Q&A: Choosing a family dog?

  • Expert advice from Baileys’ canine nutritionist on choosing the ideal breed for a family

    Q: I’m thinking of getting my first dog but I’m not sure which breed to get – it has to be a family dog, quiet and sensible but with personality. My mum loves spaniels but people say they are too mad. Where I work they have Labrador puppies for sale, but I think they my be too boring, they also have a Burmese Mountain dog who is gorgeous and very playful but am concerned that this breed may be a bit big. Do you have any suggestions?

    Liz Bulbrook replies: “There are many factors that need to be considered and that will influence the type and breed of dog that you finally choose.

    I would suggest that you read up on the different breeds, as well as talking to breeders and friends, as everyone has their own opinion as to what is the “ideal” breed.

    Whatever choice you finally make, the dog has tofit in with your lifestyle for the next 10-15 years!

    Do you want the guarding type, athletic and active, multipurpose or general lazy pouch?

    Although you say you want a family dog with a quiet sensible outlook, but with personality consider some of the following points as well:

    Pedigree or Mongrel?

    If you want a family dog and are not intending to show or work it then consider mongrels as well as pedigrees.

    Talk to breeders or dog rescue/ homing centres and getas much information as possible, they can often help in ensuring the dog is the right match for the owner.

    For example a collie x lab could give you the calm steady loyal temperament of a lab, coupled with the intelligence and more active nature of a collie.

    Dog or Bitch?

    Although the tendency is for dogs to be rougher and tougher than bitches they can both be home loving creatures if brought up and trained properly.

    Remember dogs may need castrating if they have the tendency to wander in search of bitches, but then bitches come into season and need to be kept under careful eye so as not to attract all the local dogs.

    Puppy or Adult?

    This will depend upon your circumstances, puppies take up a lot of time and extra commitment with frequency of meals, house training, exercise etc but you have the advantage of knowing their full history.

    If you want to be able to go for long family walks immediately and have a house trained dog then go for something older.

    Size & Hair Coat

    Remember that with the bigger dog then requirements increase such as the space it needs to live in, the amount of exercise required, the increased food costs with bigger meals, increased worming and veterinary costs for routine treatments.

    Some dogs moult more easily than others and require more grooming and attention to their appearance than others.

    Active or Passive:

    Do you want a couch potato or amultipurpose dog that is equally content having a family stroll or a long hike through the forest?

    You mention the Labrador as being boring – this is far from the truth, as the majority make excellent family pets with quite a character and will easily adapt to your circumstances; whereas Springer Spaniels, Dalmatians and many other working breeds require enormous amounts of exercise as they are naturally active breeds.


    Although temperament is largely affected by the up-bringing of the puppy, some breeds are known naturally as being aggressive, guarding types, which can be within the genetics of the breed, so consider this also; but remember all dogs can bite if provoked or behave in an uncontrollable manor if not trained.

    I’m sure whatever dog you choose it will be a joy to own, and remember everyone has a view, but the final choice must be yours.

    Read more about caring for your dog:

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