Share this page


Staffordshire bull terrier sitting in a field © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary

There are approximately ten million dogs kept in the UK [Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) 2014].

There are many breeds and types of dog, all varying in size, body shape and personality. On average, dogs live for around twelve years, but many live for much longer.

Your duty to care

Owning and caring for a dog is great fun and immensely rewarding. But it's also a big responsibility.

If you own or are responsible for a dog, even on a temporary basis, you're required under the Animal Welfare Act to care for him/her properly.

It's important for people owning or caring for a dog know about dog laws, to find out more please download our Dogs and the law information (169 KB).

Understanding dogs' needs

Dogs have very complex needs so looking after them well can be challenging.

There is no one 'perfect' way to care for all dogs because every dog and every situation is different. It's up to you how you look after your dog, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all your dog's needs.

Read our expert reviewed pet care information to find out more about the needs of dogs: Environment, Diet, Behaviour, Company, Health and welfare.

You can also download our booklet: How to take care of your dog (pdf 2.08MB).

Dog factfile

It's generally accepted that the common ancestor of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is the wolf.

Domestication of the dog began around 15,000 years ago and during this process humans selected desirable traits such as coat colour and leg length.

This selection process has resulted in over 400 different breeds of dog. Why not view our full Dog Factfile (PDF 48KB).

Dogs use a range of methods to communicate

  • Dogs produce a range of sounds, often in complex combinations, including whines, whimpers, growls, barks and howls.
  • Many dogs can use their body, face, tail, ears and limbs to communicate with other dogs.

Dogs are playful

  • When inviting others to play, a dog crouches on its forelimbs, remains standing on its hind limbs and may wag its tail or bark. This is called the ‘play bow’.

Dogs really are man’s best friend

  • Assistance dogs can help blind, deaf and disabled people, whilst some dogs can alert owners before an epileptic fit starts.


Did you find this useful?