Dog Adoption – Bring Home Some Love

by Jonni

If you’re thinking of adopting a dog, please consider an older dog from your local animal shelter.

There are hundreds of reasons why you might want a dog for your household, and there are many reasons why that dog should come to you full-grown.

  • Puppies are a lot of work

If you are older, the rambunctious energy of a puppy could be so overwhelming that you simply won’t be able to tolerate it. And a puppy underfoot may not be safe if you have any physical limitations. A senior dog will have many years of love left, and will enjoy sitting in front of the fire or lying at your feet. For an older person, an 8-year-old dog (or even older) may be the only rational choice.

Even if you’re younger, fully-grown dogs have much to recommend them. For instance, if an adult dog has been properly socialized in his previous environment he will come to your home house trained and civilized. If you have children to care for or if you work during the day, potty training a puppy could be that one extra job that you simply don’t have time or patience for. Some older dogs are not housebroken, though, so this is something that you should ask about when you’re picking out your dog.

  • Dogs can encourage you to get healthy exercise

If you’re looking for a partner to help you train for the marathon, you’ll need an older dog. A puppy takes time to grow up, and your race will be over before he’s old enough to help you train. Here in Portland the Humane Society volunteers take the shelter dogs running with them, and they score the dogs’ behavior to help future owners choose the perfect fitness partner. Your local shelter may have a similar program. If you buy an older dog today, he can accompany you on your run tomorrow morning. You can’t do that with a pup.

Even if you aren’t an athlete, walking has been shown to be one of the best exercises for weight loss and health. Unfortunately, we don’t get out and walk very much – and our waistlines show it. If you need some motivation to get out and walk, an older dog will provide this on the first day he comes home.

  • Older dogs may already be trained and civilized

Many older dogs have been trained to walk on a leash and come when called. In fact, you may find a dog with even more specialized training in hunting, agility, or other pursuits, even at the pound.

My Border collie, for instance, was a master Frisbee herder with 9 years of experience in the trade before I brought her home from the pound. She also knew how to sit, stay, come, roll over (but only half-way), and was willing to learn new commands when she moved into my house. The idea that old dogs can’t learn new tricks is only true of those dogs who didn’t have the opportunity to “learn how to learn” when they were younger. Like people, most dogs can go on learning through old age.

If you need an older dog with specialized skills, you may want to contact a local breeder or breed rescue organization to see if they have the dog you need.

Even if you just want a friend or companion, an older dog may be a better choice than a puppy. If you choose the right dog, he’ll meet your needs immediately, without the fuss and bother that comes with a pup.

  • Older dogs can offer comfort and emotional support

Many people have found that an older dog can offer wonderful emotional support, exactly when you need it. A dog (or cat) can help you through a depressing time in your life, stand by your side while you recover from a major illness, or give you someone to care about when you need to take your mind off your own problems.

Dianne found her perfect companion in the local animal shelter. Oscar, an Airedale-wolfhound cross, gave Dianne the companionship she needed after the loss of her husband, and then happily re-adjusted when Dianne met and married my father. A puppy could not have done the same job because Dianne works, (as most of us do), and she would not have had the time or energy for a puppy. She needed a friend, and a partner – Oscar was ready and willing to play that role, right from the start.

  • Known characteristics and temperament- one of the best reasons to get an adult dog

There is another very important reason for finding an older dog, rather than starting from “scratch” with a puppy, but if you aren’t a professional dog handler you may not have thought of it.

As Lora Goode, an animal care technician for Multnomah County Animal Control puts it, “With an older dog, what you see is what you get.” That cute little puppy, on the other hand, may grow into a dog that you didn’t expect, and may not want – he may even become an animal that you can’t afford to keep.

No matter how carefully you raise a puppy, much of his behavior and temperament is “hard wired” by his genetic makeup. We don’t want to believe this – we want to believe that our pup will grow into a perfect dog if we just love him enough. And we also want to believe that the snarling or cringing beast we see at the local animal shelter got that way because someone was mean to him. Or maybe the poor dog just needs some more training. But it just ain’t so.

Sue Sternberg, an author, shelter owner and dog temperament expert, uses an excellent analogy in her book Successful Dog Adoption. She points out that Theodore Kaczynski was raised by loving parents and educated at Harvard before becoming the serial killer known as the Una-bomber. Some people, and some dogs, are not safe. Your local humane society can help you choose a safe and loving companion for your family.