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Why do you pick the type of dog you do? Karen Wild, animal behaviour expert, explains in her latest column

In my work I see dogs that were chosen for a wide variety of reasons, but I think its reasonable to say that people tend to choose their dogs for key reasons - looks, mainly.

It may be that we like the look of a particular type because we saw another one around, and they seemed nice! It might be that we have had a similar type of shape/size of dog as a child and want to reinstate that in our lives.

It could be based on allergies, and does the dog shed its coat? (Just check that one, because people tend to be allergic to the dander and not the fur itself.)

Four dogs sitting on a bench in the wood
Four dogs sitting on a bench in the wood

Of course, fashion has a huge impact on our doggy choices. Short-nosed dogs are really popular but I can be honest and tell you that they often come with huge health issues too. Yes, many dogs can have problems, but if their skulls are shorter then breathing is difficult and they can’t cool themselves down as easily through panting, which is how dogs mainly do this.

I suppose you could be thinking, what is my point? Well, the problems I see in my job, where people have lost that bond with their dog, can often be linked back to those choices being based on false details, or expectations that a ‘breed’ will behave in a certain way. Unfortunately there isn’t any evidence that certain breeds have certain temperaments. You can get a huge variation even within a litter. Yes, they may have been bred for a purpose years ago, but looks might have taken over in the priority list of ‘things we expect from an XYZ’.

Often the bigger issues I see are as a result of a misunderstanding about needs. Large dogs can be couch potatoes, but some are not. Small dogs may sometimes want to sit on laps, but some don’t. The idea of a big dog that will scare off intruders puts a massive expectation on that dog that they will somehow telepathically know that the delivery driver isn’t an intruder but the masked stripey top-wearing bandit certainly is a baddie. Or kind old Uncle Jim, popping round now lockdown is eased, is also an unknown, so the dog can often hurl themselves at him, too.

Karen Wild
Karen Wild

If you are looking at a working dog for work, then make sure you don’t leave it to the rest of the family to deal with whilst you’re not around. If you want to have a large, energetic dog, then you need to have space and a lot of time for them (we are talking about hours daily especially whilst they are young).

It’s so important that your choice of dog takes into account what you can provide for them first. Not what they provide for you. That way, we can say we are truly dog lovers.

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