In recent years "adopting" a dog from a shelter or rescue group has become the norm. However adoption is not the only choice nor is it the best choice for every family. Personally I have "adopted" 3 adult dogs from the Calgary Humane Society, 1 adult dog from a breeder and purchased 2 puppies from breeders. There has been some significant differences in the dogs that came to me as puppies and those that showed up as adults.
Adopting A Puppy
Puppies (4 months and under) are available through rescue. They come in a variety of mixes as well as the occasional "purebred". They tend to be adopted quickly and spend very little time sitting in a shelter or foster home. So what's different about adopting a puppy rather than seeking out one from a reputable breeder?
- Unknown history on parents including their breeds and temperaments
- Unknown medical screening on parents
- Puppy might suffer malnutrition and lack of socialization
A good breeder does the work before a puppy is ever born. Planning a litter should include screening both parent dogs for a variety of genetic health concerns (includes hip displaysia, blindness, skin issues, ect). Parent dogs should also have a sound temperament because behaviour problems include a genetic component.
Another concern is whether your puppy got the right start once he/she were born. This can be extremely important because what a puppy is exposed to before they are 4 months old will affect them throughout their life. Puppies need to be fed a well balanced diet and experience new people (all ages), new dogs and changes in environment. This creates a happy, confident dog as an adult.
Adopting An Adult Dog
Adopting an adult dog can include all the challenges of adopting a puppy and more! Sometimes adult dogs are given up due to behaviour problems in the home including house soiling, biting, aggression with other dogs/pets, resource guarding or a general lack of manners. While these issues can generally be resolved with good management and a training plan they do exist. Sometimes adopters are not even aware that these issues exist at all.
One of the most important considerations should be what you want in a dog. Make a list and screen each dog carefully. Rescues and shelters who do their due diligence should be screening all adoptable dogs with behaviour assessments. Please take these assessments seriously but consider that the dog might act different once he/she settles into the home.
A list of considerations:
- What breed(s) do I want and why? Have I researched what this type of dog was bred to do?
- What behaviour issues am I willing to work on and what is a deal breaker?
- Do I have children and is this dog acquainted with kids?
- Do I have time for training and integration?
- What type of health concerns am I prepared to deal with immediately?
Choosing to rescue is indeed saving a life but it is not the right choice for everyone. Choosing a reputable breeder can be just as difficult. Dogs live between 9 and 18 years. This choice will affect you and your family for some time to come. Do not make a rushed decision and consider contacting a dog trainer to help you make that decision.
Where's Your Sit? offers pre-adoption consults where we can help assess what kind of dog would be best for you and where you should acquire your dog.
Blog entry coming next on choosing a good breeder. Not all breeders care about the future health of your dog or his/her temperament either. Screening is very important!