How to choose the companion dog for you

If you’ve been thinking it might be nice to have a dog around for companionship, you’re probably right. But there are some things that need to be considered before you can bring home the perfect pooch. Here’s how to make sure you’re making the right choices for both yourself and your next best friend.

Don’t fall for farmed pups
Before looking at puppies, it’s important to know about the industry that produces them. While puppy farms are illegal in Victoria, they are still legal in most Australian states. These are factories in which 20 to 1000 mother dogs are penned in horrendous conditions and forced to produce litter after litter of puppies until their bodies give out and they die at a young age. These puppies are the ones you see in the pet store. Adorable, yes, but they are more likely to have serious health problems, and buying them funds this cruel industry.

Look into breeders
If you want to buy a puppy from a breeder, it’s important to know your stuff first. Like puppy farms, it’s important not to support industries that condone cruelty towards dogs and pups. To help you assess a breeder, check out the Smart Puppy Buyer’s Guide.

Save a life
Alternatively, you could choose from the thousands of dogs and pups currently sitting in shelters near you. According to Pet Welfare, 100,000 healthy and treatable cats and dogs are euthanised in Australian pounds and shelters each year.

Most shelters and pounds in Australia do not share the data on euthanasia rates. This makes it easy for shelters that practise out-dated policies to conceal that they kill 85–95 per cent of cats, and every second dog. Some pounds are more guilty than others. Shelters in NSW put down twice as many dogs as Victorian shelters. Every year in Australia, 20,000 cats and dogs are put down because their owners were forced to surrender their pets to shelters due to no-pets clauses in rental agreements.

Fortunately, this means that if you’re looking to adopt a new best friend, you may also be saving them from the jaws of death.

Choose who to take home
When choosing your new friend, it’s important to reflect on your lifestyle. A common reason pets are surrendered to the pound is that new pet owners suddenly ‘discover’ their lifestyles and/or daily routines conflict with the demands of pet ownership.

So, first, evaluate your lifestyle and your home. The RSPCA’s Find-a-Friend feature helps people to find a dog that matches their personality and lifestyle. These factors include how much spare time you have, how much you know about dog training, how big and dog-friendly your home is, and how much exercise and attention you should give your pooch.

Many shelters will have websites with pictures and descriptions of the dogs they have for adoption. The RSPCA will colour code these dogs and puppies so you can identify which ones might align with your lifestyle.

Consider the oldie
If you’re interested in saving a pooch’s life as well as bringing home your new best mate, it’s important to consider which dogs are most likely to be put down. A pack of fluffy puppies will almost definitely find a home with a young family, and that attractive young retriever is probably only days away from finding some jeep-driving, surf-loving couple – but what about those older dogs down the back?

An older family friend of mine has taken to adopting dogs in the later stages of their lives. Dogs who don’t demand endless miles of running to be kept happy, and instead want to relax in your company. A few years ago, her dog, Queenie, passed away. She was heartbroken. Yet, a few months later, she had returned to the shelter and brought home Biscuit, an older mixed breed with so much grey around her eyes it looked like she was wearing spectacles. I asked her how she could do it to herself, knowing that they would only have a few years together. “Well,” she told me, “We all want someone to love us in our later years, and there’s nothing like an old dog’s love”.

If you’re interested in rescuing a pooch, swing by your local shelter or checkout Adopt a Pet to see if your new best friend is out there waiting for you to pick them up.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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