Pick a dog breed that is suitable for Hong Kong
If you are thinking about getting a dog, but have never owned one before, what should you get? A big dog, small dog, smart dog or simple-minded dog?
Rosalind Cheung at HK Dog Training provides some insight on which of Hong Kong's most popular dog breeds may be best for you.
'Some breeds are more active than others,' says Cheung, who graduated from the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 2002. 'If you get a smaller dog, they can run around your apartment, but larger dogs won't be able to, so you'll need to exercise them more outside.'
One of Cheung's top choices for Hong Kong is a Toy Poodle, which is 'perfect for Hong Kong'. Also known as French Poodles and Tea Cup Poodles, the Toy Poodle is a small dog that can live for about 15 years and weighs from three to four kilograms.
As these dogs don't shed their fur, they are ideal for people with dander allergies; the coat needs to be cut and groomed every six to eight weeks.
'They are very easy to train and generally very friendly,' says Cheung, a former trainer at the SPCA in Hong Kong. 'Toy Poodles can bark from being excited at times, but they can be trained to bark less.'
According to Cheung, Toy Poodles are prone to broken legs from having thin, fragile bones. Therefore, Cheung recommends owners research more information about the breed and get their furry friend from a reputable pet shop.
Golden Retrievers are known as friendly, golden-coloured dogs that are gentle with children. 'Golden Retrievers are good family dogs, but for Hong Kong you have to think about the size of your apartment,' she says. If these medium- to large-sized dogs don't get enough exercise, they can easily gain weight from overfeeding.
A common problem with Golden Retrievers, Cheung says, is hip dysplasia. By developing an abnormal hip socket, a Golden Retriever can start limping or have difficulty walking. This breed usually inherits the condition as a puppy and it gets worse as it grows older. The problem can be compounded by obesity, rapid growth and excessive jumping and exercise.
Labrador Retrievers are similar to Golden Retrievers, Cheung notes. Of the dogs that Cheung has trained, Labradors seem to be more active than Golden Retrievers, but 'that could be something particular with the breed in Hong Kong'.
Hong Kong is filled with small dogs, with Miniature Schnauzers, Corgis and Chihuahuas some of the most popular. Cheung says Schnauzers are smart and easy to train, while Corgis are also reliable, loving and willing to please their owners. However, both are known to bark a lot. Chihuahuas are the ultimate handbag dog, and also the world's smallest breed, weighing in at 1.5 to three kilograms.
An important training tip, Cheung says, is to socialise them when they are young puppies.
'This breed is the stereotypical Chihuahua, they are quite defensive and can bark aggressively,' she explains. To become more confident as they grow, the dog trainer advises owners to take them out to the park or out of the home, even in a carrier or bag if they are not fully vaccinated.
For those thinking about getting a clever canine, the trainer advises owners to consider the implications. Cheung says.
'Dogs such as Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers or Schnauzers are very intelligent, but you need to consider that they will have a lot of energy and require a lot of stimulation throughout the day because they are always looking for something to do.
'If you can't offer them any attention, they can start opening drawers or destroying your furniture.'
If you get the breed you want, remember that it doesn't ensure textbook characteristics.
'Just because [the dog is] a Poodle, doesn't necessarily mean it will be easy to train,' Cheung says. 'Not every dog fits the mould. The different situations that the puppy is exposed to affect the personality - it's all down to socialisation.'
She gives an example of a dog brought up on a farm in Australia and moved to Hong Kong. If it's never been exposed to city life, cars and a certain level of urban noise, it could have problems adjusting, regardless of its breed characteristics, she says.
While some people prefer pure-breed dogs, Hong Kong has scores of dogs waiting for adoption.
'There are lots of mixed-breed dogs with great personalities. The animal shelter will usually be able to tell you if they are mellow or good with children. Getting a pure-breed does not guarantee a certain temperament,' Cheung says.