February 7, 2013
Your family has decided it’s time to add a dog. Being very conscientious, you head to the local animal shelter. Your kids immediately drag you over to the puppy area—right past Bennie, a 6-year-old Pomeranian mix whose owner had to move into a nursing home and Sally, the greyhound, retired from racing at the ripe age of 4. Both perfectly wonderful dogs, but, as is so often the case, the draw of the puppy wins out and you walk out with a squirmy, four-pound bundle of cute. Although it’s hard to resist the charm of youth, there are reasons to think twice about passing up that brown-eyed cocker just because she has a few years of experience behind her.
They told you the pup was mostly schnauzer. Apparently they meant the giant type. With an older dog, you know “who he’s going to be when he grows up.” You’re not going to be surprised six months down the line when he outgrows his dog house. You also have very few clues about a puppy’s grown-up personality, whereas you can tell with a short interaction whether an older dog has the personality you’re looking for.
Are You Up to Raising a Pup?
There’s no denying it, puppies are a heckuva lot of fun, but they’re also a heckuva lot of work. They need constant supervision because if it’s bad for them, they will find it--and either eat it or roll in it. You’ll need to spend weeks housebreaking your pup--and cleaning up accidents. They expend boundless energy, and so will you just trying to keep up with them. An older dog is finished with the “go, go, go” stage. Been there, done that. Not that an older dog doesn’t need exercise, but you don’t need to take him on five-mile jog every morning--unless you both want to. And he’s probably already leash trained.
Babies and Puppies and Bites, Oh, No!
If you have a child under the age of three, a puppy is probably not a good choice. Young children don’t know how to properly handle, play with or discipline a puppy--but they will try. They can seriously injure a young pup without meaning to. And puppies naturally bite and scratch while roughhousing, and those tiny teeth hurt! A more mature dog is past the teething stage. These dogs often bond tightly with a young child and make excellent companions.
Learning the Rules
An older dog typically has some basic obedience and knows how to mind his manners. With a puppy, you start at square one, and it takes a lot of time and effort. And frustration. Puppies are easily distracted, whereas an older dog is calmer and will focus more easily on you and the task at hand. He has years of experience reading humans and can quickly figure out what you’re asking. With puppies, you’re teaching HOW to learn as well as what.
That Feel-Good Feeling
One of the biggest benefits of adopting a more mature dog is the good feeling you’ll get. You’ll find so much satisfaction knowing that you’re giving this dog, who’s gone through so much, a new chance at happiness. Most older dogs crave love and are quick to respond and return that love. They’ll be part of the family in no time!