Adopting a Puppy vs. An Older Dog: Pros and Cons


BY JANELLE LEESON

Adult and puppy dog
Irina Polonina / Stocksy
Deciding between adopting a puppy or an adult dog is a big decision that should align with your lifestyle. Puppies demand more attention, time, and training compared to adult dogs, who are often more mellow and may already be house-trained. While puppies may be adaptable to new people and situations, adult dogs offer more predictable personalities.

Ultimately, the best choice between adopting a puppy or an adult pet depends on your unique circumstances and preferences. Use our simple puppy and adult dog pro/con lists to find out which new family member might be the best fit for you.

What are the benefits of getting a puppy?

There’s no way around it: Puppies are a lot of work. On the plus side, getting a puppy means that all that time spent training creates a strong, irreplaceable bond. Nurturing a pup from the very start of their life plays a huge role in shaping their adult personality, and gives many human caretakers a deep sense of purpose. Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention one big benefit of getting a puppy — a puppy’s endless energy and playful nature, which can be a great fit for many individuals and families. Here are some of the pros of adopting a puppy instead of adopting an adult dog.

Building bonds

As you spend countless hours teaching your puppy to go pee and poop outside, sit, stay, and heel, you’ll also be working on your relationship. This shared experience will create a strong bond between you and your puppy that will last a lifetime. That’s not to say you can’t bond with an adult dog, but some dog parents take a special interest in raising a dog from puppyhood.

Adaptability

The critical socialization period for a puppy spans approximately the first three to 12 weeks of life. It’s during this time that puppies are most open to learning about and experiencing new people, places, and things. This makes adopting a puppy a good choice if you want to shape a social and adaptable companion to your lifestyle.

An active companion

Life with a puppy is anything but boring. When you’re not chasing them around the house (likely because they’ve discovered something they deem chew-worthy), you’ll find yourself at the park, dog park, or puppy social hour, burning off that notorious puppy energy. And being the social butterflies that they are, puppies are a great way to get involved in your community and meet other dog parents. But after a day filled with adventure, rest assured you’ll be rewarded with the sight of an adorable puppy curled up — or sprawled out — in a nap.

Better insurance rates

You’ll want to consider pet insurance to help cover emergency and/or routine medical costs. Enrolling puppies in pet insurance as soon as they come home with you allows you to secure comprehensive coverage from the start and decreases the chances of potential premium increases due to age or pre-existing conditions.

puppy destroying stuff

#CNF / Adobe Stock

What are the cons of adopting a puppy?

While there are plenty of pros to adopting a puppy instead of an adult dog, there are some downsides to consider. Here are the cons of adopting a puppy.

Limited flexibility

Because they have undeveloped bladders, puppies need to be taken out to relieve themselves as often as every 30 minutes. Even at five months, puppies can’t hold their bladder for more than three hours at a time. Additionally, puppies need to be fed multiple times throughout the day, sometimes up to four or five times for toy or small-breed dogs at risk of hypoglycemia.

Significant time commitment for training and socialization

Adopting a puppy requires a substantial investment of time and effort to ensure they become well-adjusted and well-behaved members of your household. Training and socialization means: housetraining, learning basic cues (sit, stay, heel), leash training, and socialization with other people and animals. Puppy parents will need to be consistent and patient and may even need to pay for puppy kindergarten, a behaviorist, or a trainer for a well-rounded approach.

Lots of cleaning—and bite marks

Even the most diligent housetraining efforts won’t safeguard against all puppy accidents — so be sure to puppy-proof your house. Potty training aside, puppies have developing gastrointestinal systems that may be more sensitive than a fully developed adult stomach, says Dr. Renee Schmid, DVM, a senior veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline. This can lead to occasional vomiting or diarrhea, especially if your puppy gets into something they shouldn’t. In addition to the occasional mess, puppies explore with their mouths and are bound to chew when teething. To discourage chewing behaviors and relieve discomfort, provide them with plenty of safe chew toys.

Cost

While no pet is free or even low-cost, puppies typically incur higher initial and lifetime costs compared to adult dogs. Adoption fees or breeder fees are generally higher for puppies, and you’ll need to account for veterinary expenses for spaying or neutering, microchipping, and vaccinations. That said, many shelters send home puppies neutered/spayed, microchipped, and up-to-date on core puppy vaccines. Additional costs may include puppy care, puppy kindergarten classes, essential supplies, and regular veterinary checkups, which puppies require frequently during their first year of life.

large lavender Chesapeake bay retriever dog

Tanya Consaul Photography / Shutterstock

What are the benefits of getting an older dog?

The benefits of getting an older dog include a potentially less demanding care-and-training regime, allowing you to enjoy a more relaxed companionship. Many adult dogs and seniors already have basic training down and can go longer between meals and potty breaks than puppies. They also have established personalities and traits, which means you can focus on finding a dog that aligns with your preferences and lifestyle. But above all, choosing to adopt an older dog offers the rewarding opportunity to provide a deserving pup with a second chance at a joyful life.

What are the pros and cons of adopting an adult dog?

Here are the pros and cons of adopting an adult dog instead of adopting a puppy:

  • Fewer training and socialization requirements: Older dogs generally have a solid foundation in basic training, eliminating the need for extensive housetraining and general training classes. That being said, ask shelter staff about the dog’s behavioral history. Rescue dogs with a background of trauma or limited home living experience may require additional training and socialization, but their needs are generally less demanding compared to puppies.
  • More flexibility: Older dogs require less frequent bathroom breaks (typically every four to six hours) and fewer meals a day than puppies, which is a plus if you work long hours or have a busy schedule. Keep in mind that adopting a senior dog may come with special care needs, so be sure to talk to the shelter staff about the pup’s current schedule and existing health conditions. 
  • Established personality and traits: Unlike puppies, whose personalities are still developing, older dogs have established traits and behaviors. This allows you to choose a dog that aligns with your lifestyle and preferences, whether you’re looking for a mellow pup, a dog who gets along with children, or one who tends not to bark much. 
  • A second chance at a happy life: Adopting an older dog provides them with a loving home and a second chance to experience the joy of companionship. You’ll be giving a deserving dog the opportunity to live out their remaining years in comfort, security, and unconditional love. 
  • Reduces pet overpopulation: Additionally, adopting adult dogs helps reduce the overpopulation of pets by decreasing the demand for puppies, purebreds, and designer dogs. “Many dogs end up in shelters due to irresponsible breeders and unqualified individuals attempting to breed animals for quick profit, leading to an excess of unwanted animals,” explains veterinarian Dr. Kevin Puzycki, spokesperson for Solid Gold Pet
  • Cost: Adopting an older dog can be a more budget-friendly option than adopting a puppy. Many shelters and rescues offer reduced or waived adoption fees for older dogs, freeing up your budget for essential supplies. Additionally, older dogs are often already microchipped, spayed or neutered, and up-to-date on vaccinations, further reducing your initial expenses. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to take your adult dog to the veterinarian for regular checkups, which increases to twice a year for seniors
  • They’re shaped by past experiences: Unlike puppies, adult dogs have already lived through critical periods of their lives. Rescue dogs may have experienced neglect, abuse, homelessness, or other negative events, which shape their personalities and behaviors. Adult dogs can absolutely adapt to new environments and form strong bonds with their caretakers; however, their past experiences may require additional patience, understanding, and specialized training.

FAQs (People also ask):

Is there an age range for an “adult” dog?

Generally, small breed dogs are considered puppies throughout their first year of life, while large dogs and giant breed dogs mature more slowly, typically entering adulthood around 12 to 24 months old. Upon intake, shelters look for clues to help determine a dog’s age. The age at which your local shelter considers a dog to be an adult, puppy, or senior, and therefore their adoption fees, may vary.

Are there breed-specific considerations when choosing between a puppy and an adult dog?

It’s important to consider the size and exercise needs of a breed when choosing between adopting a puppy or an adult dog. Because mixed-breed puppies inherit traits from various breeds, their adult size and exercise requirements can be difficult to predict. Opting for an adult dog ensures that their full-grown size is a fit for your household and that their exercise needs are a fit for your lifestyle. Puppies, on the other hand, may require more flexibility in terms of exercise needs and full-grown size.

Is there a cost difference between adopting a puppy and an adult dog?

Adopting a puppy generally comes with higher initial and lifetime expenses compared to adopting an adult dog. When considering adopting a puppy versus an adult dog, keep in mind the cost of puppy classes, dog walkers, and the cost of supplies throughout your dog’s lifetime. While no pet is free, there are ways to cut pet costs, such as adopting during special reduced-rate adoption months, purchasing second-hand supplies, and finding a low-cost vet for essential medical care.


Janelle Leeson is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Inside Your Dog’s Mind, Inside Your Cat’s Mind, and Paw Print, as well online at Insider Reviews, NBC Select, Shop Today, PetMD, and Daily Paws. She has two adventure cats, a flock of urban chickens, and a soon-to-be-husband who doesn’t mind housing the occasional foster cat — or five.





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