choosing-the-right-petThe time has come and you have decided to add a dog to your household. The kids have been on to you for months, but how do you choose the right pet for your family?

Far too often people get an animal without thinking about the potential problems and costs of the new puppy. Adopting a dog is a LIFETIME commitment- they can live for up to 10-15 years on average, so it is important to choose one who is compatible with your lifestyle and personality. There are several things to consider when deciding which dog will be the best addition to your family.


Most of the dogs that are here in Vanuatu are mixed breeds. A lot of people bring in their new puppy and ask me what breed I think it is and the truth is I generally have no idea. The dogs that we see in the villages here in Vanuatu have developed over the last hundred years. They are a mixture of working dogs like kelpies, blue heelers, Border Collies and other breeds such as German Shepherds and terriers. Most grow to about 15-25kg, however every now and again one tiny little pup with the right food grows into a 35kg family pet! Because of this, it is often difficult to know how big your new puppy will grow.

Island dogs or “Island Specials” as we often describe them in the Vet Clinic can make great family pets – they are very active and robust.

We do have a few pure breeds including Bichons, Maltese, Rottweilers and occasionally German Shepherds here on the island. If you are not sure what breed is right for you, there are many resources online with information about the general temperament and characteristics of different breeds.


Everyone loves puppies but they are extremely high maintenance. They need several meals throughout the day instead of two. They are too young to have bladder and bowel control and so need to be taken out several times per day and a couple of times during the night. They chew on everything, including you and the kids, because they are teething and exploring their world. Just like human infants, puppies need almost constant attention unless they are sleeping. If you do not have the time to devote to a puppy, save yourself the headache and adopt a dog who is out of the needy puppy stage as there always people leaving Port Vila who are looking for good homes for their beloved pets.


Different breeds have different grooming needs. All dogs require some grooming however a short coated dog may only require a bath and trimming the nails every now and again. Some other dogs require a great deal more; long-coated breeds need frequent brushing, some daily, to avoid matting or having things caught in in their coat. Some dogs need haircuts and constant trimming of the hair from around the eyes. If you know that you are not one to spend a lot of time primping your dog, cross the long coated ones off your list.


All dogs need some exercise but some breeds need more than others. When dogs do not get adequate exercise, they find other ways to release their pent up energy. Usually we do not appreciate the methods they use to burn off that extra energy. They may bark excessively, dig up your garden, get out of the fence and kill the neighbour’s cats, chew up your house or worse. Sometimes they can become aggressive out of sheer frustration.

If you are a couch potato do not adopt a working dog such as a Border Collie thinking that you will finally start exercising. Likewise if you like to run 10km a day, don’t adopt a bulldog or Bichon thinking that she will run with you. Running 10km in the Vanuatu heat will actually kill a bulldog. Try to adopt a dog that has similar energy levels to your own.

Compatibility with Children

Some breeds are known for being friendlier with children than others, but there are always exceptions. Always introduce your children to the dog you have in mind before making the final decision. Observe how they interact together. If the dog cowers, tries to hide or growls at them, this is not the right dog for you. It is also important that your children like the dog. Choosing the right dog is a family decision and everyone should be on board before making the commitment. Consider the dog’s safely as well. Children can seriously injure and even kill small dogs.

So putting a little thought into what sort of dog will fit into your “pack” can make the experience of owning a dog wonderful and rewarding experience for the whole family, including the dog.

With Dr. Karin O’Connor from Port Vila Vet Clinic in conjunction with Sam’s Animal Welfare. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer to help Sam’s, please call the Vet Clinic on 25702.