Wel­com­ing a furry new mem­ber to the fam­ily can be dif­fi­cult – for both fam­ily and pet. An­i­mal psy­chol­o­gist MARK VETTE of­fers ad­vice for those look­ing to in­tro­duce a dog to the clan

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Ad­vice on in­tro­duc­ing a dog to the fam­ily

Dogs can be a won­der­ful ad­di­tion to the fam­ily and re­search shows hav­ing a dog is good for kids – it in­creases their at­ten­tive­ness, de­creases anx­i­ety, im­proves their emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and it helps them grow com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing of liv­ing things. But a dog is also a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. If this is some­thing you’re think­ing about, here are my thoughts on what to con­sider first.

Choos­ing a dog breed

There are about 500 breeds of dogs. Mak­ing the right choice comes down to com­bin­ing your needs and wants of a dog, with the at­tributes of var­i­ous breeds, to get the ideal match. The bet­ter suited you are, the more happy your time to­gether will be.


All dogs need ex­er­cise, but it varies greatly from breed to breed. If you don’t ex­er­cise a high en­ergy dog enough, it can man­i­fest into other is­sues, such as de­struc­tive be­hav­iour or hy­per­ac­tiv­ity. Space: If you have a big house and prop­erty, a big­ger or more ac­tive breed will be fine, but for smaller spa­ces a smaller, lower en­ergy dog will work bet­ter. Tem­per­a­ment: Do you want an in­de­pen­dent and self-suf­fi­cient dog, or an af­fec­tion­ate com­pan­ion dog? Do you want a pro­tec­tive guard dog or a highly so­cia­ble dog? Train­abil­ity: Do you want to spend lots of time train­ing your dog in agility or obe­di­ence? Do you want or need your dog to per­form spe­cific tasks? Cer­tain breeds are thought to be more ea­ger to learn new things – and these are usu­ally in­tel­li­gent and high en­ergy dogs (such as work­ing breeds). Phys­i­cal traits: Some breeds are bet­ter for fam­ily mem­bers with al­ler­gies. If you are choos­ing a pure­bred dog, find an ex­cel­lent breeder to avoid breed spe­cific ail­ments (some breeds are prone to var­i­ous con­gen­i­tal, med­i­cal and psychological prob­lems). Al­ter­na­tively, choose a cross­breed – of­ten you’ll get the best of both breeds and im­prove gen­eral health. My pref­er­ence is to adopt from a res­cue shel­ter. There are thou­sands of dogs des­per­ately look­ing for lov­ing homes, and in my ex­pe­ri­ence no one will love you more than a res­cued dog. If you do get a res­cue, work with the shel­ter to choose care­fully – make sure you check the dog is so­cia­ble with chil­dren, and not too fear­ful.

What kids need to know

En­sur­ing your kids know how to treat dogs is re­ally im­por­tant, both for the dog’s hap­pi­ness, and for your child’s safety. Here are some cru­cial tid­bits: Look­ing a dog in the eye, hug­ging it, stand­ing over it, climb­ing on it, chas­ing it or mak­ing loud and un­ex­pected noises can be seen as threat­en­ing. Any dog can lash out if it feels cor­nered or threat­ened, so learn what dogs like and what they don’t. Learn how to read a dog’s body lan­guage and iden­tify early warn­ing signs that a dog is stressed, fear­ful or ag­gres­sive. For ex­am­ple, a dog that has its tail be­tween its legs could be stressed or fright­ened, while a dog with its hack­les up (the hairs along the top of its neck and back) might be ag­gres­sive. Dogs need lots of time and care: kids can help with brush­ing, bathing, play­ing, pat­ting, and older kids can walk the dog.

Dogs are for life

If you haven’t had a dog be­fore make sure you think care­fully – if you’re plan­ning to move overseas in the next 15 years, will you take it with you? Also, you can’t take dogs ev­ery­where – many beaches and na­tional parks are off lim­its to dogs, as well as baches, ho­tels, and many rental prop­er­ties. If get­ting a dog is some­thing you are con­sid­er­ing, good luck on your path to find­ing the right one – it is so re­ward­ing when you get there! 

Mark Vette is the star of the TV show ‘Pu­rina Pound Pups to Dog Stars’. For in­for­ma­tion about Mark’s on­line train­ing pro­gramme, go to

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