Puppy vs. Adult


Before rushing ahead and getting a puppy, it's a good idea to at least consider the pros and cons of adopting an adult dog. There are certainly several advantages to getting a pup, the foremost being you may mold the puppy's behavior and temperament to suit your own particular lifestyle. This, of course, presumes you know how to train and have the time to do it. Sometimes you might not. And so in a lot of ways an adolescent or adult dog with a Kennel Club obedience title and a Canine Good Citizenship Test may make a more suitable companion — especially for a two-income family whose members barely have the time to get together as a family themselves.

Additionally, a two-year-old (or older) adult dog's habits, manners, and temperament are already well established, for better or for worse. Traits and habits may change over time, but compared with the behavioral flexibility of young puppies, an older dog's good habits are as resistant to change as their bad habits. Consequently, it is possible to test drive a number of adult shelter dogs and select one free of problems and with an established personality to your liking.

Adopting an adult dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization can be a marvelous alternative to raising a puppy. Some shelter and rescue dogs are well-trained and simply need a home. Others have a few behavior problems and require remedial puppy education in adulthood. However, other dogs have significant problems, such as generalized fearfulness, that will require months and months of dedicated rehabilitation. Some dogs are purebred; most are mixed breeds. The key to finding a good shelter or rescue dog is selection, selection, selection! Take plenty of time to test drive each prospective candidate. Each dog is unique.

If you still have your heart set on raising and training a puppy, do make sure you educate yourself beforehand. Only search for a puppy after you have learned how to raise and train one. Remember, it takes only a few weeks to ruin an otherwise perfect puppy.

Please ask yourself, “Where do shelter dogs come from?” All shelter dogs were once perfect puppies that were abandoned or surrendered because they developed annoying behavior, training, and temperament problems, simply because their owners did not know how to train them.

The sequence of events is utterly predictable: too much initial freedom and too little supervision and education all but teach a newly acquired puppy to chew household articles and eliminate in the house. In the owner’s attempt to manage these common and foreseeable problems, the puppy is relegated outdoors, where he quickly becomes de-socialized and develops other annoying habits, such as barking, digging, and escaping. After spending day after day in social isolation, the puppy is so excited when asked indoors that he enthusiastically runs around, barks, and jumps up to greet his long-lost human companions. Soon, the overly rambunctious pup is no longer allowed indoors at all. Either he is captured by animal control after he escapes from solitary confinement, or neighbors complain about his excessive barking and he is confined to the garage or basement — usually only a temporary measure before the now unwanted adolescent dog is abandoned or surrendered to a shelter. And he is barely six months old.

All behavior, temperament, and training problems are so utterly predictable, and so easily preventable. Even most existing problems may be resolved fairly easily. Education is the key.

Adapted from BEFORE You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar


A good place to search for the right dog for you is the Dogtime matchup.

Training:  Puppy vs. Adult?