Our dogs mean more to us than our partners – so choose the love of your life carefully
Our survey revealed that when it comes to being comforted when we’re down, or helping us to relax and recharge our batteries, owners in the UK find that their pets do a better job than their partners.
Nowhere else surveyed in Europe followed this pattern, as elsewhere, every nation chose their partner above their dogs and cats to boost their mood.
Given the importance of the relationship we have with our pets – just like with our human partners – for a relationship to last, we need to look beyond looks, as Carolyn Menteith, Training and Behaviour Advisor for Agria Pet Insurance, explains:
“We live in a time where statistically our relationships with our dogs are likely to last longer than our marriages – so we should select our canine companions with as much care as we would a life partner to ensure it is a match made in heaven and not in hell.
“Sadly however, as with some of the people we choose, when it comes to pets, it seems we don’t always make the wisest of choices.
“A pretty face will soon lose its appeal and it’s personality that counts every time, along with someone who enjoys the same things you do. If your new partner’s idea of a good time is hiking across the countryside every weekend come rain or shine while yours is curling up on the sofa watching films, the relationship is probably doomed to failure. The couple who play together stay together – humans and dogs!
“Don’t think for one minute that all dog breeds are the same and they just look a bit different. Yes, it’s true that the domestic dog has more variations than any other species, but there is a good reason for that – and it’s not just so you can find one you like the look of to impress your friends on Instagram.
“Every one of the 222 breeds of dogs registered with the Kennel Club in the UK has been developed, sometimes over hundreds of years, to be specialists at a certain job. This job may have included roles such as herding, hunting, guarding, sniffing or as a devoted companion – and how they do that job can involve a variety of behaviours such as chasing, barking, guarding, digging, constant alertness or being a bit of a couch potato!
"What a dog was originally bred to do is going to impact significantly on what they are going to be like to live with – and no matter how much we might wish differently, there is no changing hard-wired personality and behaviour traits.
“Dogs don’t just like doing the things they’ve been selectively bred to do; they need to do them in order to be happy and healthy.
“For example, if they have been bred to work all day, they are going to be very active (no matter what their size), whereas others who have been bred purely as companions are less demanding in their exercise needs, although probably much more demanding of your time when it comes to affection and social contact.
“Dogs that have been bred to enjoy to hunt, or chase, or dig etc. are also going to need outlets for these behaviours included in their exercise or lifestyle – and if they are not given them, can become bored, depressed and develop behaviour problems.
“It's not just the amount and type of exercise that determines whether you are a match though.
“Many of the jobs that dogs have been bred to do have included working closely with their owners on quite demanding tasks – and these breeds are generally easy to train and will hang on your every word. Others needed to work independently on a far more self-employed basis, so if you want a dog who will be obedient and excel in training classes, those breeds are probably not for you!
“Some breeds have been developed to work in harsh, cold climates – and as a result have thick coats that need a lot of daily grooming – and may constantly cover your centrally-heated house (and your clothes) with a liberal covering of hair.
“Others have developed to have a lot to say for themselves so make sure you (and your neighbours!) are happy with a companion who will regularly be loud, quite possibly at inappropriate times!
“It's important to think about love too – after all, it is Valentine’s Day. Do you want a dog who is very full-on in their affections – your constant companion always wanting to be touching you, sitting on you and following you everywhere (you may never go to the loo alone again!)? Or would you prefer a more independent dog who adores you quietly from a distance?
“We are lucky that when we decide to bring a dog into our lives, we have a huge choice to make sure we find one that is perfect for us and our lifestyle – but with choice comes responsibility. Be honest with yourself – and no matter how much you love the look of the cute canine you see on social media, if you make your choices on looks alone, you will probably ultimately make each other unhappy.
“Remember that when you get a dog, you are getting a new family member, someone you will live with for upwards of twelve years. Yes, you want a dog who makes your heart melt when you look at them – but the truth is, every dog will.
“Choose wisely, choose according to your lifestyle, and choose according to your – and their – personality. And let’s face it… anyone who looks at you with love, with devotion, with joy and with a wagging tail will melt your heart.”
6,000 pet owners were surveyed during December 2019, with 1,000 respondents from each of the UK, Sweden, France, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
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