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Survey Reveals One Third of Dog Owners Regret Choosing Their Dog for Their Looks

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The findings come at a time when dog attacks are at an all-time high, having risen more than a third in the last five years. With the XL Bully the most recent to make headlines, as Rishi Sunak announced he will ban the breed entirely

The survey of 2,000 UK dog owners, commissioned by Petsure.com and carried out by OnePoll, asked respondents why they chose their breed of dog, with 41% answering ‘for their temperament’. Yet a third (30%) admit to choosing the breed ‘for their looks’, and 25% for the breed’s compatibility with their family and children. One-third (33%) of dog owners said, with hindsight, they would have preferred to have chosen their dog or their temperament over its looks.

The results show that Labradors, Jack Russells, Cockapoos, Cocker Spaniels, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are thought to be some of the best-tempered breeds. But over half (52%) of owners admit to choosing a dog because of their ‘cute’ or ‘fluffy’ looks.

Dog owners were asked how much research they did on the dog breed before bringing them home, with 18% of owners admitting to not doing very much research before choosing the particular dog breed. 9% say they did no research at all.

22% say they used social media to research their dog’s breed, with 10% taking to Wikipedia, the publicly curated platform. The good news is that 97% agreed the research was useful before bringing their dog home.

The survey asked dog owners whether their experience of owning their dog aligned with reality, with most admitting they were “not fully aware” of what to expect. Half of dog owners (47%) admit they were not fully aware of how well their dog would fit their lifestyle, and 48% were unsure of the associated costs, such as vet bills and food. 

When it comes to the temperament of their chosen breed, 53% of owners say they weren’t completely confident they knew how their dog might behave. 56% said they were not fully aware of associated breed health problems, such as flat-faced dogs being more likely to have breathing problems. Only 27% said they now think of themselves as ‘very knowledgeable’ about the breed of their dog. 

Thankfully, 34% of UK dog owners said their experience with how their dog breed fits into their lifestyle was better than they expected. With more of us working from home than ever before, over half (51%) of UK dog owners leave their dogs alone for up to six hours a week; the recommended guidelines are four hours per day (RSPCA, 2023). 

All dogs can suffer from accidents and unexpected health problems, so it’s positive to see 64% of owners say they have pet insurance to help during the times they need it. However, with 36% respondents admitting not having dog insurance, many of these pet owners could be putting their pet’s health and finances at risk. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA, 2023) claims the average vet bill is £848, with private vets charging more compared to not-for-profit organisations (The Independent, July 2023). 

45% of dog owners chose not to have insurance under the assumption that it was too expensive. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) the average cost of a pet insurance premium is £271 per year.

25% of dog owners who don’t have insurance believed it wasn’t necessary, yet 17% of all dog owners found the unexpected costs of owning a dog a challenge. Without insurance, treatments and care for pets will be more expensive because dog owners won’t be able to claim money back using their insurance policy.

What are the most popular dog breeds, and where are they most popular?

  • Labrador Retriever: Scotland
  • Border Collie: Scotland
  • German Shepherd: London
  • Jack Russell Terrier: North West
  • Cocker Spaniel: South East
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier: North West
  • Cockapoo: South East
  • Boxer: Scotland
  • Golden Retriever: London

Expert vet Dr Scott Miller says: “Whether you’re looking to buy or adopt a dog, you need to be responsible. Ethical breeders know so much about the animals they raise, including the good and bad aspects of their health and behaviour. They want them to go to the right homes.

“Lots of people make massive mistakes when choosing a dog. Always think: Is the dog right for the family, or do I just like the look of them or feel sorry for them? Can I afford to look after them? Can I manage the progress and setbacks of training and settle them in?”

Rebecca Gardiner, at Petsure.com, adds: “With so much information available online, it can be hard to know who to trust when it comes to choosing the right dog for you and your family.

“Think about seeking help from professional organisations like the Kennel Club and speaking to current owners of the breed you are interested in. With careful financial planning and being fully informed about the healthcare needs of different breeds, dog owners can look forward to a long and happy time together with their pet.”

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