My family has kept dogs for as long as I can remember. In my lifetime we have had: Welly, a wonderful (but absolutely crazy) springer spaniel; Tilly, a kind and loving black labrador; Nell (another kind and loving black lab but a lot more worried about the world); and Lotty, a yellow lab who is gladly still with us. Lotty is a brilliant character of a dog and the most caring soul you will meet, but she has also had a copious number of health issues through her life and is an utter pain when you take her for a walk. A tortoise would probably do well in a race against her.
I am, therefore, a dog person. I like cats as well but this is not the time to talk of that.
Dogs play different roles in the countryside. There are dogs that are there to work and dogs that are there to walk. It is vital that you have the right dog for you. If you don’t match well then it will not be a good experience (for either of you). A dog can get you to experience the countryside in a different way. Walking your dog regularly will usually lead you to look for new places to explore, which will be benficial for both you and your canine companion. It is of course important that you train your dog well and that you stick to the countryside code:
- Make sure your dog doesn’t chase or scare wildlife or farm animals (remember that it is an offence to sheep worry and a farmer is p[erfectly within his rights to shoot the dog if it looks like it is going to attack his/her stock).
- When walking through open country or on common land between 1st March and 31st July make sure you keep your dog on a lead.
- If a farm animal chases you and your dog let the dog go – don’t try to protect it. (in reality it is more likely that your dog will chase an animal than the other way around).
- Clean up your dog’s poo!
So, if you are thinking about getting a dog for the first time and want something that isn’t going to make you look like a fool when you take ot out into the countryside, what should you be looking for?
It really depends on you. You need to think about what it is that you want. How much exercise can you realistically give it? How much free time does everyone in the family really have? Dogs don’t like being left alone and so it is important that you can be there for it as much as possible. What kind of size or temperament do you want? Can you cope with a puppy or young dog or would you be better off fostering an older rescue dog?
Below I’m going to give you some ideas for breeds of dog that will suit the countryside:
1. Border Collie
The border collie is highly energetic and a complete workaholic. Famously bred for herding sheep, you should only take on this breed if you have enough time for it. In order to be friendly the collie needs to be social with people and other dogs when it is young, otherwise there could be problems. However, this breed is one of the most loving and affectionate of all and is fiercely intelligent. If you are energetic and have sifficient time and space to exercise and train this wonderful animal, you could a good match. You could even take up sheep dog trailling as a hobby…perhaps.
The breed that is also my namesake as a dog (Ben + Eagle has throughout my life been shortened and resulted in the nickname of Beagle), the beagle was originally bred for rabbit and hare hunting. It is a medium size breed that is generally very friendly. They generally have lots of energy but will settle down when at home as long as they get plenty of exercise. You should be careful of their strong urge to chase things (they were afetr all bred for this purpose!). This can be difficult when out and about in the countryside. You should probably like being active if you want to own this breed.
Another breed bred for rabbiting, the whippet is a small to medium sized dog that enjoys sprinting. It will be fine without huge amounts of lengthy walks but it does need to satisfy its love for sprinting. It has quite a thin coat and so can be vulnerable to the cold but otherwise it is a fairly hardy beast (as all dogs are really). They can be fairly timid but a kind loving owner will bring the best out in them and they will be fiercely loyal.
4. Labrador Retriever
I might be slightly biased, having grown up with these wonderful dogs, but the labrador is one of the most caring breeds around. They are also very popular! You should watch out however for various health issues, especially their tendency to suffer from poor hips and they get (even) more latahargic with age. They will sleep a lot. Originally bred to assist anglers on the coast of Canada these dogs love the water. They are quite large and despite their lathargic nature for some of the time they will require plenty of exercise. They have an ability to put on fat easily and are famous for loving food (even more than other dog breeds!). It is a good choice for families.
5. Border Terrier
I thought I should include a little dog and the border terrier fits the list well I think. The border is a cheeky little breed that is very easy going and always keen to go on walks.They tend to be quite lively and are good companions for other dogs. For a small dog they do not yap too much which is always a good thing although they are still good if you want a dog to watch out for stuff.
6. English Springer Spaniel
Again, I had to include the springer on this list. They are an arhetypal country dog, bred for flushing out and retrieving game birds. A medium sized dog, they are often lively and always want to please. They need A LOT of exercise and so the owner should have the time and the inclination to provide this. However, if this is possible they are brilliant companions.