Adopting An Older Dog

When you look to adopt a dog, consider the joys an adult dog can bring you.

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Adult dogs have finished growing, so what you see is what you get in terms of size and looks. Purestock/Thinkstock
Audrey Pavia

It was a year-and-a-half after losing my 12-year-old Corgi before I realized I was ready to have a dog again. So I went to my local animal shelter, looking for a canine companion who would fit well into my family.

That’s how Candy came into my life. A 6-year-old Australian Shepherd mix, Candy had been surrendered by her owners to the local shelter. They were moving and couldn’t take Candy with them. She had been at the shelter for three weeks when I met her. She was scared and confused, but I could tell she was a sweet dog. I adopted her and never looked back.

5 Reasons To Adopt An Older Dog
I had five good reasons for adopting an adult dog like Candy instead of a puppy:

1. Puppies are trouble. While puppies are cute and adorable, they are also a lot of work. They piddle in the house, chew up your shoes and wake you up in the middle of the night.

2. Adult dogs have better immunity. With an adult dog, you don’t need to worry as much about parvovirus and other diseases that can be fatal to puppies. If you vaccinate your adult dog, he has a good chance of fighting off contagious illness.

3. Adult dogs have training. Many adult dogs have already been housebroken, so you don’t need to spend weeks or months teaching them to potty outside, like you would a puppy. Some adult dogs even have obedience training. When I took Candy to our first obedience class, she already knew the drill.

4. Adult dogs have their grown-up looks and personality. Puppies are a gamble because you don’t know exactly how big they will grow up to be and what exactly they will look like. You also don’t know what kind of personality a puppy will have when he matures. With an adult dog, what you see is what you get. No surprises!

5. Adult dogs need rescuing. Probably the biggest reason I adopted an adult dog is because full-grown dogs have the most trouble finding homes. Go to any shelter and you’ll see many more adult dogs for adoption than puppies. By adopting an adult dog, you are saving a life.

Successful Adult Dog Adoption
People who adopt adult dogs often have great success stories. Michelle Griffen of Norco, California, adopted her Queensland Heeler, Annabelle, from a private rescue group. Annabelle was 2 years old and had been picked up as a stray.

“I’ve had Annabelle for two years now, and have not regretted my decision to adopt an adult dog,” she says. “I work full-time and go to school, and Annabelle fits perfectly into my life without a lot of the extra time requirements that a puppy would have needed.”

Griffen says that for her lifestyle, an adult dog was the perfect choice.

“One of the benefits of having an adult dog is that I know that I can leave the house without worrying about her getting into any sort of naughtiness while I’m gone, and that she won’t have any accidents,” Griffen says. “Usually, an adult dog has been in a household before and knows the drill, so there isn’t a lot of introduction to the world like there is with a puppy.”

Making Adjustments
While puppies usually adjust quickly when going to a new home, adult dogs often need some help getting used to their new life. An adult dog may be mourning the loss of his family, and feeling confused as to why he has been separated from the people he knew all his life. Homeless adult dogs who wandered the streets for a period of time and then ended up in a shelter are experiencing the lack of security and stability dogs need to feel comfortable. When you adopt a dog who has been through this kind of trauma, you’re in a position to help your new companion learn to love and trust.

Here are some ways you can help an older dog adapt to a new home:

1. Obedience Training: Adult dogs often need the structure and leadership that formal obedience training can provide. By taking your dog to an obedience class, you’ll help him see you as his leader — someone he can rely on.

2. Establish routine: Adopted dogs are desperately in need of a routine to help them feel secure in their new homes. Feed your dog in the same place at the same time of day. Keep his bed in your room with you if you can, in the same spot every night. Walk him or play with him around the same time each day. Do whatever you can to help create a routine he can count on.

3. Bonding Time: Even if your life is busy, build in quality time with your new dog every day. Whether it’s cuddling on the couch while you watch TV or playing ball in the backyard, spend as much time as you can bonding with him. The bond will help your dog feel secure and make his adjustment to his new life easier.

The time and effort you spend with your new dog will make all the difference in the world. You’ll be happy you gave an adult dog a new life, and your dog will be grateful to you for the rest of his days.

“Annabelle is incredibly cuddly — her love cup is never full,” Griffen says. “And she gets along with everyone: other dogs, cats, chickens, horses and people she meets. She has gone from a fearful, anxiety-ridden shelter dog to a beautiful, confident little peach of a pooch. I love her to pieces.”

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Dogs · Health and Care