Kathy Santo, author of Dog Sense, has trained dogs for both home and competition. She sees more than 100 dogs each week at her obedience school.
Right: Kerrystars Starlight Dancer, at 2 years old
Owner: Eileen Schneegas
Here is a very sweet Kerry face in a moment of cooperation with "mom."
When is a new dog not a puppy? When she's an adult. Whether adopted through purebred rescue, a shelter, or from a breeder looking to rehome a retired champion, not every family's "new" dog is a puppy. In fact, as word gets out about the advantages of adopting purebred non-puppies, more families are considering that option. Here's the lowdown on the ages and stages after puppyhood.
ADOLESCENT DOGS-NOT NEARLY AS DIFFICULT AS ADOLESCENT HUMANS!
I categorize any dog aged 5 months to 1 ii years as an adolescent. Now that we've defined the age parameters, here's my list of the pros arid cons of choosing an adolescent dog.
Had a previous owner but will still bond with a new, loving owner.
May not have had a perfect start in life, but is usually so happy to be in a loving home with lots of attention that he flourishes immediately.
May be in the midst of his rebelliousteen stage (usually from 6-10 months of age), but you'd reach that stage if you'd started with a puppy, too.
Can be hormonal, but that will be relieved when you spay or neuter the dog (if it hasn't been done already).
Is usually housebroken. (You can't argue with that!)
Is probably through the chewing stage-a huge bonus. Or, with a little training, it will be done with forever.
Has already formed his core personality, so what you see is what you get. That's one less thing to worry about!
Adolescent dogs can fill your need for puppy antics without a lot of the puppy problems. Does that mean you'll never deal with puppy issues? No. But it does mean you'll probably have a much easier time day-to-day. Remember: Even the best dog on the best day can make a mistake, just like people. And, similar to children, dogs live in the moment-and occasionally the moment calls for them to forget their training and use your bedspread as a toilet. So, more training for them, more patience for you!
If you're unsure whether you want to deal with even that little bit of training, have I got a dog for you: the adult dog, a little-known but great alternative to the young dog.
ADULT DOGS-JUST ADD WATER, FOOD, AND LOVE
Maybe I'm oversimplifying this, but unless you've adopted a dog will lots of psychological or physical problems-and why would you?-an adult dog offers all the benefits of a canine companion with none of the hassles of a puppy or adolescent. Basically, you're cheating. But what a sweet cheat it is!
First, I'm going to list all the problems with adopting an older dog. Please know that the hypothetical dog I'm speaking of is free of any psychological issues and physical illnesses. Here it is, the downside to adopting an older dog:
There is none.
OK, that was easy. Now here, in no particular order, are some of the common myths associated with acquiring an adult dog.
What if he seems nice, but when we get him home he turns into psycho-dog?
That's exactly why you must get the dog from a reputable source, such as breed rescue or a reliable breeder-to prevent something like that from happening.
What if the dog is named Yanni (after the singer), but for my whole life I've wanted a dog named Brandy?
You can change a dog's name fairly easily. Simply sit in front of him with a pound of deli turkey (provided he's food-motivated; play- and toymotivated dogs will require a toy for this) and say "Brandy" just before you give him a bite. This will make him realize that the new name equals food, and soon he'll respond to it. (If someone said 'Moon Unit," and handed you a 50-dollar bill as soon as you looked at them, how fast would you change your name? Those of you with names like Apple would probably do it for five dollars, but whatever.)
The real question is, how much change can you heap on a dog at one time? You're new to him, your living space is new to him ... that's a lot of new. Most dogs will deal with it just fine, but some will need more time. If you absolutely must change his name, just wait a few days. Watch how he's handling the new environment, and if he's doing great, then go for it. If not, wait until he's settled in and then head off to the deli.
The breeder gave us AKC registration papers when we got our puppy, but what do we do if we get an older dog?
If you're getting a dog who's being rehomed, just ask the breeder or owner for the AKC registration papers so you can be recorded as the dog's new owners.
I'd love an adult dog, but won't he die soon?
I said adult, not geriatric! If your new adult dog is 2 years old, then you've probably missed the two worst years of his life if you have an aversion to housebreaking, chewing, and general mischief-making. Dogs generally live anywhere from 8-14 years, with the giant breeds falling in the 7-9-year range. Those life expectancies are not cast in stone theoretically, a dog could die at 3 or live to be 18-but they're a good guideline. Genetics and life experiences, such as traumas or poor nutrition, can tell you a lot about the projected longevity of a dog, so the more information you can collect, the better.
By the way, there are lots of sweet old dogs who, sadly, have lost their loved ones and are in need of homes. Sometimes elderly people die before their dogs and there's no family left to take them in. Sometimes families fall on hard times and can no longer keep an elderly dog. These are very special animals who need a loving place to live out the rest of their days. Just something to consider.
But can an adult dog be obedience trained?
Yes! If you know who your dog is, you can train him to do advanced obedience commands whether he's young or old. My book is devoted to the
decoding and training of all dogs. Even geriatric dogs, if they still have their eyesight and hearing, can be trained to follow some basic
commands. Training builds a bond-it's that simple.