Deciding to add a new dog to your life is a wonderful and exciting prospect, but it also presents you with a number of important decisions. You’ll have to select the best breed (or a combination thereof) for your lifestyle and desires, and you may even need to decide which color you want. You’ll need to decide on a breeder or shelter that makes you feel comfortable, and you’ll need to decide how you want to train your dog.
But one of the most important decisions – likely the first one you should make – involves the age of the dog you want. Specifically, you need to decide whether you want an adult dog or a young puppy. While puppies are undeniably endearing, which makes them the default choice for many first-time owners, adult dogs are the better option for many people.
Review the following considerations and ask yourself how you feel about each of the issues listed. They’ll help guide you to the best choice for you.
- Do you have the time and energy to housebreak a puppy?It may take you several weeks to teach your puppy not to go to the bathroom inside, and you’ll need to take her outside many times each day while she is learning. These frequent trips frustrate many puppy owners, especially those living in apartments, which can lead to regret and resentment. You should also consider the type of floors you have when deciding between an adult and a puppy – adults may have the occasional accident, but pseudo-house-broken puppies are guaranteed to occasionally go to the bathroom inside, which can destroy carpeted floors.
- Do you have the energy and interest to play with a young puppy?Adult dogs — particularly those who have been spayed or neutered – may like to run, jump and play, but they’re usually quite low-key when compared to healthy, happy puppies. Just like human children, puppies love to play and they’ll expect you to play with them whenever they are in the mood. You certainly should set boundaries and teach young pups that there are times for play and times for other things, but young puppies need lots of playtime and interaction with their people. Dogs deprived of such often develop behavioral and emotional problems.
- Are you willing and able to teach a puppy basic obedience? While most adult dogs have already learned the basic role they play in a family, puppies come into the world without much software installed. You’ll have to teach them to come when called, sit or lie when told to do so, as well as many other basic commands. This is a rewarding experience, to be sure, but it is also one that requires a significant investment of time and energy. If your puppy proves challenging, or you have little prior experience with dogs, you may end up needing to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer.
- Can you afford to pay for the myriad shots a young puppy needs?While adult dogs require a few yearly booster shots (although some, such as the rabies vaccine, are available in 3-year forms), puppies require several vaccinations during their first year of life. These shots can end up costing several hundred dollars or more, and you’ll need to start paying for them within weeks of buying your puppy and all her initial needs (crates, food dishes, leashes, and toys, among other items).
- Do you have your heart set on a specific breed?Many people approach dog ownership without strong preferences regarding the breed – they just want something cute that wags its tail and licks their face. Mixed breed dogs of all ages are available at most shelters, so you can rely on other factors to help you decide whether you want an adult or a puppy. But if you have a strong breed preference, you’ll usually have to obtain the dog from a breeder, which generally means you’ll be purchasing a puppy. There are some breed-specific rescues, which may be able to place you with an adult dog of the breed you desire, but these are relatively rare when compared to the number of breeders selling puppies.
- Do you expect the animal to perform a specific type of work?While you can see the beginnings of a puppy’s personality from the first few weeks of life, it takes dogs several months to really settle in and become an individual. Some may never develop the aptitudes or characteristics that would suit them well for their intended purpose. For example, a puppy purchased to be used for protection work may ultimately exhibit shyness or one you hope will compete in agility trials never learns to like the work. Accordingly, it may be advantageous to select an adult dog if you have a very specific type of work (or role it will play) in mind.
- Does your family include young children? While older kids can usually be taught to interact with dogs in the proper way, young children rarely have such capability. Accordingly, it is wiser to select a mature dog for homes with young kids, as older dogs usually possess greater patience and confidence than young puppies do, which allows them to better tolerate the indignities children often inflict upon their pets. Additionally, mature dogs are less likely to nip or chew on young children, further reducing the chances that either side of the equation will suffer an injury.
As you can see, it is important to decide whether you want to add an adult dog or a young puppy to your home before you start considering other factors, such as the breed. In fact, the age of the dog you wish to get will dictate which options are available to you and which ones are not.
Which way are you leaning? Do you think a new puppy will fit in with your family, or will you be better served by a mature dog? Let us know in the comments below.