Dogs are loyal, fun and make excellent friends, so it’s no wonder that they’re rapidly becoming the pet of choice across the Middle East.

Both expats and locals are keen to delve into dog rearing, but raising a dog in the Middle East presents its own unique set of challenges, from the breed of puppy you choose to the dog house you build.

Recent studies have found that dogs were most likely first domesticated from wolves in the Middle East, and there are many breeds native to the area which thrive well in local conditions.

In this concise guide we'll tell you all you need to know before making your decision on which breed is right for you or your family.

So let's get right to it!​

1. The Basics stuff to know about buying a puppy in the Middle East

Heat

Perhaps one of the defining features of the Middle East is its heat, and that heat can make it difficult for dogs to live comfortably. A general rule of thumb is that if it feels hot to you, it will feel even hotter for your dog.

Certain breeds of dog, such as pugs, completely cannot deal with high temperatures and so shouldn’t be bought unless you plan to keep them permanently indoors in an air-conditioned environment. This is quite the hassle and also possibly unhealthy depending on the needs of the breed.

Therefore it is advisable to stay away from the two most susceptible breed types: those with double coats (such as huskies) and with short noses (such as pugs and bulldogs).

Dogs that can well regulate their heat and their coats tend to do best in warm weather, as do dogs that don’t require a lot of exercise. Dogs cool down primarily through panting, which is why dogs with breathing problems can be at a dangerous disadvantage in hot weather.

Coats aren’t always a burden however: hairless dogs are also ill advisable in hot countries as their lack of a coat means they are easily susceptible to burns. Always remember that dogs don’t wear shoes, and they can easily burn their paws on a hot sidewalk in mid-summer.

Even dogs that enjoy the heat and struggle in the hottest part of the day, so it is advisable to be prepared. Keeping a dog in the shade or indoors can help. Air conditioned dog houses are also an option, although they can be quite expensive.

Culture

If you live in the Middle East, then it is important to be wary of the cultural implications of buying a dog. Some Muslims consider dogs to be haram (sinful) or najis (unclean) and therefore are very averse to owning or even touching dogs.

Therefore, in the Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East, it is important to be culturally sensitive so as not to upset any of your friends or neighbours who may not want to touch a dog for religious reasons.

The only full mention of a dog in the Quran is in the verses which retell the tale of the Seven Sleepers, where a dog actually protects a group of relgious youths. Learning this story is an important way of underlining that the suspicion of dogs comes from precariously sourced hadiths, or sayings of the prophet, and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

In the Quran at least, dogs are mentioned in a positive way and Allah entreats all Muslims to treat animals with care and respect.

Because of these issues, there are certain cultural courtesies that should be extended: if you invite Muslim friends or family to your home, mention you have a dog beforehand. Keeping your dog outside or in a separate room while dog-adverse Muslims visit would also be polite.

A consequence of these views on dogs means that in several countries, including Qatar and Bahrain, it is illegal to let your dog off a leash in public places. Even where it is legal to do so, many would advise against it because it could be upsetting to local devout Muslims who your dog may inadvertently come into contact with while off their leash.

Attitudes towards dogs are changing, especially in Gulf countries such as the UAE which have large expat communities. Be part of the change and demonstrate that dogs are loving creatures which make perfect pets, and deserve to be treated with care and respect.

Exercise

The combination of heat and lack of free leash public spaces can make it difficult to raise a puppy in the Middle East that requires a lot of exercise.

A dog can quickly become dehydrated if it exercises in a hot climate, so it could be advisable to purchase a less athletic dog so as to reduce the problem of finding time cool enough to exercise your pupy.

The issue surrounding allowing dogs off their leash in Muslim countries also can make exercise difficult.

Certain breeds of dog need more exercise than a simple walk on a lead can allow, and therefore it is not advisable to purchase a dog that requires a lot of exercise unless you have a large garden or other private space where they can freely run.

Travel restrictions and health issues

Always remember that dogs travelling between countries require the certain amount of paperwork and can even face quarantines upon arriving at certain destinations.

If you plan on travelling with your dog to and from the Middle East, ensure you are up to date with all of the necessary requirements. This is especially true if you are buying your dog from abroad.

The vaccination requirements of dogs in the Middle East vary from country to country, so it is also important that you do your research to discover what is legally required and what is also generally advisable. Asking a local veterinarian is probably the best way of learn what your dog will need.

2. Dogs native to the Middle East

The following breeds are native to the Middle East or the immediate surrounding regions.

Saluki

Salukis are native to the Middle East and are popular in several gulf countries, especially in the Emirates. With their speed and agility, they make beautiful and graceful pets.

Saluki's can be quiet and independent, but they become very attached and affectionate with their owners.

In addition, their short coats and efficient heat regulation makes them a perfect choice for hot climates. As long as they are trained with patience and care, Saluki's can become loving pets for any family.

Caanan Dog

Caanan dogs are native to the land of Israel and have been used to herd there since biblical times, and are still used by Israelis, Palestinians and Bedouins today for that purpose.

Caanan dogs are wary of strangers and make excellent guard dogs, but their fundamentally loyal nature makes them an excellent choice for families.

However, Caanan dogs are quite a rare breed, and so can be fairly expensive to purchase. If you do choose to go with a Caanon Dog however, you will have made a sound investment.

Pharoh Hound

Thought to be descended from the ancient hounds of the Middle East, this Maltese national dog is a powerful and playful hound that loves exercise, chasing other animals and getting into capers.

Pharaoh hounds — like most sighthounds — are sensitive souls under their boisterous exterior.

While their need for exercise could be problematic in hot weather, Pharaoh hounds are good overall at regulating their temperature, meaning they are still suited to Middle Eastern climes.

3. Dogs suited to the Middle Eastern climate

Cairn Terrier

Despite being double-coated, Cairn Terriers remain agile even in the heat, and aren’t prone to the same sluggishness that other dogs can be susceptible to in warmer conditions.

However, Cairn terriers demand love and attention, and are often lonely without people around. Playful and energetic, Cairn Terriers make excellent apartment dogs.

Chihuahua

Native to Mexico, Chihuahua are small and agile dogs, with happy temperaments which make them perfect family dogs. Even better, their small sizes makes them the perfect match for families with small children.

Small dogs are generally better at regulating their body heat than larger dogs, giving tiny Chihuahua’s a big advantage over larger breeds — despite having a disadvantageous small nose.

Their small size and fitness requirements also mean that they can be perfectly happy and healthy as a housebound dog. Choose a Chihuahua with a short, light-coloured coat for best weather-proofing.

Doberman Pinscher

Loyal and independent dog, Doberman Pinschers are often used by the police due to their strength and loyalty. However, despite their good nature, their strength can make them a little overwhelming for families with children or elderly as they can be aggressive if not properly trained.

However, if you're up for a challenge, they can make a great, active pet. Choose a lighter coloured coat as opposed to the traditional black for hot weather locales.

Vizsla

​Hungarian Vizslas​ are eager and inquisitive dogs who are always interested in the world around them, making them funny and charming pets.

They make great companion dogs and form real life-long links with their owners.

While they do require daily exercise, making them better suited to a family with a garden, they do not need to be vigorously exercised like other larger breeds.

Beagle

Beagles​ always follow their nose into trouble, and are perfect for walks on a lead as otherwise they can get too carried away with their inquisitive nature.

Beagles are excellent with children, although as puppies they do need good socialisation and training to be obedient​​ later in life.

Whippet

Whippets are popular racing dogs that surprising make for calm indoor dogs away from the track. Whippets are very sensitive to the cold, so warmer climates are a must for this breed.

While they need training to become obedient pets, these loving dogs are slight and affectionate, making them perfect for any family — if you can keep up!

 

Overall, there are many options available if you want to own a dog in the Middle East. By taking the right precautions in the heat, any dog except those particularly sensitive to heat should do well.

However, all the breeds mentioned in this guide will do best in the challenging Middle East climes.