Should I Get a Puppy or an Older Dog?

Puppy of two Golden Retriever puppies

When looking to add a new canine pal to your home, there are a lot of decisions to be made. You’ve spent a lot time looking at photos of adorable puppies and gorgeous adult dogs, and you’ve logged a lot of internet hours researching different breeds. All of this work hasn’t gotten you much closer to selecting the perfect canine companion to join your family. You’ve narrowed the choice down to a few different breeds, and you’ve contacted several reputable breeders to learn more about your breeds of choice as well as the available litters. One of the things you have discovered is many breeders sometimes have adult dogs who have been retired from show, performance, or breeding careers who are now available for adoption. And of course, there is also the appeal of heading to your local shelter to give a puppy or adult dog a loving home. How do you choose? Is it better to get a puppy or an adult dog?

Why Choose a Puppy?

There are many advantages to adding a puppy to your family, and cute factor is only one of them. Here are some reasons why families might opt to add a puppy to their home:

Puppies are blank slates.
Many people prefer to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder or even from a shelter or rescue because the puppy is a blank slate. Assuming the breeder took the time to instill positive experiences in the puppy during the critical first 8-12 weeks of life, the puppy should enter its new family’s home confident and well on the path to being well-socialized. Any behavioral issues evidenced early on are typically addressed and solved by the breeder when the puppy is in his formative developmental period. This is an advantage to many owners who prefer to shape their puppy into their idea of the ideal pet. Older dogs come with established habits and traits, and many, depending on their background, may have behavioral issues that must be worked through. Not all families are up for that type of task and prefer to start fresh with an 8 week old puppy who is eager to learn.

Puppies come with breeder support.
When purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder, there is the added advantage of breeder involvement and support. If you run into a problem, you have a resource in someone experienced in your breed and familiar with your puppy’s parents, an invaluable help to new puppy owners.

Puppies from a reputable breeder come from health-tested parents.
When you purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder, you have the opportunity to view your puppy’s parents, giving you an idea of the size and weight your puppy will roughly be when fully grown. You also get a glimpse into the temperament you can expect. But more than this, reputable breeders health test all breeding stock to ensure that your puppy is as healthy as he can possibly be.

Procuring a puppy from health-tested parentage gives you the peace of mind that your dog is free from genetic disease and comes from parents who have received appropriate scores for things like hearts, hips, eyes, ears, and patellas. These tests are important measures set forth by many breed clubs to ensure that animals used for breeding are healthy enough to reproduce and thereby continue lines that are thoroughly sound genetically as well as in temperament.

Puppies are fun to raise.
Puppies go through all kinds of phases along the way to becoming adult dogs. They are comical, cuddly, and sweet, and they never fail to bring a smile to your face!  While puppies are a lot of fun, they are also a lot of work, and for the first year or so, they can also be very messy. This means that families must make a significant investment of time and effort to help the puppy become housetrained, properly socialized, and a well-mannered pet.

Puppies can be a joy to train.
Depending on the breed of puppy you choose, puppies can be a joy to train. Most respond very well to food and toy rewards.  There is lots of fun to be had spending time teaching your puppy all the things he needs to know to be a good adult dog. However, training a puppy is often a challenging process as they quickly forget lessons seemingly learned, meaning they need to be reinforced by repeating the lessons in subsequent sessions until they are retained. Puppies also have very short attention spans, meaning sessions must be kept very short. Progress can at times feel very slow and painstaking.

Why Choose an Adult Dog?

While puppies certainly have their charms, there is much to be said for an adult dog. Here are some advantages to choosing an adult dog to join your home:

Adult dogs are already trained.
When you bring an adult dog into your home, the dog is typically already trained. Many of the behaviors you had to expend significant time to teach your puppy are intuitive to your adult dog. When an adult dog joins a new home, there is a period of adjustment while the dog acclimates to his new environment. However, once he understands his new schedule and where he is to go when he needs to use the bathroom, you will find that it’s as if he has always been there!

Adult dogs are “known” variables.
What you see is what you get with an adult dog. When you go to visit a potential new dog in a shelter or at the home of a breeder, you will be able to assess the dog’s adult temperament for yourself. This will help you to realize if the dog’s energy and personality is a good fit for your home or not.

More than this, you are able to see the dog when he is fully grown. This gives you a better understanding of the dog’s exercise and grooming needs, so you will know how much time you will need to devote to both.

Adult dogs take less time to adjust to a new routine.
Adult dogs are already aware that feeding times happen on a schedule, and they quickly adapt to when they are expected to wake up in the morning and what time bed time occurs. The largest adjustment for an adult dog is understanding what he is supposed to do when he needs to use the bathroom. However, once this has been mastered, he will assimilate quickly into life with his new family.

Adult dogs require less of a time commitment for training.
Though adult dogs are still highly trainable, they already know the “drill,” meaning they are much easier to teach. Since adult dogs already know the basics, you can have fun working on all kinds of new skills such as tricks or even some agility or Rally Obedience moves.

Adult dogs are lower energy.
Most adult dogs settle once the puppy years have passed. This means that you can settle as you don’t have a mischievous puppy to keep up with!

The decision whether to purchase a puppy or an adult dog is a difficult one to make indeed. There are pros and cons to each. The best solution to this challenging quandary as to assess the time and interest you have to devote to a dog. This will best help you to determine whether a puppy or an adult dog is a better fit for your home. Either way, you can’t go wrong and will gain a friend for life!



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