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Should I Adopt a Puppy, Adult or Senior Dog?

By Stacy Painter
February 11, 2020 • 4 min. read
woman holding terrier puppy

Whether you’re ready to welcome a dog into a pet-free home or you are looking to expand your canine family, the addition of a new dog is a special time and an exciting life milestone. After a little research, you’ll quickly learn your preferences regarding the general size, energy level and temperament of your future pet. Do you want a running partner or a lazy cuddle companion? Are you expecting to pooper scoop tiny tootsie rolls or heavy heaps?

Once you’ve decided on general size and energy requirements, there’s the important matter of age. There is a vast difference between an 8-week-old puppy, a middle-aged adult, and a gentle senior dog regarding the time and care requirements for each. Highlighting the important differences between age groups will help you get a better idea of what you’re in for and what age dog will work best with your lifestyle.


Puppies are adorable, not just because of their extra-soft fur and miniature features, but also because of their behavior. Puppies are bouncy, clumsy and innocently sweet. They are curious about everything, their tails are constantly wagging, and they love to give kisses. Beyond the cute factor, a common deciding point when opting for a puppy is the rewarding opportunity to shape them, and the learning experience of raising a young being. These are certainly contingent upon committing the time, effort, and patience it takes to properly raise a pup, but when done right, you’ll have a steadfast companion for the next nine to fifteen years.

Puppy commitments

That said, sometimes a puppy’s cuteness is so alluring that pet parents don’t realize the weight of the commitment required. Very young pups need to nap frequently, however “teenager” pups are full of energy that needs to be released in an appropriate manner. Without proper training and socialization, a young pup can develop poor behaviors and become destructive, for example scratching at doors and chewing up shoes. Large breed puppies that don’t receive proper training can grow up to be the proverbial bull in the china shop, appearing to be more trouble than they’re worth. Sadly, this is how many dogs end up in shelters.

Another point for consideration is that a puppy’s final appearance and future health concerns can be unpredictable. If the puppy is a mixed breed or its parents’ history is not fully known, then they may be predisposed to certain health conditions that will be surprising down the road. It can also be challenging to predict a puppy’s full-grown size, meaning they might end up 20 pounds heavier and a few inches taller than you expected.

Finally, make sure your rainy-day bank account is well-funded. Being that they are quite clumsy and still learning about their surroundings, puppies can be more accident-prone, leading to a surprise visit to the vet. Life hack: sign up for pet insurance as soon as you bring your new friend home to make sure that you can afford any future unexpected accidents or illnesses. Puppies with excess energy or that aren’t closely supervised can cause damage to the home or personal items which will need to be fixed or replaced.

Am I really ready for a puppy?

You’ll know you are ready to care for a puppy when you have the full picture of what to expect and are still willing and eager to do what it takes. A new puppy shouldn’t be left alone for more than a few hours at a time during its first few weeks in its new home. Puppies need to be potty trained, which means taking them outside every couple of hours. It’s also important that they get adequate exercise each day, so they don’t redirect that energy into destructive or unwanted behaviors. Socialization is another keystone of puppyhood to get them accustomed to other dogs, strangers, children, and anything else that might initially seem scary, like that noisy garbage truck. Puppy classes are a great way to start tackling socialization and basic training commands.

Adult dogs – the (relatively) mature companion

If cleaning up urine stains, coming home to find your favorite shoes in bits and pieces, or having to constantly supervise a pet sounds a little overwhelming then an adult dog may be more your speed. With still many years ahead of them and lots of love to give, an adult dog offers all of the companionship without the huge time commitment. When you meet an adult dog in a shelter, you’ll know exactly what you are getting into regarding its size, health and temperament. You can cherry pick the dog with just the right energy level.

As with anything, there may be a few drawbacks, and adult shelter dogs are no exception. For example, you may not know what the dog has been through in his life before he met you. Their exact age might be a question mark, making it difficult to predict when they’ll start to enter their senior years. Grown dogs can come with behavioral issues or other baggage, such as separation anxiety, fears, or not getting along with other dogs, cats, or children. Most rescue organizations do their due diligence and will be able to give you all of this information up front to help eliminate any surprises.

The lovable senior

In their golden years, you can generally expect a senior dog to have lower energy levels. By this point in their life, they are most certainly potty trained and are very comfortable with routine and a slower pace of life. Gray muzzled furry friends are a heartbeat at your feet. Though you may only get a few years with them, the most rewarding aspect of adopting a senior dog is the honor of saving a life from an uncertain fate and providing that deserving creature with a loving home for their last few years.

It all boils down to understanding the differences between each age group and making the decision that is right for your situation. Regardless of your new dog’s age and background, a little bit of effort and a lot of love will help them adapt to their new life and overcome any hurdles.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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