In the world of dog rescue, puppies are considered relatively “easy.” Placing young puppies of any shape and size in homes are far easier than placing, say, a 10-year-old terrier mix or a six-year-old plain brown dog. Puppies are the “in demand” canine. Puppies get all the love.
But you know what else is adorable? Dogs. Full-grown dogs. Adorable. I could look at photos of dogs all day (and sometimes I do – thank you, Facebook friends). When I see an adult dog that needs a home, I think, “There’s someone’s best friend. He just needs a chance.”
When I see a puppy that needs a home, or (gasp) a puppy for sale, I think, “just put your shoes, cell phones, throw pillows, and other loose valuables into a box, walk down to the closest body of water, and toss it all in. Then, roll up your carpets and toss those out too. Take a screwdriver and hack at the corners of your walls a bit. Then – get ready – you’re going to lose a lot of sleep.”
But it’s not just the “destruction factor” that bouncy, playful pups bring to a household. Puppies have little personality. They are blobs of fur with big eyes. Dogs, on the other paw, have “been there and done that.” They have character. Sure, puppies are sweet and love you. The same puppy loves the mailman, your least favorite person from high school, and anyone with a pound of meat in her purse.
People like to think that they can “imprint” themselves onto a puppy and that they can’t do this with an adult dog. The fact is, much of a puppy’s personality is genetic. You can wreck a puppy with abuse and turn him into a terrified mass of fur and fear, but you’re not going to turn an alpha puppy into a willing follower, and you’re unlikely to turn a submissive puppy into an uber-confident leader. Yes, you can be the “alpha” pack leader with any dog, but you don’t have to start with a puppy to do it.
A full-grown dog may protect your home after a couple of days of being there. He catches on quickly. A puppy will lick an intruder’s face – and the intruder might even steal him. That’s not going to save your TV, is it? After a few days, an adult dog is unlikely to wake you up at night. He can “hold it.” Your puppy will wake you up just to show you the puddle he has made. An adult dog is thrilled beyond words to get out of the shelter and into a warm home – his gratitude is boundless. If you don’t believe it, adopt an abused or neglected dog from the shelter and watch him blossom. A puppy? Clueless.
Whenever someone announces, excitedly, “I’m getting a puppy!” I actually groan. I know that they have no clue what they’re getting into. And soon after the barking bundle of joy comes home, I get a phone call, “There’s a problem with the puppy.” It could be anything – chewing, whining, nipping, the puppy seems unhappy, its vomiting, it swallowed a sock . . . the list goes on. Then the unexpected bills start – vet bills, puppy training classes, puppy videos, replacing the crate/headphones/table legs. “This is getting expensive!” my friend will exclaim. “I can’t even leave the house!” I never say, “I told you so.” I just smile to myself.
I’ve adopted all of my dogs as young adults, except for one stray senior dog who came off of the street and was a lovely addition to our pack. Even Pearl, whom I adopted at six months, was a destructive terror. Now, I will not bring a dog home less than two years of age. In fact, I have a soft spot for senior dogs – they are mellow and have a lot of life experience. Potty training? Easy. Most of them already know what they’re doing.
Kids asking for a puppy? It’s doubtful that any child would be disappointed with being presented with a dog as a family pet. Puppies nip kids. Kids are very challenging for puppies and can undermine their training. A kid-friendly adult dog is much calmer and fits better and more quickly into a household than a puppy, who may take a year to be completely safe unsupervised around kids.
Puppies keep dog trainers like me in business, so if you really want a puppy, don’t let me discourage you. But please take into account the hundreds of dogs sitting in your local shelter right now, all waiting for a reprieve. And remember how much easier a dog will acclimate to your lifestyle. In today’s busy world, if you have time to deal with a puppy, more power to you – most people I know don’t have that kind of time and energy (even if they think they do).
Would I actually refuse a million dollars to raise a puppy? No. But that’s my price to turn my life upside-down for a year. Ok, I’d probably take far less, but who’s paying me to have a puppy? No one. A million dollars could save a lot of shelter animals, anyway. And remember, for every shelter dog you adopt, you free up a cage for another shelter dog to have a chance to find a family too.
Adopted dogs aren’t perfect – but they come with fewer of those “puppy issues.” And – bonus – most shelter dogs already have all of their vaccines and are spayed/neutered at the shelter. Money saver!
I’m not anti puppy. Puppies become dogs, after all. I just don’t want one and I highly recommend considering adopting an adult dog instead. What are your thoughts? Is it easier to raise a puppy or adopt a dog? What are your puppy/dog pros and cons?