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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

Choosing a family dog

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If a goldfish or hamster just won’t cut it with the kids as a family pet you may be thinking of getting a dog. You won’t be alone as there are eight million pet dogs in the UK.

It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. You have to be really committed to looking after a dog as it may be part of your family for well over a decade.

Dogs live for 13 years on average, but many live longer.

Is a dog the right choice for your family?

Having a dog changes your life. You need to think hard about the time it’ll take to exercise and the amount it costs to keep.

They’re not called man’s best-friend for nothing. Dogs can enhance and enrich family life as long as you pick the right one for you.

You have a duty in law to care for your dog properly. Dogs get lonely, so think about how often the dog will be left home alone without human company.

The Kennel Club estimates that it costs about £25 a week to keep a dog when you take into consideration the original purchase price and ongoing expenses like food, vets’ fees and insurance. So think about whether you can afford the upkeep.

Which dog is right for your family?

You need to do lots of research to find out which breed of dog fits in best with you.

There are lots of different breeds, from big to tiny, from energetic to more laid back. Laura Quickfall from the Kennel Club says: "There are 210 pedigree breeds recognised in the UK. Each one is different; you need to do your research to find out what’s the right breed for your family."

It’s down to individual family set ups and the personalities of the dogs and owners.

"Labradors and golden retrievers are the most popular dogs in the UK and have been for years."

The size of dog may be a consideration depending on your living arrangements. The Kennel Club says large dogs generally have a shorter life span and cost more to feed, kennel, insure and medically treat than smaller ones.

There is a wealth of information from the Kennel Club about all of the breeds. It also runs a Discover Dogs Day in London every year where you can go along and meet the breeders.

A good way to make sure a breed will match your family requirements is to talk with the breeders and find out about the dogs' needs and what their characteristics are.

Are there any dogs to avoid?

There have been a number of disturbing stories in the news about people being attacked by dogs.

A new animal welfare report by leading veterinary charity, PDSA, reveals that almost one in three (30%) of dog owners have been bitten or attacked by a dog, with over half (51%) knowing someone else who has.

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