Updated: Jun 15, 2020
As a dog behaviorist, I often get asked this question and it is one of the best questions to ask yourself once you have made the decision to get a dog. Incorporating a dog into your life is a commitment for the next 10 to 15 years, so take as much time as you need to understand what best suits you and your family.
How do I pick the right dog?
Here are my 5 TOP THINGS to think about when choosing the right dog.
1. Know yourself
Understand how much time you would have for the dog. On top of your commitments towards family, friends and work, think about the time you would need to spend with your dog. You would need to carve out time from your current schedule to care for your dog with daily walks, feeding it, training it and grooming it.
Ensure that you have enough time to train and provide mental stimulation. Dogs can often get destructive when bored and anxiety will build up from being neglected.
Also think about the dynamics at home; if you have children or if there is an existing dog or other pets in the house. Settling a new canine arrival within the family can sometimes be difficult, and everyone within the household should be on the same page for the prospective addition.
2. Activity level
How much exercise would the dog require, and do you have the energy to keep up with the dog?
Working breeds, herding and gun dogs are notorious for needing serious workouts. Many Singapore Specials I have encountered also have strong hunting instincts and often make good running buddies.
If you are a family that prefers to lounge about on a Sunday, then pick a dog with a lower drive and one that would prefer to laze around on the carpet than be bounding around the park.
Age of the dog plays a factor too. Do you pick a puppy that requires constant monitoring and often has boundless energy or a more matured adult dog that may have formed habits that are hard to break?
Social attraction is how confident a dog is when interacting with people. Pay attention to how the dog interacts with you; does the dog come up directly to you or is curious but may not be the first to jump onto you? Or is the dog cowering in the corner and seems to prefer being left alone?
Touch sensitivity is the dog’s sensitivity to human touch. Dogs in an urban environment often encounter many humans and need to be trained to be desensitized to being touched by various people.
Watch to see if the dog is a follower or has a higher level of social dominance. A dog with a lower social dominance and is a follower may be more suitable for a first-time owner with minimal dog experience.
Sight and sound sensitivity can also play a pivotal role in selecting the dog. A higher sight sensitivity would likely mean a higher prey drive and instinct to react to a moving object. Sound sensitivity on the other hand is the dog’s response to sound. Rescue dogs like Singapore Specials often have high sight and sound sensitivity, requiring owners to spend a significant amount of time training to desensitize the dog to the daily sights and sounds of urban life.
The perfect puppy can only grow into the perfect adult dog with the right socialization and training. Likewise, a less than perfect puppy can become the perfect adult with the same attention to training.
4. Size and coat
Consider how large the dog would grow and if your current residence has enough space for your dog. A bigger dog also means a bigger food bill, which will have a larger financial impact.
Grooming will also become a consistent time and financial commitment that you would need to factor in. A flat coated dog like a Labrador would need minimal grooming. On the other hand, a long-coated dog like a Husky would need to be brushed daily and professionally groomed every 4 to 6 weeks.
5. Find a reputable breeder or rescue organisation
Always acquire dogs from a good, reputable source. You know that you have found a good breeder or rescue organisation when they ask you more questions about you and your family than you ask them. They would want to understand about your living
conditions and lifestyle to ensure that the dog you are picking would be suitable for you.
A reputable breeder would only sell their dogs to someone they think would treat the dog with the right care, physical and mental stimulation. They may also give you advice sheets on training and diet.
If you are picking a rescue dog, talk to staff and volunteers to get an understanding of the environment that the dogs are currently living in – for example : do the dogs receive training, how much can they tell you about the individual dog and if the dog had previously been returned to the shelter, what was the reason for the return of the dog.
If possible, avoid visiting the shelter during busy days or weekends. The dogs are often stressed from over stimulation and the staff would be too stretched to spend time to answer your questions in detail.
Learn how to read dog body language or bring a professional who will be able to help you understand the signals the dog is sending. Dogs speak with their bodies, providing a wealth of information about who they are and how that may suit you and your family. For example, it is important to understand the difference between a calm dog and a dog that has shut down.