Dog Adoption: When Is the Best Time to Adopt a Dog?
“Should I get a puppy or should I rescue a dog?”
“Do I need to get a puppy so I can form a better bond with him?”
“How long does it take for a dog to calm down and become more manageable as he gets older?”
These are all great questions! And I’m glad to see that you are asking them before you make the life-changing decision to get a dog.
To answer some of your questions and help you make an educated decision about getting a dog, I want to use this blog to talk about the good, the bad, and everything in between about various age groups for dogs.
Cute little Puppies: 8 to 12 Weeks = Equivalent to the Baby Stage
Most people assume that the best age to get a dog is between 8 and 12 weeks of age as a puppy, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Depending on your environment, a puppy might in fact be a bad choice for your home or lifestyle.
To start, 8 weeks is the earliest you want to be picking your puppy up. You don’t want to take a puppy away from the mother any earlier or it can have negative effects on the puppy’s health, mental state and happiness. Mothers have a lot of wisdom to share with their young before you take over!
Certainly, there are specific circumstances where you may be required to take home a puppy earlier than 8 weeks, like the mother is sick, she cannot look after the puppies or the puppies were abandoned. In which case, it’s ok to step in and help out. Just remember that in most cases, 8 weeks is the magic number.
Aside from a puppy needing its mother to stay healthy, another reason you want to wait until a puppy is at least 8 weeks old is due to toilet training.
Before a puppy hits the two-month age milestone, he will have little to no control over his bodily functions. He’s also too young to be trained to use the bathroom outside, which makes for a big mess.
This is something you don’t want to have to deal with.
At the age of 8 weeks, it’s possible that an active puppy might need to go out every 20 minutes when you first start potty training. That’s a huge time commitment and tricky to achieve if you are at work from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. 5 days a week.
The good news is that, as every week goes by, your puppy will be able to hold his bladder for a longer period of time. But, the first few weeks are always draining–much like having a brand-new baby that depends on you 24/7.
The good thing about getting a puppy at this age is you can bond with him very easily. Most puppies will see you almost taking over that role as being their mother so they’ll instinctively bond with you.
Another positive is that at this age they don’t need a lot of exercise or walking. But, once again, as they age this will change drastically.
I think the biggest reason and mistake that people make with getting a puppy at this age is that they think if they get a puppy at such a young age, it won’t end up with behavioural issues, which is completely nonsense.
After all, every adult dog, which has behavioural issues, was once a puppy!
Very few children come out of the womb with serious behavioural issues. It’s not until they become toddlers, teenagers, or adults that behavioural issues (bullying, drug use, gambling) begin to develop. And no parent planned on them having behavioural issues. The point is that getting a puppy is not a guarantee that you will avoid the dramas that many dog owners experience later on!
The one big benefit to getting a puppy early is that you can enroll him into training programs early in an effort to prevent as many bad behaviours from developing. So, if you want to make sure your puppy gets started on the right foot, enroll him in a good puppy training program.
I’m not just talking about puppy classes because again, most puppies or dogs, which have behavioural issues went to puppy classes, but there was something missing.
I’ve put together a complete puppy training program that can help you if you’re about to get a puppy. If you’re interested, click here and have a look.
Curious Puppies: 13 Weeks to 6 Months = Equivalent to the Toddler / Kindergarten Stage
The next age range is 13 weeks to 6 months.
I’ve put this stage in here because the puppy is obviously far more confident. This is when the little puppies start testing boundaries and start spreading their wings so to speak. In other words, it’s the time when puppies start getting into everything.
In this stage, there are a lot more challenging behaviours.
To help your pup out, provide a mix of both hard toys she can really chew and softer soothing toys that she can sink her teeth into so you avoid ending up with bite marks on your hands and arms.
The good news…mouthing and biting shouldn’t really carry on past 16 weeks. 16 weeks is where I say there is zero biting tolerance.
These weeks are an important time to lay the groundwork for training as the they are the formative stage of the puppy’s life. This is when the puppy is learning a lot of basic rules about life including what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
During this time, the puppy needs to learn about consequences and consistency. If your puppy doesn’t have boundaries(and how to behave around cars, how to behave around people, how to behave around other dogs etc.), he’ll begin to believe that he’s in charge and can do what he wants!
It’s an incredibly important stage that needs to be taken seriously.
The downside of this stage is that if you don’t have the time or the knowledge of what’s going on, things can go very wrong that can stress both you and your puppy out. It can be very stressful because the puppy kind of changes quite quickly.
Worst of all, if your puppy becomes too confident and doesn’t have a solid training foundation in place, he can put himself into dangerous situations due to not being obedient and listening.
If you sense things going wrong during this age then it’s a great age to jump in quickly and put a comprehensive training program in place as soon as possible before things get really tricky. The good news is that with a good training program most people do manage to stay on top of things at this early stage of puppyhood, which is great. At this age, training is still not as tricky as the next age group, which we’re going to talk about next.
Juvenile Dog: 6 months to 2 years = Equivalent to the Young Child Through Teenage Years!
The third stage is where the puppy stops being a puppy and becomes a dog. It can be a very testing time.
This is where your puppy sort of turns into a teenager. Check this out…
18 months very, very roughly translate to about 18-years-old. That’s because every year of a human year is approximately 7 dog years. But, here’s the thing…the first year counts double. So, at the end of your first year, it’s almost like your dog is now a 14-year-old dog. He is a teenager at one year old!
And by the time they are 2 years old they are closer to being a 21-year-old, and if you can remember what you were like at 21, then it probably explains a lot!
That should explain to a lot of people why things often go wrong around this age.
From 6 months of age, young male pups are developing into male dogs. The young female puppies, are becoming fully developed females. So, they push the boundaries. And they test everything to the absolute limit.
Regarding size and breeds of dogs, bigger dogs do sadly age quicker and don’t live as long. Much smaller dogs generally live up to 10, 12, 14 years old so you do have to kind of adjust this slightly.
To give you an idea of how tricky this period can be for dog owners, I’d say about 60% of my one-on-one clients that I work with have a dog between the age of a year and 18 months. This is when the dog starts to think, “Hey, human…you don’t know what you’re doing. Why should I listen to you? I think I know better.”
Then, the dog starts to do what she wants to do which is, “Hey, I’d bark at the postman.” “Hey, I come when I want to come.” “Hey, I like to jump on other dogs and do my own thing.” “I jump on the couch.” She will try and wind you up a little bit.
So, in a way this can be a very, very trying and tricky stage. However, if you know what you’re doing, I actually find this one of the most enjoyable stages.
Why? Because this is the stage when you know what you’re doing, you can win the dog’s mind…and I’m not talking about dog training. I’m talking about how to impress the dog, how to keep the dog calm so he’s not reactive and impulsive and he’s not overly emotional.
If you know how to get that bit right, then it’s a very enjoyable stage because this is the very, very important stage where you’re actually training the dog.
So, with a bit of knowledge, it can be extremely exciting and fun. You’re watching your dog basically spread his wings and fly. If you’ve got the foundation in place, then the rest of it follows on quite nicely. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be a tricky stage to get a dog.
Anyone getting a dog at this stage of life who is not that confident about what they are doing should certainly get a solid understanding of what a dog really needs, mentally as well as physically. And if you are not sure what I mean by that, I am talking about them needing strong leadership and loving guidance while they find their feet in this human world that they are entering.
Adult Dogs: 2 Years to 4 Years = Equivalent to a Young Adult.
The next age group is 2 years to 4 years old.
2 years is normally when a dog begins to reach his peak of physical strength and energy. (Note that I did not add in maturity!)
If you’ve got the training right, then at 2 or so years he will hopefully start to calm down for the rest of his life. 2 years of age is the approximate equivalent age of a 21 year old human.
When your child reaches 21 years if you have got things right and gotten a bit lucky you would like to think that you can start taking it a bit easier and start relaxing with your child. Hopefully they are starting to mellow. They’re not so fueled, highly charged and volatile. They’ve got a bit of a grasp of how this whole life thing works, and it’s like that with dogs.
I believe this can be one of the most enjoyable stages of owning a dog. And here’s the best news of all…if you’d love the companionship of a dog but don’t have the energy for a puppy, that dog rescue shelters are full of old dogs who fall in this age category that would make incredible pets!
The other great thing about this age is it’s much easier to see their true personality than it is when they are older. The same way that it’s harder to see the personality of a young baby compared to an young adult. As they become older it’s more obvious and apparent.
So, if you’re thinking of getting a dog you may wish to consider one that is in this age category. Simply head off to a rescue center and see if there are any mild-mannered dogs that you resonate with. Take one for a walk, see how the dog acts and responds to you. If he bonds with you, the chances are he could be a good match.
If he doesn’t show any obvious behavioural issues and there are no behavioural issues listed, that dog might be the one for you.
No dog is going to be perfect, but then again my dogs aren’t perfect, neither are my kids, nor my wife, nor myself for that matter… So don’t set the bar too high!
If they seem balanced and calm and ready, then what a wonderful opportunity to give that dog a chance of a real life.
Mature and Senior Dogs: 5 to 10+ years old = Equivalent to Middle and Senior Age
At this stage, a dog begins moving into old age. Yet, despite being older and perhaps a bit grey, there are a lot of dogs who are still charging around at 8 years old, as high as a kite and very energetic.
That being said, most dogs at this age only need a little bit of exercise and will be ready for a nap after a quick walk.
They’re far more relaxed.
They know how life works.
They’re set in their routine, and they don’t need much looking after.
They are the perfect age if you’re that sort of person who is busy at work and doesn’t have that much time, but would love some company. And most shelters are full of wonderful, older dogs that need a loving home to spend their golden years in.
As you may know, I’ve got a dear old dog I call Peanut. She’s 12 years old and is absolutely adorable. She tends to be really focussed on three key events each day now… She likes her daily cuddles, lots of sleep and she likes to eat!
She also likes to do a little playing on the beach each day, but that’s a bit of take-it-or-leave-it.
From experience, I can tell you that senior dogs are easy to look after. And they’re also so sweet and loving. They’re just so grateful, I think, for being looked after, for being cared for.
There’s a quote, which says, “There’s nothing more beautiful than when a dog sits there and you sit there in silence with the dog, and it’s like the dog looks at you and without any words being spoken, it’s like the dog knows that you’re thinking of them and they are thinking of you and you just connect.”
There’s a lot of times I’ve had that with my older dogs where, when they’re a bit younger, they’ll be a bit more frantic and energetic.
So, if you’re looking for that sort of company, then what a wonderful stage. In a way they’re the best, easiest dogs to care for of all because they also don’t need 3 or 4 kilometer runs every day. Just a couple of hundred meters on the beach is good enough for Peanut. She’s very happy with that the she comes back, sleeps, relaxes, and likes a good feed. They make wonderful companions and don’t ask for much.
Of course all of this is a very rough guide to how dogs behave and like people they can vary considerably! I have mates who are in their early 30’s who are slowing down taking it easy and very immature and others who are in their 60’s who are still whooping it up, getting out and about and squeezing the most out of life!
Age really is just a number, and it’s true for dogs too! But hopefully this post has given you some of the pros and cons of when the best age is to get a puppy or a dog, and if you are thinking of getting an older dog remember to check out those shelters.
Best of luck as you pursue adding a new furry family member to your home!
All the best and have a great day
Cheers Doggy Dan!
P.S If you need help training your dog, and are looking for that “Comprehensive dog or puppy training program” that I have mentioned a few times throughout this blog then check out My Online Dog Trainer Course for all the tools, tips, and resources you need now!
~Doggy Dan 🙂