Skip to Content

Adopting an Older Dog vs a Puppy

When looking to add a pet to your family, think about adopting an older dog. So many mature dogs are in need of homes and have many of the qualities you may be looking for.

Looking for the perfect adult dog can be something like looking for the perfect spouse – with similar challenges. Sometimes it can seem like most of the good ones are taken!

But have faith, the right dog for you is out there! Practice patience, diligence and a willingness to bend on your criteria just a bit. Rather than choose a puppy like many do, consider a mature dog that has the qualities you’re looking for.

This post may contain affiliate links which means we receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we may earn from qualifying purchases.

Evaluating your dog lifestyle

Whenever you are thinking of acquiring a dog, you need to think first about your lifestyle and personality to decide what type of dog will be the best fit. Size, activity level, temperament and grooming needs are key factors that need to be taken into consideration.

These factors need to be evaluated on a dog-by-dog basis if you are considering mixed breed dogs. For purebreds there are number of breed selector guides available online that can help you narrow your choices.

Don’t rule out a breed that attracts you based solely on an online guide. Check with someone who has owned the breed if it doesn’t show up on your recommended list.

Older dog laying on deck

The advantages of mature dogs 

Since the advantages of a great older dog include prior obedience training and a lower activity level, make a list of the characteristics of your perfect dog so you have a rational checklist to refer to before the cute faces melt your heart!

Prioritize before you search in person so you know which criteria you are willing to bend on, remembering that age, gender, and color are factors that have little impact on a given dogs’ quality as a companion.

Oftentimes, adopting an older dog means you are dealing with a dog already socialized to be a companion. That is a huge benefit!

Searching for rescue dogs of any type

If you prefer a mixed breed dog or will consider both purebred dogs and mixed breeds, Petfinder is an excellent place to start. Most all breed rescues and animal shelters as well as many breed rescues participate with this service which allows you to browse available rescue dogs online with a capability to filter by region.

You will find both purebred dogs as well as mixed breed dogs on Petfinder. Read the pet descriptions carefully and compare against your checklist before you contact the rescue organization.

Bernese Mountain Dog - senior dog

Finding a purebred rescue dog

There are breed rescue groups for almost all types of purebred dogs. These groups will be very familiar with the breed, its health and temperament tendencies and will be expert on both evaluating their dogs and matching them to the most suitable homes.

To find these groups, I recommend starting with the American Kennel Club site. If you follow the link to clubs you will find a breed rescue directory; the national rescue contact can refer you to the closest breed rescue group and also let you know if there is a particular region of the country that has an abundance of rescue dogs.

If the right dog is in a distant location, volunteers can figure out a way to get the dog close to you, so don’t rule out an attractive rescue dog on distance alone.

Adopting adult purebred dogs from a breeder

Hobby show dog breeders can also be an excellent source of adult dogs. Again, the AKC site is a good place to start. Look at both conformation specialty clubs (translation: single breed dog clubs) in your area and the AKC breeder classifieds.

Show breeders may have retired show dogs that would love to be in a home where they can get more personal attention. Breeders sometimes have dogs returned for no fault of their own that need to be re-homed as well.

These can be wonderful dogs that come with a complete history, are likely well socialized, leash and crate trained and better than average looking. The downside is that the number of these dogs available is small.

Brown and white adult dog laying in grass

How to evaluate an adult dog

When evaluating an older dog as a pet, ask about the dog’s history. Does the rescue group or shelter know why it is available? Ask how the dog’s temperament and obedience training have been evaluated and if any additional training has been given since the dog was taken in.

Old dogs can be taught new tricks! A standard well-dog veterinary exam should have been performed before you take the dog home. You should ask to have your own vet check the dog out before finalizing the adoption as well.

Most rescues will be spayed or neutered prior to placement, so check to see if this surgery has already been performed.

Learn more about your new dog with an Embark Dog DNA kit. Find out what your dog’s DNA says about ancestry, breed and health conditions–with just a simple cheek swab! Use our referral link to save up to 40% with code BESTDOG

Dog buyers are evaluated, too!

You should expect a serious interview regarding the environment and activities you will provide for the dog to evaluate if your home will be a good match given what they know about the dog. Don’t be insulted by this interview! The purpose is to ensure yours will be a forever home based on the interviewer’s past experience placing similar dogs.

Although adult dogs will generally be placed for lower prices than puppies, don’t expect to get the dog for free. The seller will need to recoup their costs for care, including veterinary costs, food and training and evaluation prior to placing the dog.

Mature dogs are great pets

With some forethought, research and patience, you can find that perfect older pet: housebroken, knows some commands, happy to nap while you’re gone and ready for a walk and a cuddle when you get home.

In fact, if you are a senior yourself, a mature dog may be a perfect match. Learn more about the best dog breeds for seniors.

More about choosing a dog

white fluffy dog outside