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Adopting An Older Dog vs. A Puppy
Adopting An Older Dog vs. A Puppyby Tamar Geller
If your kids are bugging you for a dog, should you get a puppy or a full grown adult? Here are a few things you should consider before adopting man’s best friend.
Many families with young children choose a puppy believing they’re easier to train and handle than older dogs. But this is not necessarily the case, as puppies still play very much in a “wolf-way,” meaning they use their teeth a lot and puppies’ teeth are very sharp. And of course, they chew anything in sight. More than anything, housebreaking a puppy takes tremendous structure because every two hours you have to take them out. It’s tedious, tiring and you’re definitely going to be sleep deprived. And guess what – kids are not going to do it. Mom and Dad are going to be stuck with it!
On the other hand, the benefits of adopting an older dog are that they’re already done with the nipping and the chewing and the housebreaking stages. They’re able to focus faster so it’s actually easier to train them. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a myth. If you get a dog three years or older, they’re out of the puppy stage and are eager to learn. You just have to teach them in a kind way what your rules are. It’s so much easier and faster. And you get all the benefits of having a dog without paying the price you pay with a puppy.
Understand that you can definitely run the risk of an older dog having a bad habit. However, with proper screening you can avoid this. Besides, when you adopt a puppy, it certainly doesn’t mean the puppy will not grow up to have bad habits. There are no guarantees just because you adopt a puppy. Many people believe that if they get a puppy they will know how to shape them so that they will behave well. Then they play wrestling games with the puppy or they play “let me scare the puppy” and the puppy runs away – and they don’t realize that by playing these silly games, they’re actually encouraging the wrong behavior that can eventually lead to injury.
It’s actually easier to break an older dog of bad habits than to teach a puppy new ones. Quite honestly, most people don’t know how their innocent behavior is actually teaching very bad behaviors. A puppy that’s impressionable is going to pick up that bad behavior very quickly. An older dog is not going to be as eager to play those crazy games.
When picking out an older dog, look for one that is not overly shy or overly bold. You want a dog that is not afraid of its own shadow because you don’t want one with nervous aggression. When a dog is overly fearful, the best defense is offense. You want to touch them. You want to see if they’re accepting touch and that they like it. You want to throw your keys next to the dog to see how startled he gets. You don’t want an unreasonable reaction from the dog. Open an umbrella in the dog’s presence. Make an unexpected move and see how the dog responds.
Talk with the people you’re considering adopting the dog from to see if they can give you any information. The first thing you need to find out is if the dog is good with kids. Kids might make unexpected moves or sounds. So when you meet the dog, make unexpected moves and sounds and see how the dog reacts to that. Give the dog a toy to see if he’s interested in it. See if he will take food from your hand.
You want a dog that is happy and eager, but not one that is overly shy. But you have to remember if you take a dog from a shelter, they may be stressed out so you may not see their beautiful character at that time. So again, ask the people who know the dog as many questions as you can.
Adult dogs are a much better choice for the elderly because all they want is to do is lie in your lap, lie by your side and be loved. And one walk a day can be sufficient. On the other hand, if you get a puppy and you’re elderly, the dog will have an energy level that won’t match yours. When a dog has energy that’s not being addressed, it becomes destructive. But if you adopt a dog that’s eight or ten years old, it will still have several years of life left. At that time of its life, it’s all about gratitude and easy loving.
In terms of what breeds are best with children, I don’t believe, for example, that Labradors are the best breed for kids because their tail is at the level of a child’s face. Every time the dog is happy (which should be most of the time), he’s smacking the child in the face! And as a child, it can be very overwhelming to have a dog who’s looking you in the eyes. So I don’t think it’s necessary to go with a purebred but to go, instead, with a dog whose size will not be overwhelming to the children.
There’s really no good or bad breed – these are all myths because you can see a wonderful Labrador and you can see a nasty Labrador. You can see a great Cocker Spaniel and see a difficult Cocker Spaniel. It’s really about the individual dog. So again, rather than go by breed, it’s better to consider size.
Remember that you should never leave a child unsupervised with a dog, no matter how good the dog is, before the child is ten years old. Something could happen to even the best dog and disaster could strike.
OPR does not adopt outside of the state of Ohio, no exceptions. If you live outside Ohio and wish to adopt a Pug, please refer to your local Pug rescue.