Adopting a Puppy vs. Older Dog:
What You'll Need To Know

By Everything Shih Tzu October 19, 2019

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You’ve decided you want a dog in your life, and that adopting is the way to go.  Great choice!

But one of the main things you are probably wondering is whether you should adopt a puppy or go for an older dog.

Tan and White Shih Tzu Mix puppy laying in crate

Know that there are benefits and special considerations that come along with any age dog you choose.

But it's important you know what differences to expect between a puppy or an older dog so that you can settle on the best choice for you.

So, how do you decide if adopting a puppy vs. older dog is best?

When deciding whether to adopt a puppy or an older dog, it really depends on your own lifestyle, changes you are willing to make and any particular personal desires you have for getting a dog in the first place.

For example, if you have a baby at home, you may specifically want to adopt a Shih Tzu puppy so that your baby and pup can grow up together.

On the other hand, if you are career-focused and have a demanding day job, a new puppy might not be the best option.

In this instance, an older dog might prove to be the better fit for you.

Overall, a puppy will likely be more energetic, and will demand more attention, along with a lot of patience when potty training.

But they will usually adapt to their new home pretty quickly.

In contrast, an older dog will likely be already potty trained, less energetic, and may take a little longer to adjust to his new home.

There’s no perfect, one size fits all age at which to adopt a dog, but no matter what age dog you adopt, you can expect many changes.

If you aren’t set on one particular age, then you might base your decision on the individual dogs that you meet; but make sure you know what to expect first!

Is It Easier to Train a Puppy or an Older Dog?

When it comes to training adopted dogs there tend to be two schools of thought on the subject.

On one hand, there are people that consider puppies more difficult to train because you're starting from scratch and they are extremely active, so they can potentially be easily distracted.

In comparison, an older dog can have a calmer disposition and therefore be more focused, or perhaps an older dog can already know some basic commands or even be house-trained.

On the flip side, there are those that believe puppies are easier to train, even if you are starting from square one.

This is because an older dog may already be set in his ways or respond to certain commands in a way that contradicts how you want to teach them.

Sometimes, it is difficult enough to teach an old dog new tricks; trying to unteach those tricks that he's already learned is a whole other ballgame.

Either way, it is safe to assume that you will be in for some work when it comes to training your adopted pup.

Depending on the breed of dog you choose, training can range from easy to difficult.

There is a chance that the dog you adopt, whether it's a puppy or an older dog, might already have some basic training that you can use as a jumping-off point.

When it comes down to the bare bones of it all, no pun intended, the time and effort that training takes will depend on the individual dog's personality and character, as well as on your patience and determination.

Is Adopting an Older Dog a Good Idea?

Two Shih Tzu dogs, one black and white the other tan and white

Just because a dog is older does not mean it's a bad idea to adopt it.

The better way to look at it is... adopting an older dog could be the best choice for some and not an ideal choice for others.

It really depends on your schedule, the reasons you want a dog, your personality, and your lifestyle.

For some, adopting an older dog is a great choice because they want the companionship that a dog provides, but perhaps do not have all of the necessary time that a puppy requires.

An older dog is often quite content to sleep and enjoy the comfort and relaxation of his doggy bed, while his person goes to work.

Of course, even an older dog needs daily attention and wants some well-deserved pats and a scratch behind the ears, but he most likely won’t require the massive amount of playtime that a puppy will demand.

The important thing to keep in mind if you adopt a dog that is up in years is the simple fact that the dog is older.

This means that the dog is more likely to develop potential health problems, or could possibly already have some undiagnosed issues.

This doesn't mean that every older dog develops medical conditions; there's just a stronger possibility of health concerns present with an older animal.

Another factor to consider with an older pup is its life span.

If you have young children and you want a family pet that can be best buds with your kids, then age is a big consideration.

You may not want a dog that is much older than two or three years old so that it's a member of your family for many happy years to come.

How Long Does It Take an Older Dog to Adjust to a New Home?

When you bring an older dog home for the first time, the time it takes for him to adjust can be anywhere from a few days to a few months.

This really applies to any age dog.

Most dogs will acclimate themselves to their new environment in stages.

The first few days are geared more towards a detox of sorts from the shelter, then over the next few weeks, your dog will start to become more familiar with his new surroundings and start to show his personality.

If your dog had a certain toy or blanket at the shelter, it is helpful if you are able to bring those items with you so that your dog will have some familiar scents in his new home.

This can greatly help with the transition.

A dog can become very excited and confused in a new place, so even if you are adopting an older dog, it's best to bring him straight into your backyard before taking him inside.

This way he has an opportunity right from the start to relieve himself and for you to establish that this is where he goes to the bathroom.

Older dogs are set in their ways, very much like humans, and dogs also tend to be more insecure at night.

So, if at all possible, arrange to bring your dog home in the morning.

Be ready to greet your dog with lots of positive attention, smiles, and treats.

Never underestimate the power of treats.

It's also important to be prepared to spend a lot of time with your new pup for the first few days that you are together, so when you are planning to bring home your new friend, try to arrange it for a time when you will be off of work for at least a couple of days.

Tan and white long-haired Shih Tzu laying up against a brick wall

Depending on your Shih Tzu's temperament and background, you might find that he is perfectly content in his new home within the first week.

However, if your dog tends to be on the more timid side or has a history of abuse, it could take months before he feels comfortable in his new surroundings.

Many dogs that fall into this latter category won't be 100% comfortable until as much as a year or more.

However, it's important to remember that this comfort comes in stages, and it doesn't mean that your dog will be shy and nervous that entire time.

It also doesn’t mean that your dog will never adjust, or that it isn’t meant to be, it just takes time.

How Much Time and Attention Does a Puppy Require?

The short answer to this question is, "A lot!"

If you're not ready, willing, and able to spend a large amount of time at home with your new pup during the first few weeks, then do not get a puppy.

The fact is, having a puppy at home requires an enormous amount of dedication if you want things to go well.

This is especially true when you are house training your new dog.

You need to be ready to take your pup out for frequent potty breaks, stick to a schedule, and most likely get up during the night more than once to let your dog outside to go potty.

When it comes to training, consistency is key.

So, even if it isn't convenient for you, you need to be ready to follow the necessary steps to properly train your dog.

If this means your dog needs to go outside at 3 a.m. in the morning then so be it, unless you make the conscious decision to train your pup to use a potty-training pad.

Puppies also require a lot of attention, opportunities for play, and exercise.

It is not fair to your dog to bring them home, and then you're off at work for 10 hours a day, leaving your puppy home alone.

If you're not able to be home with your pup at regular intervals during the day during the first couple of weeks, then you need to at least arrange for a friend or family member, or even a hired dog sitter, to come to your home several times during the day to play with your pup and take them for a walk or let them outside to go potty.

Small Shih Tzu puppy playing with a blue ball

Before you adopt a puppy, take some time to really think about your current lifestyle and responsibilities.

As much as you may want a cute little ball of wiggly fur, there are certain situations that just don’t mesh well with a new baby pup.

If you work away from home very often or you have to travel a lot, for instance; unless you are in a fortunate position where your dog can come with you, then it would be unfair to adopt a puppy.

Be realistic when you look at the big picture and imagine how your life would need to change if you brought a puppy into it.

If you are 100% willing and able to make those changes, then start introducing yourself to some potential new puppy pals.

How Do I Know If My Rescue Dog Is Happy?

It's perfectly natural to wonder if your dog is happy in his new home.

In the beginning, if your dog seems a little down, you might even wonder if you did the right thing.

Don't worry, your dog just needs a little time and a lot of love and encouragement from you.

If your dog is eating well, willing to work on training, and of course, participating in playtime, then it's a safe bet that he's happy.

For some dogs though, it might be a little more difficult to determine their moods.

If your dog seems to be resting a lot, especially an older dog, this is not a cause for alarm.

If your dog is responding to positive praise and shows a desire to be around you, then these are also signs that he is happy and becoming comfortable in his new environment.

However, if your dog seems very lethargic, does not respond to upbeat interactions, and also shows no interest in eating, these could be signs that he is having difficulty adjusting.

Another possibility is that there could be an underlying issue, and you should make an appointment with your vet to rule out any health conditions.

Your vet can also give you advice on how to help your dog adapt so that you can help him be a happier pup.

How Do I Bond with My Rescue Dog?

There are many different ways that you can bond with your rescue dog, no matter a puppy or older dog.

Some of the more obvious ideas might be taking walks together, playing fetch, or simply just taking the time to give your dog a good pat.

However, there are a bunch of ways that you can spend quality time with your pup that can build trust and strengthen the bond between you.

One way is grooming your dog yourself.

If you take the time to get your dog used to the experience of grooming, it can actually be a pleasant experience for you and your pup.

Another great way to bond with your pet is to give her a doggy massage.

This is a technique that is often introduced in beginner obedience classes to help owners connect with their animals.

This is simply spending some undivided quality time with your pet for about 15 minutes and giving her a relaxing massage, starting with her back, behind her ears, and working down to her legs and eventually her feet.

If you feel your dog resist when you start to pet any particular spot, stop and move back to a place that she felt calm, most likely her back or behind her ears.

Your goal is to eventually be able to massage every area without your dog pulling away or feeling nervous.

Dogs actually don't like their feet being touched, however a paw rub can feel really good.

Once you reach the point where you can give your canine companion a foot rub without resistance, this is an excellent sign that you have earned her trust.

Another good indication that your pup trusts you is if she rolls over for the ultimate canine pleasure - the belly rub!

If your dog exposes her belly to you, she is saying, “Hey! I trust you!”

As you get to know your dog, you will discover other ways to bond that are unique to your relationship.

For example, some dogs love going for rides in the car or splashing around in a kiddie pool in the backyard.

Once you know what activities really excite your pet you can turn them into special bonding times that are just for the two of you.

Hopefully, you have a better idea of what to expect when you adopt an older dog or a puppy, and you can see that adopting an adult dog has its advantages.

It all depends on what it is that you are looking for, and even more importantly, what you are willing to do once your new furry friend is living with you.

For more helpful tips on dog adoption, make sure to check out our other articles on adoption!

Or visit our blog.

You'll find plenty of helpful information and resources there to know how to be the very best pup parent!

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Posted 10/9/2019