Thinking of getting a pet dog? Before you even consider breeds, you'll need to make sure you're able to meet an animal's needs. Will you be home enough to keep a dog company, can you walk them twice a day, can you afford food and vets bills, will they be happy living with children or other pets in the house? Are you happy for your house to (potentially) be covered in dog hair, mud, poop and for your furniture to be chewed?
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Once you've decided that you ARE up to the job of dog ownership, there are some equally important decisions to be made regarding which breed (or crossbreed) would suit your circumstances best.
We don't all have several hours a day spare to give a Border Collie the sort of exercise that the breed requires, and equally a high-energy dog like a Siberian Husky is not the perfect companion if you like to spend your spare time in front of the box.
It's important to get a dog which has energy levels matching your own, and there are plenty of breeds with lower exercise requirements. By lower, we mean a 20-30 minute walk twice a day.
If you like big dogs then Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Bulldogs, Shar-Peis, Great Danes and Bernese Mountain Dogs all have low exercise requirements.
But if a smaller dog would be more appropriate to your circumstances, then low-exercise dogs include Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Basset Hounds and Lhasa Apsos.
You'd think Greyhounds would need loads of exercise, but actually around 20 minutes a day can be sufficient for the canine kingdom's fastest sprinters.
There are two things you notice when you go to a dog owner's house. The first is the smell, and the second - sometimes - is the dog hairs everywhere.
We said "sometimes" because not all dogs drop their hairs - so if you are not on first name terms with Henry the vacuum cleaner then perhaps you should be considering a light-shedding mutt?
These include most Terriers (but do check), Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, Greyhounds, Poodles and Basenji.
High-shedding dogs include Labradors, Spaniels, Pekingese, Saint Bernards, Border Collies and German Shepherds.
Another important factor for many potential dog owners is their pet's temperament - and in the case of people with busy lives, how well a breed takes to being left alone.
We don't want to seem like we're picking on Border Collies, but it would be daft to get one if you were going to be out of the house for many hours each day. Serious behavioural problems would likely ensue and your furniture could well get eaten.
The temperament of individual dogs can be as important as their breed when it comes to how well they handle time alone - so pick a puppy with a calm temperament if you are likely to be out of the house for hours at a time.
And think twice before you get a puppy - you'll need to house train them, teach them basic commands (like recall and walking on a lead) and your house and belongings are more likely to get chewed. If you do get a puppy, make sure you get one from a reputable source, preferably a registered breeder.
Some breeds suffer separation anxiety worse than others - usually as a result of a temperament that means they require a job (such as our friend the Border Collie).
Do some research into your chosen breed (try the Internet and ask your local vet or registered dog breeder) and be honest with yourself about whether you really have the right kind of lifestyle to become a dog owner.
What do you reckon? What have we missed? Comment below...