-12 As a dog training instructor, I'm often asked for advice on choosing a dog. A common misconception among prospective dog owners is that the main concern is matching a dog to your living area.
People who live in flats and apartments tell me they're contemplating a small dog. These dogs tend to be highly energetic and yappy, not a good combination for apartment-dwellers and their neighbours.
Others with big backyards will say they're thinking of a larger dog. But left alone in the backyard, these dogs soon demonstrate how destructive a bored dog can be.
Lifestyle, not living area
It's lifestyle, not living area, that should determine whether you buy a dog. Regardless of size, dogs need a lot of attention. In addition to regular exercise, play and training, dogs need a commitment that borders on monotony but is vitally important for ensuring a settled, stress-free dog.
People seem to forget that dogs live for a long time. Playful puppies grow into wilful two-year-olds, mature around five and then slowly slide from middle-aged eight-year-olds into elderly dogs of twelve to fourteen years or more. Dogs are long-term investments.
As with any investment, prospective dog owners should research their options beforehand. Visit a local dog club, watch how different dogs behave, listen to them and talk to their owners.
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Above all, people should not buy a cute puppy or adopt a rescue dog unless they are prepared for the ongoing responsibility and cost of being a dog owner.
Because as my Harry, who turns ten on Xmas Eve, reminds us, a dog is not just for Xmas.
Please pass on this message to any family or friends considering buying a dog this Xmas.
© 2007, 2017 Robert Fairhead
This article appeared in the Village Voice Eastern-Harbourside in December 2007. And I was lucky and had my Harry for three more Xmases!
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.