Puppy vs. Adult & Senior Dogs: Which Is Right For You?

It's all about dogs on August 26 because it's National Dog Day! To celebrate the occasion, we are talking about adopting a puppy or senior dog. There are so many reasons to adopt both, but it really comes down to your lifestyle on which one is right for you. 

Although puppies are a perfect choice for some owners, other owners could find their new best friend in a senior dog. And senior dogs often aren't much older than puppies— senior dogs can range from 5-years-old and older, depending on the breed, whereas puppies are often under a year old.

When adopting a dog, one choice you’ll need to make is whether to adopt a puppy, an adolescent, or an adult. It’s not always an easy decision, so let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of adopting dogs of different ages.

Puppies Are a Lot of Work
Your puppy will need to be trained so that they know what you want them to do and not do. They will need lots of safe exercise and play so that their body develops properly, and they will need you to socialize them with other people and animals so that they feel comfortable in the world. As they learns and grow, they’ll get into things, chew, make messes, and have accidents in the house. All in all, a puppy is a tremendous amount of work — much more than many unsuspecting adopters realize.

A Puppy’s Health — and Size — May Be Unpredictable
Puppies who are available for adoption through shelters and rescue organizations sometimes offer additional challenges because they come from less-than-ideal situations. Chances are good that their parents were not screened for inherited health or temperament problems, or that optimum pre-natal or post-natal care was provided for mama dog and her pups. Shelter and rescue puppies may have been taken from their mothers at too young an age for optimal emotional development. Veterinary attention may have been lacking prior to the pup’s coming into the shelter or rescue group. Responsible shelters and rescue groups provide medical care, treatment for parasites, and vaccinations against infectious disease when appropriate; however, sometimes adopted puppies don’t show signs of illness until they move to their new home.

Does this mean you shouldn’t adopt a puppy from a shelter or rescue group? Not at all — many wonderful dogs grow from puppies who didn’t have the best start in life. But you do need to be aware that even a young puppy has a history, and you may need to give her some extra care to make up for it.

Adult and Senior Dogs Are Already Emotionally Mature
Adolescence in dogs begins at six months and lasts until anywhere from eighteen months up to thirty-six months, depending on the breed. Small dogs tend to mature physically more quickly than big dogs do, but all dogs are quite immature mentally and emotionally until they are at least two or three years old. They continue to need training, lots of exercise, and ongoing socialization throughout this developmental period.

Adult and Senior Dogs Are Great for First-Time Dog Parents
If this is your first dog, or if you cannot devote the time necessary to train, socialize, and exercise a young or adolescent puppy properly, an adult dog could be a better option for you.

You Know What You’re Getting with an Adult or Senior Dog
When you choose an adult dog, you have a pretty good idea what you’re getting. You can see their physical traits and get some idea of their basic temperament, even though dogs in shelters and dogs newly in rescue foster homes may not always show their true personality right away.

Adult and Senior Dogs Will Love You as Much as a Puppy
If you are concerned that an older dog won’t bond to you, don’t be. Dogs are remarkably resilient and open-hearted. Some completely overcome their pasts in a matter of days; others may take a few weeks or months, and a few will carry a little baggage for even longer than that. Working with your adopted dog to help them overcome any hurdles necessary to enjoy their new life can be an incredibly rewarding experience — and result in a long-term, loving relationship.