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Old 14.06.2020, 10:09
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Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

Hey guys. I have long wanted a dog, but a combination of lifestyle and work/life balance meant that I never felt I could give a dog the time and care it needed. However, now I feel I am ready to start giving it some serious consideration and planning without rushing into anything. Here are a few background details:

---------------------------------------

My reasons for wanting a dog are:

-I really like dogs, never had the opportunity to own one growing up and want a loyal companion to keep me company and join me for hikes and photography trips.
-I have nothing to really take care of in my life other than myself and my family are in other countries. I would like/suit the kind of emotional investment and associated challenges that having a pet to care for brings.

My current life situation is:

-Single with no dependents so have the time and patience to put into this kind of thing.
-I now hardly ever need to travel for work, will be working from home for the next couple of months due to COVID19 and then in future will aim to do 2-3 days of home office a week. I also live only 15 mins from work.
-My desire to travel regularly for pleasure has declined sharply in the last couple of years. If I go on trips in the forseeable future, I would prefer to travel by train or do road trips (I have a combi with quite a bit of space) around Europe as there is so much I need to see and do without needing to go to other continents. Also, i just love staying in and around Switzerland and the neighbouring countries.
-I don't drink or go out partying on any regular basis any more. I much prefer to go to bed at a normal time and then get up early and go out biking or hiking.
-I live directly next to the Uetliberg with a ton of places to go walking.
-I have the financial means to cope with any related costs.

My living space is:

-3rd floor 83m2 apartment with all separate rooms (no open plan).
-Old apartment with a mix of well-worn wooden floors and linoleum so no worries with scratching it or having to clean up any related messes.
-Less than 5 mins walk to a large park.
-My contract doesn’t forbid pets, but I am waiting on confirmation from the agency.
-My neighbours are super chilled and the guy below me looks after his exes dog on a regular basis.

What I am looking for a in a dog (of course I am willing to compromise and this is just a wish-list):

-Suitable for a first-time dog owner.
-A small/medium breed that is generally of robust health and not fragile. Also with a well-balanced coat that doesn’t cause it to overheat or freeze too quickly.
-Not a yappy or nervous barker breed (as much as is reasonably possible).
-Intelligent, alert and obedient with the proper training (which I am willig to dedicate a lot of time and effort to).
-Has enough strength and stamina to be capable of doing reasonable walks/hikes in the mountains.
-Is also happy to lounge around and curl upon the sofa.
-Social, tolerant and patient breed with proper socializing (I have a large extended family with lots of young kids and other small dogs (1x jack russell and 2x chihuahuas) that I see 1-2x a year).

What I would please like advice on:

-Breeds that may be suitable for my above ideals.
-If I should be looking at shelters or private breeders. I am looking to go visit a couple of local ZŁrich shelters in the next couple of weeks.
-What age to be looking at (I would rather start with a toilet-trained adolescent dog and not a small puppy).
-Is it ok (if not ideal) for a dog to be alone on some days for 8 hours for 2-3 days a week or would I always need a dog walker? Are some breeds better in this regard?

---------------------------------------

I hope that all makes sense and I presented it clearly enough. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me.

Last edited by Chuff; 14.06.2020 at 10:46.
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:13
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

It will be your child that never grows up.
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:20
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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It will be your child that never grows up.
Hah, just like many of us!
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:44
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

Perhaps a first question would be whether you want to raise a puppy, or whether you would prefer to adopt a somewhat older dog.

Toward that end, what does your next 6-12 months look like?

The initial months with a puppy mean you (or someone helping you, who follows your ideas on puppy raising) need to be present and engaged 24/7. This phase is critical to bonding, learning, socializing - and really does involve that level of commitment. Puppy time is intense but the phase is (hopefully! ) finite. Think of it as an investment of your time in your pup sets the stage for the next 15 years.

Alternatively, adopting an older dog can be easier - or harder. An older dog who has already mastered house training means you won't be running out of the flat in your PJs at 2AM. But you might also have to do some re-training or rehab work depending on what has happend to the dog in the past. Or you might end up with a perfectly easy going adult dog who slots right in to your life. When adopting, the best thing to do is to have a frank discussion with the rehoming team at the shelter as to what you can, and cannot, offer a dog, and which dog(s) would be a good fit for you.

Both raising a puppy and adopting an older dog are good options - the important question is which set of challenges would likely best fit your life at the moment?

Toward that end, if you have not had a dog of your own before, especially not in Switzerland, I'd recommend starting by taking one of the doggy owner preparation course such as the National Hundehalter Brevet theory course.

Here's some info on that course from the SKG:
https://www.skg.ch/nationales-hundehalterbrevet

And more from Tierschutz Beider Basel:
https://www.tbb.ch/index.php?id=261

I chose the Swiss kennel club and a well respected rescue shelter on purpose - take a look at what both have to say, have to offer.

FYI, many trainers throughout Switzerland offer this course, including EF's own CherryTree.

When preparing for your life to, quite literally, go to the dogs , the first question always is: Can I offer what this particular, individual sentient being who will look to me as the be-all and end-all of his existence needs, now and for 15+ years to come? The NHB Theory course is a good way to get to thinking about that. Your next steps flow from there.

Wishing you all the very best with your decision and search. Life is indeed better with a dog at your feet. Different, certainly, but better.
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:50
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

My advice is that, if you have a preferred breed, make absolutely sure it fits with your lifestyle. A border collie for example is a very smart dog but it will probably go mad in an appartment with nothing to herd.
My inlaws used to have a swiss mountain dog and they were very happy with it. He was a couch potato and happy to stay at home for long, but he also followed them on long hikes.
I had a bouvier appenzel and he was the same. Smart enough to train, stayed in the flat when i was at work and liked long walks.
Unfortunately i cant get the doberman i want in Geneva so that will remain a dream...
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:53
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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Perhaps a first question would be whether you want to raise a puppy, or whether you would prefer to adopt a somewhat older dog.

Toward that end, what does your next 6-12 months look like?

The initial months with a puppy mean you (or someone helping you, who follows your ideas on puppy raising) need to be present and engaged 24/7. This phase is critical to bonding, learning, socializing - and really does involve that level of commitment. Puppy time is intense but the phase is (hopefully! ) finite. Think of it as an investment of your time in your pup sets the stage for the next 15 years.
Hi Meloncollie thanks for the detailed reply and expertise! I wrote in my post:

Quote:
-What age to be looking at (I would rather start with a toilet-trained adolescent dog and not a small puppy).
So ideally I do not want to be nursing/mothering a puppy as I feel that this would not be ideal for my first ownership.

Quote:
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Alternatively, adopting an older dog can be easier - or harder. An older dog who has already mastered house training means you won't be running out of the flat in your PJs at 2AM. But you might also have to do some re-training or rehab work depending on what has happend to the dog in the past. Or you might end up with a perfectly easy going adult dog who slots right in to your life. When adopting, the best thing to do is to have a frank discussion with the rehoming team at the shelter as to what you can, and cannot, offer a dog, and which dog(s) would be a good fit for you.

Both raising a puppy and adopting an older dog are good options - the important question is which set of challenges would likely best fit your life at the moment?
A older dog (but still young and impressionable) would I feel be ideal and you are right that yes I would need to be cautious of not choosing a dog that has had a hard start to life. I am hoping that you can see some of the character during a few visits/walks at a shelter before you take them home.

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Toward that end, if you have not had a dog of your own before, especially not in Switzerland, I'd recommend starting by taking one of the doggy owner preparation course such as the National Hundehalter Brevet theory course.

Here's some info on that course from the SKG:
https://www.skg.ch/nationales-hundehalterbrevet

And more from Tierschutz Beider Basel:
https://www.tbb.ch/index.php?id=261

I chose the kennel club and a well respected rescue shelter on purpose - take a look at what both have to say, have to offer.

FYI, many trainers throughout Switzerland offer this course, including EF's own CherryTree.
So to be clear, this course if for someone without a dog? Just to give you a heads up of what to look and prepare for?

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When preparing for your life to, quite literally, go to the dogs , the first question always is: Can I offer what this particular, inndividual sentient being who will look to me as the be-all and end-all of his existence needs, now and for 15+ years to come? The NHB Theory course is a good way to get to thinking about that. Your next steps flow from there.

Wishing you all the very best with your decision and search. Life is indeed better with a dog at your feet. Different, certainly, but better.
No-one can predict the next 15+ years, but I plan to live the rest of my life in Switzerland and my life is certainly settling down to the point where I can take on this commitment.

Any dog breeds you think may be suitable? I think the Boston Terrier looks quite a good all-rounder and doesn't seem to have as many health ssues as many bug-eyed dogs. A greyhound also looks nice I just would worry about the ruggedness and tolerance of small children and other dogs.
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Old 14.06.2020, 10:56
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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My advice is that, if you have a preferred breed, make absolutely sure it fits with your lifestyle. A border collie for example is a very smart dog but it will probably go mad in an appartment with nothing to herd.
My inlaws used to have a swiss mountain dog and they were very happy with it. He was a couch potato and happy to stay at home for long, but he also followed them on long hikes.
I had a bouvier appenzel and he was the same. Smart enough to train, stayed in the flat when i was at work and liked long walks.
Unfortunately i cant get the doberman i want in Geneva so that will remain a dream...
Thanks Gata. What breed was the moutain dog, I am assuming a large one?

The Appenzeller Sennenhund looks gorgeous but not suited to apartment living.
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Old 14.06.2020, 11:11
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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The Appenzeller Sennenhund looks gorgeous but not suited to apartment living.
Unless you get a tiny dog like a King Charles Cavalier is it really fair to the dog if you don't have a garden, perhaps a garden flat should be on the radar.
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Old 14.06.2020, 11:26
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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-Is it ok (if not ideal) for a dog to be alone on some days for 8 hours for 2-3 days a week or would I always need a dog walker?
You will always need a dog walker, IMHO. Perhaps even on the days you are home.

I'm WFH with my partner, we still have the dog walker for the lunchtime excursion.

Why? He goes out with the gang and runs wild, and enjoys himself for a couple of hours. A quick walk round the park in between meetings doesn't cut it.

All depends on circumstance and changing circumstances, but my advice is factor in the cost of a dog walker everyday, just in case.
FYI I pay @800 on a full month.
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Old 14.06.2020, 11:31
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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So to be clear, this course if for someone without a dog? Just to give you a heads up of what to look and prepare for?
Yes, that is exactly what the NHB theory is designed for, both in terms of dog ownership in general and the specific Swiss aspects as well. A good way to start the process.

---

I usually tell people looking for a dog to use the breed (and breed mix) only as a starting point, in fact more as an elimination factor than anything else.

If you know that characteristics X, Y, or Z wouldn't fit in with your life, that breed is not for you. But beyond breed individual behavior and character is far more important in determining which dog is best for you. Breed characteristics A, B, and C might be a good fit for you, so that is a start - but you then have to look at the individual.

As an example: The easiest dog I have ever had was a sheltie, St Swimbo. The most difficult dog I have ever had (and possibly on the planet) is also a sheltie, Robin Goodfellow. Same breed, but the two dogs could not be more different, in every single aspect.

If you are looking at an older dog you can more easily get a better sense of individual character.

Puberty - 6-12 months - can be a challenging age to adopt as the dog is going through so many changes. Just be prepared to roll with the punches here.

One thing to understand about adopting an older dog, though - you often can't know the full extent of a dog's character right away. You get a good inkling, but it often takes time, perhaps months, before a dog feels comfortable enough in his new home to show his real self.

Here is where that frank discussion with the rescue/breeder/first owner is key.

In the end, it's a combination of head and heart. Use your head to say no, use your heart to choose 'The One'.

--

Three things to put on your To Do list as you start your search:

1. Find a good Hundeschule!

Ask to sit in on a lesson or two well before you get your dog, to see how the trainer works. Choose someone you 'click' with.

At the moment dog schools are restricted to four people plus a trainer due to COVID. You likely won't be able to observe a class until that restriction is lifted.

2. Research dog sitters/holiday care options!

Good dog care is difficult to find. Even if you anticipate your holiday travels will include your dog, there are always times when you might need a sitter.

3. Read this book, 'How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves', by Dr Sophia Yin:
https://www.amazon.de/How-Behave-You...2127017&sr=1-1


This is an exciting time - again, all the best.
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Old 14.06.2020, 11:31
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

There are people in our apartment complex who have small, medium and large-sized dogs but do not have gardens (I know this because people with garden apartments here, such as myself, are not allowed to have dogs -- but those with 1st floor and higher apartments can have them). I see the neighbors walking their dogs all the time.

One thing for the OP to consider is whether or not you will be able to have someone look after the dog if you plan to travel (unless you can take the dog with you). Also, maybe try to get a breed that is not known to have issues with separation anxiety. My Dad had a Vizsla dog with such bad separation anxiety that he couldn't leave the house without the dog freaking out and it had all sorts of health problems due to constant anxiety. Also, be sure to have the dog socialized well with other people and other dogs so that it doesn't freak out when you take it for walks, etc.

Just some thoughts...
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Old 14.06.2020, 12:08
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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Unless you get a tiny dog like a King Charles Cavalier is it really fair to the dog if you don't have a garden, perhaps a garden flat should be on the radar.
In my two decades plus of dog ownership and dog rescue work in Switzerland I've come to be far more flexible on this point than I had been.

The reality of life in Switzerland is that few people will ever be so lucky as to have a home with a garden. This is a country where the majority live in multi family buildings. Yet something like 500K dogs live here, happily - most in flats without gardens.

Yes, perhaps an easier way to provide for a dog's needs is a single family home with large private garden. But it's not the only way.

As long as a dog owner is committed to providing the exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation his or her individual dog needs, a dog can be happy in many different housing set-ups. Sure, a top floor flat is more work for the owner, calling for a bit more creativity, but it can be done - and done very well.

My experience in rescue work has been that much of the time 'lack of suitable housing' when listed as the reason for giving up on a dog is a code word for lack of suitable commitment .

---

That said, Swiss Nachbarrecht provides some very real challenges to a dog owner. Another good reason to take the NHB theory course or similar.
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Old 14.06.2020, 14:08
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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Thanks Gata. What breed was the moutain dog, I am assuming a large one?

The Appenzeller Sennenhund looks gorgeous but not suited to apartment living.
It was a Bernese mountain dog. A big one but so cute and friendly
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Old 14.06.2020, 14:09
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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Unless you get a tiny dog like a King Charles Cavalier is it really fair to the dog if you don't have a garden, perhaps a garden flat should be on the radar.

Nonsense. What dogs actually need are 3 things, companionship, mental stimulation and physical exercise. What dogs often don't get is mental exercise and to use their brains.

It is far more detrimental for a dog to leave it at home for many hours each day and then let it run free in the garden when the owner gets home (and dogs should never be left in a garden for hours without supervision either) than it is to have an owner present for the majority of the day who happens to live in an apartment but has access to suitable outside areas.
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Old 14.06.2020, 14:11
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

I don't have any experience owning dogs, just visiting friends and family that have them. All I can say is well done to Chuff for doing your research before bringing in a new family member. I hope you find the perfect fit for you.
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Old 14.06.2020, 15:24
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

A Labrador ticks a lot of boxes for you. Intelligent, calm, tolerant and adjusts well to new situations, kids and other pets.

We were also apprehensive getting one in our 1st floor apartment, but the apprehensions turned out to be unfounded.

The one big downside, they shed a lot of hair. Other than that pretty happy with our decision.


We went with a kennel club breeder and got a puppy. Toilet training was stressful, but not as long as I feared. Few weeks IIRC.

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Old 14.06.2020, 15:33
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

I would suggest doing lots of research if you have never had a dog before and a good read is Wag The Science of making your dog happy by Zazie Todd.

Good luck and do keep us updated on your search
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Old 14.06.2020, 19:44
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

One thing to consider is whether your building has an elevator. Before we bought our new place, we did consider some flats above ground floor that did not have a lift. Fortunately we picked a place with a lift.

Right after we moved in, our old sheepdog/poodle mix ended up with cancer in a knee. Stairs became impossible. Our new dog has hip problems. Stairs will eventually become impossible. The old dog and the new was/is much to big to carry up and down the stairs multiple times per day.
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Old 15.06.2020, 14:20
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

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So ideally I do not want to be nursing/mothering a puppy as I feel that this would not be ideal for my first ownership.
Sorry I missed that bit. (I really need to do something about these cataracts!)

Anyway... if you are not interested in a puppy, realistically your search should be concentrated on shelters and rescue groups, as these are where available adult dogs are generally found.

If you are set on a specific breed, be aware that breed rescues are not so common in Switzerland. There are more in DE, FR, and IT, so if you have your heart set on an adult of a certain breed you might expand your search to neighboring countries. A few trips to DE, FR, or IT is but a small investment in your new friend.

Once in a while a Swiss breed club may help in rehoming an older dog from one of their members; writing in advance to the breed club can be another way to find your dog - but do be prepared for a wait.

While purebred dogs do occasionally come into rescues in Switzerland, more of the dogs available here will be mixed breeds. If you want to adopt sooner rather than later perhaps it might be best to concentrate then more on characteristics, both physical and temperamental, than on breed.

Since the Swiss database of homeless animals closed down a few years ago, the search for a dog in Switzerland is a bit more time consuming. An alternative database is Tieronline ( tieronline.ch ) but do be aware that a number of the dogs listed as being in Switzerland are actually still in other countries, usually Spain or EE, ready to travel here upon adoption.

I'd urge a first time dog owner to concentrate on dogs already in kennels or foster homes here in Switzerland, where you can visit the dog several times, get to know him well (and he you, which is just as important) before you make your decision.

Anther thing to mention - and this is painful given that my life is rescue work - is that bad actors have cottoned on to the Swiss love of and support for rescue dogs, and there are some evil bar steward here pretending to be rescues who are anything but. Eyes wide, due diligence needed.

As a first time dog owner it might be difficult to spot the bad actors. Heck, it can be hard for experienced folks to spot 'em, especially when the big soulful eyes of a dog in need are tugging at your heart strings.

I know keep harping on getting involved in a formal class like the NHB Theory, but this is one of the reasons why these courses are so valuable.

Anyway, all the best with the search.
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Old 15.06.2020, 14:41
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Re: Thinking of getting my first dog... advice needed please!

One thing Iíve learnt since I got my big idiot...... get a small to medium sized dog. That way if they decide to be over excited, a general pain in the arse etc, they are easier to handle plus other people donít get scared or intimidated. My boy is super friendly, but he gets over excited and because heís so big itís a nightmare to deal with!
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