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How to Adopt an Adult Dog
Adopting a dog is a wonderful way of giving a furry creature a new opportunity in life; a chance to experience the safety of a real home, and to start over and leave potentially negative experiences in the past.
Thousands of dogs are abandoned worldwide every year, and many of them never get to grow old or feel what it is like to be loved and cared for. Once you decide to adopt – you also decide to save the life of a dog in need, but you are also faced with the difficult decision of which dog to go ahead and save.
It is easy to fall for a cute and fluffy puppy, but there are also many benefits that come with adopting an adult dog. Let’s have a look at what it means to adopt a dog that is already grown up, and why it can be so great.
Homeless Adult Dogs
An adult dog is less likely to be adopted than a cute puppy; many prospective dog owners want a young dog that they can shape and grow together with – a dog with a clean past and no baggage, and it is possible for that reason that puppies get adopted first at shelters. It doesn’t even seem to matter what type of puppy it is, as puppies, in general, are more attractive to those wanting to adopt than adult dogs, according to statistics.
The older the dog, the harder and less likely it will be for him or her to find a new family, and the majority spend their entire lives living at the shelter or become candidates for being euthanized due to overpopulation.
It is a sad reality, but the likeliness of a dog being adopted is reduced with several percents the older the dog gets, and it is almost as if we are programmed to think we should be getting a puppy when an adult dog has just as much (or more?) to offer.
There is gratitude you will eventually see in adult rescue dogs, that you might not notice as clearly in a puppy. Adult dogs know they’ve been given a new chance, and they will love you for it.
So, when you go to the shelter to pick out your new dog, why not look past the adorable puppies and look into the eyes of older dogs that might not get another chance at a new life? You could be their last opportunity to get out of there, and knowing you’ve given someone a chance to live compares to a few other things.
You Know What You Get
One of the biggest benefits of adopting an adult dog is that you will already know what you’re getting. If adopting a puppy, you have no idea what it will come to look like as an adult, and you might be in for a surprise regarding adult size, weight, and temperament. This could be an issue if you are unprepared, and by getting an adult dog instead – you already know what you will be getting.
You also have a chance to see if the dog gets along with children, with other dogs and to see if it has a suitable energy level for your family – important aspects when picking a new furry friend, and you won’t have to spend fortunes on buying new collars and harnesses for the first few months as your pup will be completely done growing.
Adopting an adult dog offers a lot fewer surprises, which for some may seem boring, but that is ideal especially for families with children, senior citizens that do not have the energy to chase after a rambunctious puppy and for people who need a dog that is already housetrained and that sleeps through the night.
Adopting an adult dog isn’t necessarily easier than adopting a puppy, as there are no guarantees for the dog to have basic training, and there might be some baggage you are yet to discover. However, you are a lot more likely to be aware of these things already before you go ahead and adopt and can, therefore, make an educated and smart decision.
Make a list of everything you would like to know about the dog you are adopting and ask the shelter staff or the current owner (or foster family); but also, be prepared for surprises further down the line after adopting.
Preparing for Behavioral Issues
Getting a puppy comes with its own challenges, but at least you are there to deal with any problems already from the start. An adult dog may have habits or behaviors that don’t necessarily sit well with you, such as marking territory indoors, barking at night, separation anxiety or dog aggression.
These things are usually a result of bad experiences, abuse, neglect or abandonment, and most bad- or destructive behaviors can be reversed if a new owner is willing to work with it. If you are thinking about adopting an adult dog, it is important to be prepared for unwanted behaviors and bad habits, and to accept these for what they are – baggage.
Some dogs will wake up extremely early in the mornings for the first few months – not because they want to wake you up, but because it might have been their routine when living at a shelter or in the streets.
Perhaps they woke up and started looking for food as soon as the sun came up, and if so, can you really blame them if it takes some time for them to adapt to your family routines? It is easy to see bad behavior and to experience frustration, but if you want to successfully adopt an adult dog and make it part of your family – take a step back and consider where the behavior comes from.
Understanding and compassion are the best cornerstones for when you start your life together with your new adult dog. Puppies are clean slates while adult dogs have old pencil lines that might take some time and effort to erase, and while you could also get lucky and receive a dog with no obvious signs or behaviors associated with their past – there is a real possibility that there will be at least some baggage brought along, and the more prepared you are, the more likely is it that you’ll be able to help your new friend.
Connecting with an Adult Dog
Establishing a connection with an adult dog is different from the bond you form with a puppy, and especially if you are adopting a dog that has had a rough start in life. It is almost as if they have built up an invisible wall; a wall that isn’t always noticeable, but that stops them from forming immediate bonds with people, and this can seem unsettling to those who are not used to rescue dogs.
Perhaps your new dog won’t come to greet you at the door when you come home from work, or maybe it shows no signs at all of wanting affection or love. This is normal, especially if they have never experienced it before, and it could take some time for them to get over it.
You see, after a while (how long depends on the dog, on you and on previous experience) something interesting happens, and as the owner of a rescue dog, you can almost pinpoint the exact day. Suddenly you will see it – feel it – how your dog is starting to trust you, and how he or she even begins to love you.
You might not realize it is missing until it’s there, but one day – with love and patience – those built-up walls will start coming down.
The connection with your new adult dog is usually not something you can (or should) rush, so let your dog settle into its new life with you, and aid with the process by providing love, affection, and support.
Importance of Training
Training is a great way to work on your relationship with a new dog, and it will help the dog see that you can be trusted and that you are there for them. If the dog has never been trained before, it can take time before they fully grasp the concept of being trained, but it is not true what they say – old dogs can learn how to sit, and much more!
If you are inexperienced when it comes to dog training, it is always best to join an obedience class or hire a professional trainer, to make sure you don’t make things worse by accident.
Rescue dogs can be a little frustrating to work with in the beginning, but once they get what it is you want them to do – training will become a lot easier. It is almost like switching on the light inside their brains when you find a way to make them see what you expect from them, provided that you use positive reinforcement methods (with a focus on rewards for good behavior, not punishment for not living up to your expectations), how proud your dog will feel of himself will make the whole process worth it.
The first time a rescue dog performs something on command and receives praise and treats – their faces light up and few things compare to seeing for yourself how a dog becomes more secure and confident.
There are many good training videos online that could help you teach tricks and work with unwanted behaviors, if you are unable to attend a class or work with a trainer, but expect to have to work a little harder at the beginning than you might with a puppy or a younger dog.
Managing Your Expectations
The biggest obstacle to overcome when adopting an adult dog is possibly your own expectations. It could go incredibly well; the transition could be easy for the two of you and perhaps you will become each other’s best friends instantly. However, it could also go the other way and start out rocky, with unexpected behavior problems, communication struggles, and more, and it is crucial not to give up right away.
By lowering your expectations, you elevate your chances of success, and you avoid being one of those dog owners that give up on their new friend after only a week or two. A surprising number of dogs are returned to the shelter before they have gotten the chance to fully adjust, and this is usually due to the family having failed to manage their own expectations, or due to lack of preparation.
It is unfair to a dog to awaken their hope of having a life-long home if you are not ready for the potential challenges, so set your expectations as low as you possibly can before welcoming an adult dog into your home.
Choosing the Right Dog
A lot of thought should go into choosing a dog for your family, because the wrong choice could be the mismatch that eventually sends that dog back to the pound, and as we have already gone over – that wouldn’t be fair.
Consider your own personality, your interests and how much you would be willing to exercise your dog and compare that to the dogs available for adoption. Read up on dog breeds, because even if your next dog is not purebred, they may still have traits from their purebred relatives.
If you are the kind of person who loves to spend most of the day lying on the couch, you might not want to go for that bouncy and energetic Husky mix, and if you want to run marathons with your new friend – a flat-faced bulldog mix is possibly not ideal.
It is just as important to choose wisely when adopting a dog as it is to prepare for eventually bringing that dog home, and prior research can help you make a choice that will work both for the dog and for your family.
Talk to the shelter staff or the organization you are adopting from and explain to them what you can offer a dog and what you hope to get out of the relationship with the dog you will be adopting. This will help them match you with suitable dogs, as they know their dogs better than anyone. Don’t automatically go for the cutest pup in the bunch, as there is no guarantee that furry canine is the one for you.
Adopting a Senior Dog
Adult dogs struggle more than puppies to be adopted, but the ones that struggle the most are senior dogs – dogs over the age of 7. Few are willing to adopt a dog that may only have a few years left, and it could be due to the fear of getting attached to an animal that won’t be around for long.
Those who do adopt senior cans, though, are often surprised by how rewarding the experience can be. These are dogs that may have lived a canine lifetime without ever knowing what it is like to have a loving family, and it is a very selfless action to offer security and love to an animal that has never experienced either.
A senior dog is a great option for retirees who aren’t up for another over-energetic puppy, or for those simply looking for a calmer dog that won’t require as much physical exercise as a younger fur pup. The idea of adopting a senior dog may not appeal to everyone, but those who have taken the chance on an aging pooch can vouch for how incredibly gratifying it can be.
Where to Find an Adoptable Adult Dog
How to find an adult dog to adopt depends on where you live, and the easiest way to find out is by looking online. Search for local dog shelters or visit your local pet store to see if they have information about adoptable dogs. There may be social media groups you can join where people promote dogs searching for homes, or you can put out an add yourself on a website like Craigslist.
In the United States, there are more overcrowded shelters and more homeless dogs than there are families to take them in, and many other countries are in a similar position. By adopting from a shelter, you get a chance to both help the dog you will be adopting, but also to help the next dog that will be taking your fur friend’s place.
You see, when adopting a no-kill shelter dog, you make room for a new dog to be helped off the streets, and you support an organization that is working to find homes for strays and abandoned canines.
Don’t forget, adopting adult dogs can be extremely difficult. Some may have come from difficult circumstances and are generally prone to training problems. There are quite a few instances of dogs running away from their new homes out of confusion. To help with this, we’ve included one of our favorite products by TagsForHope below:
TagsForHope – Helping Dog Shelters
As someone who is clearly interested in adopting dogs, you may wish to know that TagsForHope actually donates part of their profits to various dog shelters across the US and Canada. Help a little, help a lot!
Adopting an adult dog is a big gesture and something that can turn into the most rewarding experience you have ever had, but it isn’t right for everyone. It is okay to want a puppy too, and the decision is yours for what you feel would work best for your family.
Do your research before visiting the shelter, talk to the staff and be honest with yourself and with them regarding your needs, hopes, and expectations.