This is one of the most common and to be honest annoying phrases shelter workers hear, not because we don’t have at least a dozen puppies that need homes but because it shows a major lack of understanding. Normally, we don’t have the 30 minutes it would take to explain to adopters why an adult dog may actually meet their needs better than a puppy. It is also doubtful that if we took this time to educate that we would be “heard” since the adopter is most likely a self-appointed expert who has owned dogs before.
When you adopt an adult dog who already has a foundation of obedience than the time you spend on training can be on the “fun stuff” jumping right into freestyle heeling, agility or nose work.
You can’t teach an older dog how to adjust into your family…
Actually by picking an adult you can ensure a match that already fits your family. Many of our shelter dogs came to us because families with really good intentions adopted a puppy that they wanted to raise “how they wanted.”
Why wouldn’t that be perfect?
They could raise their puppy and it could grow up with their kids? They already had dogs in the past they know how to properly raise a puppy. So why did they find themselves standing in the lobby of the shelter surrendering their black lab a few years later? The answer is always a little different, but for the most part the same.
They kept putting off training him.
They didn’t take him to puppy classes because “they had dogs before”, and they didn’t have time to work with him because they were too busy taking Mary to soccer practice and Joey to his playdates with both parents having full time jobs they were too busy and to tired at the end of the day.
The truth is that you can train a dog of any age. Yes, you heard me. It is true that there are critical stages of development for puppies but there is a reason many major organizations are looking to adult shelter dogs for their rescue prospects. From service dogs to national disaster search dogs many organizations are now turning away from time consuming puppy raisers and expensive pedigreed puppies and searching local shelters to find their next adult prospect. Ask Freedom Service Dogs if they would rather have a playful, socialized, healthy adult lab mix or a lab puppy where they have to do all the work. Shelters have come a long way in the last 5 years. Now almost all shelters test for everything. They know if a dog is confident, if they have strong toy drive and if they will tolerate children. It is NOT all about how you raise them! Think about it, if you raise a border collie and a great Pyrenees in the exact same pen with the same environmental stimulus (sheep) the border collies will herd and the Pyrenees will protect. Genetics play a role in behavior. It’s why labs fetch and mastiffs watch the ball being thrown and roll on their backs only to continue their naps. There is also a great deal of temperament variation within a litter, particularly in cross breed litters.
When you are adopting a young puppy there is NO guarantee about the adult dog’s temperament. Both genetics and the way they are raised play a major role, but by evaluating an adult dog you can know exactly how the dog will interact with other dogs, cats, kids, if they will play fetch, if they will be confident and if they will have enough drive to participate in dog sports.
Do you really have the time to raise the puppy the way you want? Socialization shouldn’t stop at 1 year old it should continue for a minimum of the first three years. A well socialized dog isn’t one who just went to puppy classes, it is one who has been interacting with new environments, sounds, people and animals on a daily basis all the way through their adolescents. Training is more than your dog sitting at home in the kitchen when there are no distractions, it is being able to take your dog in public and have them display good manners and be able to focus on their handler with distraction. Do you really want a puppy that you have practice house training, kennel training, obedience, puppy biting and run 3 miles a day or take them to daycare to prevent them from eating your kid’s toys or would you rather have an adult dog that is passed their chewing stages and is content with a lovely walk around the block. That is not accounting for the work socializing with other dogs, strangers and vet/grooming appointments.
Picking a dog that fits YOUR life is important, but picking a dog whose needs you can meet is even more important. Don’t let picking a dog who will be in your life for the next 10-12 years be a speed dating session.
Here are a few videos of me doing some basic training with shelter dogs while they wait for their FOREVER homes:
To learn more about picking a shelter dog try reading this HOW TO PICK A SHELTER OR RESCUE DOG.