Adopting a dog is a subject that is very close to my heart. Petfinder helps people find the right pet every day!
After all I work with dogs all day, and some of the best are adoptions.
So let’s discuss the pros and the cons of adopting a dog; and the pros and the cons of buying a puppy!
We all love them! And, to be honest I bought one puppy and adopted the other.
Puppies are a little bit less of a gamble when it comes to competition and integrating with other pets.
I wanted a dog that I could compete in a very high level of protection sports with at that time in my life.
I did my research, her father was imported from Belgium and had earned a Schutzhund or IPO 3 (it was Schutzhund then). He was also a known producer meaning his puppies were doing well in the competition world as well. Her mother was a working police dog.
Ironically I grilled the police officer and tried to ensure that I would get a dog with an “off” switch. Anyone who knows extreme working dogs like police or military dogs knows that sometimes they never shut off. They are constantly moving and wanting to work. Because I had kids in my life, I wanted a dog that could chill when she wasn’t working.
Thankfully, my hard work and questions paid off. She was able to attain many titles including agility, protection, and dock diving as well as excelling in lure coursing. We were even invited to compete together in AKC obedience.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I pretty much got the perfect dog (which isn’t always the case despite the effort) but thankfully it lessens your chances that the dog can’t do the work.
However, most people aren’t looking for a “working” dog.
My rescue was given to me because he had panosetitis and was given back to the breeder. I also had high aspirations for him being able to compete at a high level in protection sports but he had different plans. I later realized he was dropped from their bed bug sniffing problem (an indicator that his drive wasn’t as high as I wanted). Or at least it is only on his terms. I jokingly call him my flying dragon because he has no off switch! And, that getting along with my other pets, even though I got him at 6 months he had aggression and possession issues
Instead of excelling at protection sports, we discovered he was really good at swimming and was a national champion in dock diving, fetch it, and chase it with Ultimate Air Dogs.
Long story short, if looking to compete is what you want; look into dogs that have pedigrees and high producing puppies.
If I want to compete at a high level in agility, I would be looking at Border Collies, Sheltland Sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers or other breeds who’s mother and father have competed at that level.
If I want to compete in barn hunt, I would probably be looking for a Jack Russell or Norwich Terrier.
Sure, competing isn’t for everyone; but it can be a lot of fun and it gives you a great job to spend with your best friend.
I Don’t Want to Compete
So you don’t want to compete but you do want to know a little bit more about what you are getting.
If I want a 30 pound dog and I am adamant that I can’t have a dog that is bigger because of the apartment complex that I live in; I probably don’t want to take the risk on a puppy at a shelter. I would want to stick with a dog that I know what size I am getting.
Also, different breeds have different personalities. Want a couch potato get a Greyhound. Want a dog constantly ready to move and you like hiking all weekend for hours at a time, get a Rhodesian Ridge Back. The AKC can help you find local breeders.
Figure out what fits in your family with your lifestyle. Everyone is different when it comes to lifestyle, and what preferences people want to look at as well as size so look up lots of options and visit lots of breeders so you find the right person and a good ethical breeder.
Good breeders should welcome your questions and concerns because it ensures the time and effort that you are putting into keeping a dog that will likely live 8-15 years.
As much as I love choosing the right competition dog I also love shelter dogs. The ASPCA can also help you find the right pet!
When I owned (although you never truly own a 501 (c)(3) non-profit), I got all of my guide dogs, service dogs and assistance dogs from shelters or rescues. Although, I adopted mine as adult dogs.
And, although I love great rescue groups, there are some rescues that exceed normalcy in their requirements. One rescue I know won’t adopt a Boxer to anyone who hasn’t had a Boxer, me included. And, let me tell you I could handle just about any breed. I also provide routine medical care and would walk my dog if I didn’t have a yard. I understand that these rescues want to provide the best homes but sometimes I think they take things a little far.
The one nice things about really good breed rescue groups is that they intricately know the temperament of those in their care better than a shelter would. They would better know if the dog has lived with other pets, or children and what environment may be best. Just be careful. I know one dog that was adopted out to a home and it takes 5 veterinary technicians and a giant muzzle to trim this dog’s nails or do anything it doesn’t like, like clean ears or bandage feet… again probably not something someone wants in a dog.
Again, puppies are a little bit of a “crap shoot” if you will with their temperament as they age. However most will get along with your cat easier if you teach them basic training and manners around them.
It is difficult to determine what breed of dog or dogs (let’s face it typically two pure bred dogs don’t get together and make puppies) most shelter puppies are a mixture of many things. I think this makes them even more endearing.
A veterinarian I work with has a love affair with Mastiffs. He has wanted a Mastiff for year and the bigger the better. We often combine and comment about his favorite and my favorite Caucasian Ovcharka. I suppose one day we will each have what we want.
However, his wife, who is also in law school accepted him adopting a puppy of unknown origin. They called him a Cane Corso/Lab mix. I joke that I see “pibble” (the nicer way to say Pitbull). He is adorable no matter what breed he is but at 4 months old he is only about 27 pounds. Clearly as an experienced dog owner it is still difficult to determine size. And, btw Pitbull mixed breeds are some of my favorite puppy adoptions.
Again, he is adorable no matter what, but even his veterinary degree can’t tell him how big this puppy will get. Another vet friend of mine adopted what she thought was a Shetland Sheepdog mix who turned out to be 70 pounds and also adorable. Adopting a puppy can be fun but lots of work.
If in doubt and you want a small dog, try and stick with a dog that comes from a smaller and known mother. Giant breeds are a bit bigger to accurately determine for any dog owner.
The only slightly negative thing I will say about shelter puppies is that most often their history is, of course, unknown and I am a firm believer in temperament genetics. This is why I am so adamant about finding a dog that fits with my goals for a working dog.
I have seen puppies with EXTREME aggression at six weeks. I know that is an unpopular opinion, but the truth is that you can see videos of it. No one wants to think that anything is born with aggression issues but unfortunately I am more believer in nature versus nurture. Sure, nurture is important but all the love in the world can’t change an aggressive dog into a dog with no issues.
Also puppy temperaments can change, just like going through puberty can change your temperament a bit as from who you were as a baby or young child. The same can happen with puppies. The puppy may have been social with other dogs at 5 months but not at one or two years.
Thankfully this is not frequent, shelter puppies most of them turn out to be canine good citizens. And, remember as a dog trainer, I see the worst of the worst when it comes to aggression and behavior.
Adopting an adult dog is probably my favorite option for most people. I also love Greyhounds because I think they are usually great couch potatoes. Paws on the Mountain can help you find the right one.
I know we have been through all the other pros and cons but adult shelter dogs or rescue dogs are like diamonds in the rough. I think adopted animals also feel some gratitude when they get a forever home.
Also most of them have been to a veterinarian for a general vet exam and heartworm test.
People are soooooo worried that they are going to get someone’s problems but the truth is that it is just usually lack of training.
Don’t get me wrong, there are dogs with serious aggression issues in shelters and rescues. But now a days it is more common for both of these kinds of organizations to temperament test prior to adoption.
Again, I am going out on a limb, and I know it is controversial. But aggressive dog, dogs with possession issues or any dog that fails these tests should be euthanized. Not all dogs are adoptable, it isn’t worth the risk.
So many good dogs get euthanized each day, why not euthanize the ones with aggression.
10 years ago I did a lot of temperament testing in a local humane society. As we went through the shelter we kept passing a dog that was 8. “Why aren’t we testing her?” “She is 8 she will never get adopted.”
I was horrified and demanded to test her. Not only did she pass (I could tell by her submissive behaviors in the kennel) she was also adopted out to a family that had a 4 year old. They didn’t want a dog that needed potty trained and they didn’t want a dog that was rambunctious, would knock him down or steal his food. She had several good years with her family.
I don’t understand all this time spent on “rehabilitation” when non-aggressive dogs get killed each day.
I have a friend that is known for this. Her current “rehab” dog has to wear a muzzle in the house and out of the house. That makes no sense for me. This is a dog I would never trust and would never adopt out around kids. But even those of us who don’t have kids of our own, we have kids in our life or that walk down the street or peer in your yard.
It has been proven that the majority of people who adopt from shelters are brand new pet owners. Why add aggression to their already overwhelming plate!
So if you are looking to adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter look for those that have a 0 tolerance and also temperament test. Ask to see the test. Possession aggression can run rampant in adult shelter dogs. But what happens if your child wanders near your new dog’s bowl? Also what happens if your new dog steals “Barbie” and chases the dog down to take it away. You want a dog that has NO possession issues at all!
NEVER, EVER, EVER take your children. Yes, whether it is a puppy or adult dog it will need to love your kids… but kids can’t leave a dog they fall in love which, which is basically all dogs.
When I was temperament testing for guide dog and service dogs there were several days if not weeks where I never took a dog home. Trust your instincts. You will find the right dog, there is no time limit on it and there should not be!
Look for temperament first in an older dog. If you want an active dog, look for that active happy dog. If you want a couch potato, look for a dog that is relaxed and happy.
You May Choose the Wrong Dog
It is OKAY to admit you chose the wrong dog, especially an adult dog. It took about 3-4 weeks for an adult dog to begin to fit in well enough to show his real temperament.
I remember taking home a Golden Retriever that did great at my house but we liked to switch them up among us professional trainers. He went to snack out of the cat box and my trainer friend’s 9 year old went to take him out and he snarled and lunged.
Tests are good and they weed out a lot but they aren’t perfect.
It is find to admit that the dog you chose isn’t a good fit. People want to make you feel bad but this is a commitment that you are making for possibly 12 years or more. You have no desire to live in an abusive relationship or have your child mauled.
Don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out.
Ironically we had a Doberman in our clinic on Friday of last week. She was there for possible bloat and was 7 months old. She was TERRIBLE. She screamed she paced and was basically a terror. I think she had lived with the breeder for all 7 months and had never been alone. The owners had only had her for a week but were going to give her back because she wasn’t the right dog.
She had kids and the kids scared the dog and the dog undoubtedly screamed all day and night. I fell in love with this mess and would have certainly fostered her! This wasn’t the right home for her but with some serious work she could find the right home.
Remember adopting a dog, whether it be puppy or adult is a big deal and a commitment for the lifetime of the dog. Do your research but don’t punish yourself with the wrong dog! The right dog is out there for you and your family.