Adopting an Older Dog Versus a Puppy

Choosing your next canine companion is a significant decision that involves many considerations. One of the most crucial of these is the dog’s age. The debate between getting an older dog or a puppy has stirred the hearts of prospective dog guardians for generations. Each option comes with its own set of pros and cons, making the decision a complex one. Let’s explore the advantages, drawbacks and myths around older dogs and puppies to help you answer the question, ‘Is it better to get an older dog or a puppy?’

Adopting an Older Dog

There are many benefits of adopting an older dog. As well as being able to gain insights into their health and personality, older dogs often have some training under their belt already. But older dogs may also have an increased likelihood of certain disadvantages, such as ingrained behaviours and potential health problems. Here are some of the main advantages and drawbacks to consider when it comes to adopting an older dog.

The Pros

Established Personality

Adult dogs will likely be more settled into their character, allowing you to see if their personality, likes, dislikes, and activity level suit you and your lifestyle.

Life Experience

Many older dogs are already house-trained and may even have a basic understanding of common skills. This may mean an older dog’s transition into the family is smoother than a puppy’s.

Steadier Energy Levels

Unlike puppies, older dogs typically have more predictable and moderate energy levels. This can be beneficial if you’re looking for a dog who is content with a calm walk and some quality cuddle time.

Health Insights

With an older dog, you often have access to the dog’s medical history and any existing health conditions. This transparency can help you make informed decisions about their healthcare needs.

Feel Good Factor

No doubt adopting an older dog can feel emotionally rewarding. Traditionally older dogs struggle to get homes, while puppies usually have no problems getting adopted.

The Cons

Established Habits

While some habits may be positive, others might be challenging to change. Older dogs may have ingrained behaviours requiring more patience and effort to modify – but it’s not impossible.

Health Concerns

Older dogs have a higher probability of age-related diseases and contracting illnesses. You may see health issues start sooner than you would with a younger, potentially healthier puppy.

End-of-Life Decisions

Adopting an older dog means facing end-of-life decisions sooner. While this is a reality for any animal guardian, it can be emotionally taxing to navigate health declines and decisions about euthanasia or hospice care sooner.

Buying or Adopting a Puppy

Puppies come with their own set of positives and negatives, so it’s all about considering which factors are most important to you. Puppies are more likely to be with you for a longer period of time and they are easier to mould. On the other hand, puppies require a lot of time and effort, and it is more difficult to predict their future health. Here are the main pros and cons to consider when it comes to puppies.

The Pros

Room for Growth

Puppies are like sponges, ready to absorb information and learn new behaviours. This makes them ideal for guardians with the time and energy to dedicate themselves to teaching their new ones about the world.

Extended Time

Adopting a puppy means you have the potential for a longer companionship. You get to experience the various life stages of your dog and create a lifetime of memories together from very early on in their lives.

Easier Integration with Other Animals and Children

Puppies often integrate more smoothly into households with other animals and children. Since they are young, it may be easier to help a puppy adapt to other family members more easily than an older dog with the same exposure.

The Cons

Energy Levels and Needs

Puppies are bundles of energy, and their training requires consistent effort and patience. Many people underestimate what raising a puppy is like. If you have a hectic schedule or are not prepared for the challenges of puppyhood, this may become overwhelming.

Unknown Health History

Unlike older dogs, puppies come without a medical history. While reputable breeders may provide information on the puppy’s parents, there are no guarantees regarding the puppy’s future health.


Puppies demand a substantial amount of your time. It is your responsibility to teach them everything about the world around them. If you have a busy lifestyle, it’s essential to consider whether you can dedicate enough time to meet a puppy’s needs.

Dispelling Myths about Older Dogs and Puppies

While there are certainly pros and cons to adopting older dogs and puppies alike, there are some common misconceptions about both. It’s important to have realistic expectations about dogs of all ages. Below are a few common myths about older dogs and puppies, and information about what you should really expect from them.

“Older dogs come with behaviour problems”

While older dogs have a history that you may not be aware of, that doesn’t mean that they automatically come with behaviour that you consider problematic. Puppies can experience stressors early on that can impact their lives or be genetically predisposed to stress via their parents or grandparents (even puppies from breeders).

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

This couldn’t be further from the truth! Teaching older dogs new skills prevents them from ageing, keeping them young. Dogs can learn at any age.

“I will be able to shape a puppy into what I want”

Much like children, puppies start to show you their personality early on. Even with all of the training in the world, a puppy who doesn’t enjoy being social is unlikely to become the life of the party. Puppies are not blank slates that can be shaped into whatever you want.

“Breed gives you consistency in behaviours”

Dog breeds can be compared to an artist’s sketch. The breed ‘sketch’ determines what a dog’s personality is likely to be like, but the final draft may not be precisely the same. Dogs are individuals, not carbon copies of each other – even within the same litter.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, the choice between an older dog and a puppy depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and the level of commitment you are willing to invest. Older dogs offer the advantages of a known temperament and often require less intensive commitments to teaching, making them suitable for those seeking more immediate companionship. On the other hand, puppies bring boundless energy and the opportunity to shape a lifelong bond from the beginning.

Consider your circumstances, such as available time, energy, patience, and preferences for a dog’s temperament and lifespan. Whether you choose the wisdom of an older canine friend or the exuberance of a playful puppy, the love and companionship they provide will undoubtedly enrich your life.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting

Renee Rhoades MSc, dog behaviour expert
About Renee Rhoades, MSc

Renee Rhoades, MSc, is a distinguished authority in canine behaviour and welfare, recognised for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of both dogs and humans. The founder of R+Dogs, a virtual dog behaviour consultancy, Renee offers cutting-edge private coaching and online courses to dog guardians worldwide. Renee specialises in transforming fearful and high-energy dogs, addressing aggression, reactivity, generalised anxiety and hyperactivity.

Beyond client-focused coaching, Renee is also the co-host of DogLogical, a podcast dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of our dogs. In addition, she extends her expertise by mentoring fellow dog professionals, contributing to the growth and development of the industry.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting