament and a...I don't know how to put it, but you'll know it when you see it, kind of an awareness of and care for vulnerability.
You also need to manage the dog's energy level, especially because you don't have a garden so the yard would only be used for toileting purposes. The dog will need 3 good walks a day, especially when your sister is visiting.
Would you consider an oldie? It would meet a lot of your other needs, although the downside is always the possible health problems and the shorter life span.
Whippets are great and don't need massive amounts of exercise. All the ones I know need convinced to leave the house. If you want a non shedder what about a poodle?
Oh and definitely avoid a basset hound - ours is an absolute trip hazard!
I think you're right @Booboostwo, we really do need to find a dog with the right temperament and precisely what you observed about the horses. There is quite a high quotient of additional needs in our house, especially as my sister will be with us more and more, and I hope a dog will add another dimension to our dynamic. I think she would really benefit too with the right animal. I am trying to be careful about it as I realise we increase the chance of it going wrong and that's why I've waited as long as I have, we have more stability and longer-term plans. I have wondered about service-type dogs but have yet to explore this, I expect this to be expensive and less flexible but perhaps I am wrong. I think the advice about becoming known to a shelter is probably what I will do and use the experience/expertise to match us. @happycamper11 I have held a grudge against poodles since a teddy-bear related incident aged 5, I realise I need to move but I can still see it all in flashback. Given I can take the dog onto the green opposite my house even when everyone is home at once helps I think but yes, it would be the yard only if it needed to go out at night. I am not sure about a very oldie but I don't think we need a puppy either.
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