I get asked whether it is better to rescue a puppy or an adult dog from a rescue several times a month, and since there is no easy answer to that question, I decided to write out a few things to remember when making this decision.
The biggest piece of the puzzle when rescuing or adopting a dog, is what's the rescue itself is like and what their behavior evaluation system is. Some shelters and rescues have behavior evaluation protocols in place so that they can tell you what your prospective new pooch's pluses and minuses are when it comes to his behavior. Others do not, but they may have the dogs in foster homes and the foster parents will be able to give you detailed information on the dogs behavior around children, other dogs, cats, etc. There are shelters and rescues that have none of these protocols in place, but may have dedicated staff that take the time to get to know the dog and can give you an outline of the dogs skill level and any issues they may see. Puppies and adults can be evaluated, but some shelters only do adults. However, my point is, before you decide on a puppy or adult from a rescue, assess your rescue and decide if they have an evaluation policy that is to your liking.
Something that is important to consider if you decide to adopt an adult dog, is to settle on what kind of behavior problems you can live with, and those that you can't. It is not fair to assume that every dog in a shelter has a behavior issue, but there are some that do. Make sure that when you adopt your adult dog you are willing to put the time and effort into doing some training to help them merge into your family and situation successfully. If you like the look of one adult dog, but his behavior problems (like chasing cats when you already own four) would make the transition for you and him difficult, try to find a dog that would best fit your lifestyle - even if he isn't as cute as the other one. That way, both you and the dog end up happy and well adjusted, rather than frustrated and upset.
Adopting a puppy can be a lot of fun, but keep in mind that every puppy is different and unlike adult dogs, you may not be able to know what size they will be when they grow up. If you have your heart set on a particular size, color and look of dog, an adult dog may be best. Puppies also are a lot of work in general, and some shelter or rescue puppies may have been taken from bad circumstances, which could mean that potty training or socializing them may take a little extra effort. Take some time at the shelter to meet each puppy individually and see if there is one whose temperament speaks to you over the others. Although a puppy will be easier to mold to your lifestyle and household than perhaps an adult dog, puppies are still a lot of work and require a lot of training as they grow up - something that an adult dogs may have already had!
There is no specific right or wrong way to rescue a dog, because if you go to your local shelter you will see how many faces need homes. Rescuing an adult dog or a puppy is giving an animal a new lease on life and will help enrich your life in ways you didn't know possible. However, it is very important you do your research to decide what best fits your lifestyle. If you need help, contact your local trainer to see if they can accompany you to look at a few dogs you like and see what their opinion is. Some trainers even do behavior evaluations for potential owners with the shelters permission to ensure a positive adoption outcome. Take your time and you will find that once you find the dog that is best for you, both you and he will never look back!
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