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Should You Adopt a Puppy or an Older Dog?

dogs at adoption center

Want to adopt a dog? First, decide if a puppy or an older dog is the better choice for you

If you’re ready to bring a canine companion into your life, then the choice to adopt a dog is definitely a noble one. You can not only find a wonderful and faithful friend but also provide a home to a dog in need. Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter US animal shelters each year and are looking for a good home. When you adopt, it’s a win-win situation for you both -- most of the time. In other words, adopting a dog is a huge decision, and it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for in a pup before you choose the one you will bring home. One of the biggest factors that you need to consider is whether you should adopt a puppy or an older dog.

When it comes time to adopt a dog, choosing a puppy over an older dog, or the other way around isn't necessarily a better choice. It all depends on your lifestyle, personality, and what it is you're looking for in your pup pal. 

The best way to make your decision is to know what exactly adopting a puppy or an older dog entails, and honestly assessing which is the better fit for your life and schedule. In some cases, you might even discover that waiting a little longer before you adopt a dog is your best option. If you decide you want to move forward with the adoption process, sites like Petfinder or the ASPCA are a great way to begin your search.

puppies waiting to be adopted

What To Expect When You Adopt a Puppy

The biggest factor to consider if you want to adopt a puppy is the time and attention it takes to raise a new little bundle of fur. During the first few weeks, expect to spend a lot of time at home with your new pup. A new puppy requires constant attention and extra time allotted for things like potty training and crate training. You can expect several sleepless nights, a lot of potty accidents, and a collection of chewed on shoes in the beginning as you work your way toward a more well-behaved, polite pup. Sounds almost like it’s a new baby, doesn’t it? 

A puppy needs ample opportunities for play and exercise throughout the day, as well as the ability to stick to a set schedule. This is especially critical to the success of house training; so if your work schedule doesn’t allow for you to be at home as needed for your pup, you need to be prepared to enlist the help of willing family and friends, or hire a dog sitter or dog walker to check on your pooch throughout the day.  

puppy at adoption center

Reasons You Shouldn’t Adopt a Puppy

As cute and adorable as a little roly-poly puppy is, there are several reasons why adopting a puppy is not a good idea. If you can say yes to any of the following, then you need to seriously consider if adopting a puppy is your best bet, and perhaps opt for an older dog.

If any of these sounds like you, you might want to switch gears and adopt an older dog (or none at all):

  • You work extremely long hours during the day and are rarely home. (It’s not fair to your puppy if you’re never around to give her the attention that she needs)
  • Your work calls for you to travel often, or you like to make numerous trips throughout the year. (This one actually would apply to an older dog as well, unless you plan to bring your puppy with you or are prepared to pay dog sitting and boarding fees)
  • You are not prepared to stick to a schedule or you don’t have the time to devote to properly training your puppy.
  • You simply think it would be fun to have a puppy because they are cute; if you’re not ready or willing for the responsibility that goes along with owning a puppy, it’s best to walk away. 

older dog at animal shelter

What To Expect When You Adopt an Older Dog

There is nothing wrong with adopting an older dog, and in fact, going for a more mature pup can have many advantages. An older dog will not often require as much time and attention or exercise as a puppy. Of course, you still need to spend time with your new housemate. There’s no point adopting a dog if you’re just going to ignore her, but you definitely won’t have to spend time around the clock with an older pooch like you would with a new puppy. 

If you choose to adopt an older dog, strongly consider the exact age of the dog. If you choose a senior dog, then your dog may be more likely to develop potential health issues or have undiagnosed conditions that manifest themselves sooner than later. This can add up to costly vet bills that you were not expecting, at least not so soon. Also, consider why exactly you want a dog in the first place. For example, if you want a dog to grow up with your young toddler then you probably don’t want to adopt a dog that is any older than two or three years old. 

Which Is Easier To Train, a Puppy or an Older Dog?

Despite what they say, you can teach an old dog new tricks, but how easy or hard it is to do depends on you and your pooch. Some people actually think it’s harder to teach a puppy because a puppy tends to get easily distracted and is very active. Plus, you have the additional task of potty training and most likely dealing with multiple accidents; so make sure to have a lot of puppy cleaner on hand. 

Others find an older dog more of a challenge to train because a more mature pup is often more set in his ways and may have learned bad habits that first must be undone. Plus, depending on the breed, a dog might be very trainable, or extremely stubborn, so there are a number of factors at play when it comes to training your new pooch. Ultimately, it will come down to your dog’s individual personality, and your patience and determination. Either way, you can expect to put some effort into training, the difference with an older dog is that potentially, he may already have been well-trained and you simply need to learn the proper commands and won’t have to go through the full potty training process. 

dog in a new home

Does a Puppy or an Older Dog Adjust Better To a New Home?

This is another issue that is really dependent on the individual dog and isn’t necessarily influenced by the dog’s age. It can take anywhere from a few days or weeks (or even longer) for a dog to adjust to her new environment; no matter what his age, he will spend the first days at home in sort of a detox mode, adjusting to no longer being in a shelter. Eventually, your dog’s own personality will start to shine through, but most adopted dogs don’t feel fully comfortable and show 100% trust in their new family and home until at least a year or more. A lot of how long it takes depends on your dog’s previous experiences, so when you consider this aspect, an older dog could potentially take longer to adjust to a new home if he is coming from an abusive environment or is suffering from abandonment issues. 

Ways To Help Your New Dog Transition To Your Home

  • Ask the shelter if your dog has a special blanket or toy that you can take so that your pup has something familiar to bring into his new home. 
  • Instead of going inside your house first, start off in the backyard, and let your pup explore the new surroundings. This is also a good way to show him his ‘bathroom’ from the start and give him an opportunity to go to the potty before you bring him inside. 
  • Have a special zone prepared for your pup ahead of time and let him investigate; this way he has a place that is all his own where he can feel comfortable and safe.
  • Never underestimate the amazing power of dog treats. Have oodles of treats ready to lather your dog in praise and rewards and create positive experiences.
  • Have a special toy for your pup that can help keep him engaged and stimulated, like the Rolly Cannoli.

Choosing the best dog for you and your family is a very personal choice. It also extends beyond simply whether you want a puppy or an older dog. When you meet different adoption candidates, there will be some that spark a special feeling, you also need to consider the breed and what traits are common for that particular dog. 

For example, certain breeds are known for being very good family pets, while others are not known for their patience with children. If you are looking for a dog that you can register as a service animal, there are certain breeds that are highly recommended. You also want to consider the size of the breed. If you adopt a small little puppy, he’s not necessarily going to stay that small; certain large dog breeds can become quite massive, and require rigorous exercise and training, not to mention your dog food bill will be a lot higher. Basically, there are a lot of things to consider when you get ready to adopt a dog, whether he is 4 months old or already approaching 80 in dog years.

Whether you adopt a puppy or an older dog, you can expect lots of changes in your life. Anytime you adopt a dog, there’s a whole laundry list of things to buy and things to do. Make sure you are prepared to fully take on the responsibility of dog ownership; financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. When you do decide to bring home your new furry friend, the team at Neater Pets is here for you! We have incredible products to help your pup be her best, and our blog is full of great resources and insightful tips to help you be an awesome pup parent!

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