Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The benefits of adopting an adult dog

Don't worry, I have a Cash update coming and it's going to be a good one! In the mean time, I thought it would be useful to write about adopting a pet and the difference between adopting a puppy or an adult.

Why adopt
There are many reasons to adopt a dog or cat. The animals in the care of rescue organizations and shelters have been abandoned. Many have been strays their entire lives, having to fend for themselves, never knowing the true joy of human companionship. Even more have been the result of back yard breeders, irresponsible breeders, puppy mills or worse, people who just don't care to spay or neuter.
The puppies that come from BYB and puppy mills are often loved by a family for a year or so. Until they are no longer cute, no longer puppies and their family has lost interest or has to move. These dogs are then surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. The rescues and shelters are then faced with the difficult task of re-homing an adult dog.
The puppies who come from people who don't care to spay or neuter are often left, as entire litters, in dumps, on the side of the road or, if they are lucky, at a local shelter in the dead of night. The parents won't be altered and will breed again and again resulting in more un-wanted puppies.
Approximately 60% of the dogs brought into shelters are euthanized either due to lack of space or lack or resources to handle even the smallest behavioural issues.
Adopting one of these dogs or puppies is truly saving a life. You are giving them a second chance. People often say that a rescued dog really knows it's been rescued.

Puppy vs. Adult
Puppies are cute as heck. They haven't had the time to learn bad habits or routines, they can integrate into your lifestyle easier, they are soft & cuddly and... they have puppy breath!
But, they are a lot more work. They require extensive training, there are hours of hard work to house train them, they teethe, they cry and they require a lot of attention.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may not have the time required to raise a puppy. Do you have a house full of kids? Work 10 - 12 hours a day? Like to run and hike in your spare time? Sometimes the answers to these questions are depressing to people who want a dog. Clearly, if you have 4 kids under 4, you might not have the time to add, essentially, another toddler to your household. If you work long hours you might not be able to get a good grasp on the house training and other training a puppy requires. If you are a competitive runner or an avid hiker, waiting for a puppy to physically mature might be too long to wait.
But, you've always had dogs and you miss having one in your life. You really want a companion. You really want your children to learn responsibility. What do you do?

Think about adopting an adult dog
Just because an adult dog is no longer a puppy, doesn't mean he doesn't have anything to offer. Sometimes people think that if you don't raise a dog from scratch, you will only have trouble. This couldn't be further from the truth! Of course, it might be easier to bond with a puppy, but there are some huge advantages to an older dog. They've settled down from their puppyhood and likely have more training. Adult dogs are also less likely to be super destructive and they have longer attention spans. Way easier to train! Their personalities are known. Some dogs are passive, some are high maintenance. An adult dogs personality is pretty much set, it is a "what you see is what you get" sort of deal. You will be able to get a better handle on how well he will fit into your household and if he will get along with any other pets you might have.
If you are a fairly active person, enjoying runs, hikes and other outdoor activities a young adult ( 1 or 2) with a fairly high drive would be a good option for you. By this time (between 12 and 18 months) the dogs growth plates have closed and it is safe to do high endurance/high impact sports. Plus, they will be able to keep up with you.
If you have a houseful of children, perhaps an older dog (3 or 4) with a mellow perspective on life and known history with children would make a good companion.
If you occasionally work long hours and were thinking maybe your dog could come to the office with you. You just want someone to "hang out" with and to "be there" for you. Perhaps a dog who is more mature (6+, depending on breed) and kind of a couch potato would be a good option.

The benefits of adopting from a rescue like ARF
While there are many different places to adopt an animal from, I think one of the best places is a rescue that has foster homes. Foster homes will be able to give the best, most accurate assessment on the animal you are looking at. They will be able to tell you how much training he has, how well he interacts with other animals and children. They will be able to tell you how he is with strangers or any other issues he may or may not have. They will also be able to let you know if the animal you are interested in will be a good match for your family. If he's not, there is a good chance they will know of another animal that would be.
Adopting from a reputable rescue also ensures the animal is up to date on all vaccinations and has had a medical assessment and is spayed or neutered and microchipped or tattooed.
Yes, the screening process seems kind of daunting, but they have the animals best interest to look out for. ARF does a lot of stuff that sets them apart from other rescues in the area. We really pride ourselves on this. We do periodic follow up calls on adoptees to make sure the animal is fitting into the new home nicely. This also provides the new forever home with an outlet incase they are having any difficulties with the transition period. ARF also provides 6 weeks of training at a CPDT certified training facility. (http://www.ccpdt.org) These 6 weeks come in the form of either puppy classes or basic obedience classes, depending on the age of dog adopted. This is a great opportunity for the dog and his new family to bond and learn how to better understand each other.

In conclusion
Enter the adoption process knowing what you can handle. Know what you have the time and patience for. Ask a lot of questions. Whatever dog you adopt, remember that you are saving a life.


  1. Fantastic entry! I adopted my older girl from a local rescue group and I can not agree more!