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What to Consider before Adopting an Older Puppy

If you’ve decided to adopt an older puppy (approximately 8 to 12 months old), you may be hoping to skip the tasks involved with younger puppies, from curbing the nipping habit to housetraining. With the right pup, you may be able to avoid some of these situations. However, no situation is perfect, and very few puppies can glide into a new life without a few setbacks.

Considering the source of the puppy

Depending on where you look for your older puppy, following are some questions to ask and points to consider before taking your little guy or gal home.

  • Breeder: A breeder often keeps a puppy for showing purposes. If the puppy doesn’t grow into “show dog” potential, he’ll be made available for sale. Sometimes finding this puppy is like hitting the jackpot, provided the puppy has had individual attention and has been well socialized. Other times, it’s a disappointment, especially if the puppy has lived in a kennel for the last six months.

    Because a breeder’s older puppy may be unfamiliar with the routines of home life, he may not know what stairs are or may not have spent time in a yard. And, no matter what they try to tell you, a puppy who has spent the majority of his time in a kennel isn’t housebroken! Find out where this puppy spent his early months before racing into this venture.

  • Pet store: These puppies usually sell for a discounted price after they’ve grown out of their cute phase. Though your heart goes out to each of them, consider their reality before you adopt. A virtual lifetime spent behind bars can take an emotional toll, and housebreaking will be a project because they’ve never been introduced to the concept of “holding it.”

    Also, this puppy has likely had little, if any, exposure to home living, from everyday sounds to stairs, grass, and cars. After a puppy is beyond that peak socialization period, you risk raising a pup who won’t warm to everyday stimulations.

    A puppy who was stressed during infancy chews more often than other pups. Nervous energy needs to be displaced, and because running to the refrigerator is off limits and nail biting isn’t an option, he’ll chew on whatever is available. Provide plenty of satisfying options, or you may see your sofa disappear, one cushion at a time.

  • Shelter: If you find an older puppy at a shelter, ask about his history and try to find out why he was left there. Was he found on the side of the street, or has he grown up in the system? Has the puppy in question been returned more than once? Ask what the reasons were — you may be adopting a dog who couldn’t be housetrained, was fearful of kids, or showed aggression when chewing a bone. Find out what the staff thinks of the puppy’s personality.

Testing older puppies

Following are some additional guidelines and tests you may want to use to see whether the older pup you’re considering is a good match for your lifestyle. Always remember to let your head lead your heart. Nothing is sadder than rescuing a dog only to have to return him because he couldn’t cope with your lifestyle.

Be strong — find out ahead of time whether you and the puppy are suited to each other by performing the following tasks:

  • If you have kids, introduce them to the puppy before you bring him home.

  • If you have an animal menagerie at home, make sure the puppy can cope with the creature chaos. Ask whether the owner has other pets at home (if the puppy has been living there) or whether anyone has conditioned this puppy to other creatures.

  • Ask a staff member (or the previous owner) to lift the puppy. What happens? Intense fear or frustration isn’t a good sign. The ideal puppy may squirm but is still accepting. Also ask to see how the puppy acts when approached while chewing on a bone or eating a meal.

  • To see how the puppy handles contact, bring a soft brush and try to groom the pup while feeding him treats.

Bear in mind that older puppies are less accepting of strangers and strange situations than infant pups, so allow some room for edginess. But if you see anything more extreme, back off, especially if what you see is aggression or excessive fearfulness. Look for a puppy who’s accepting of you and each of the exercises or conditions mentioned in the previous list.

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