As dog lovers, we tend to fall in love with every dog we meet. Think about it, whether you are at the park, at the vet, or simply visiting a friend, there always seems to be a dog that catches your attention, and before you know it you are thinking: “So adorable, I wish I could take you home!” Now, if only there was a place that allowed us to take home these lovely dogs! Hold on – there is.

The majority of people automatically start looking for a puppy once they have decided to add a furry family member. In the meantime, thousands of healthy adult dogs get euthanised in South Africa PER DAY. Let that sink in for a moment. Every single day. Why do we allow this to happen? Is it not time that we hang our heads in shame as a society for acting this way towards an animal that we call ‘man’s best friend’? There are many ways to help better this situation, with one of them being to consider adopting an older dog instead of a puppy.

What makes puppies so irresistible?

The brain of the mammal is wired to love babies, and seeing them elicits a ‘care response’ from us – this is nature ensuring that we will not abandon them, hence ensuring the survival of our species. Research projects have shown that looking at babies makes us feel all kind of positive emotions, such as a bigger sense of tenderness, lesser aggressiveness and a sense of wanting to protect the little one.

Interestingly though, seeing a baby animal elicits the same type of response in humans. This is thought to be mainly because baby animals typically share the same characteristics as human babies, such as large eyes, a rounded face with a small nose and a plump body with that typical newborn clumsiness. These features releases a host of feel-good chemicals in our brains, almost recreating the feeling of being in love. Clearly it’s completely normal to love puppies! But, before actually getting a puppy we always need to apply some rational thinking. Consider the following:

  • Pups are so adorable that we often forget that it is hard work to raise them. Allow me to remind you: puppies are adorable bundles of endless energy, always up to something, always keeping you on your toes!
  • Puppies need training. Training takes dedication, patience and there are costs involved. Attending a reputable puppy school is an absolute must, as this gives you a proper foundation for raising a well-balanced dog, and is the first step in preparing your pup for the life ahead of him.
  • Pups are masters of destruction. Unless you are able to keep an eye on pup 24/7 chances are that something will get chewed or peed on!
  • Puppies become teenagers! Yes, you read right. And similar to human adolescence, it can be a difficult time for both dog and owner. At around eight months of age your pup might go through a bit of a personality change – one that takes love and patience to get through.

While you are considering the pros and cons of getting a puppy, why not give some thought to older dogs as well?

6 benefits of adopting an older dog

Will someone notice me today?

  1. Less work! Depending on the dog, the transition to becoming a dog owner will be much more peaceful with an older pooch.
  2. You know what you get. Sixty percent of a dog’s temperament is determined by genetics. This can be especially risky with puppies bred by backyard breeders, puppy mills and the like. With an adult dog the personality is already formed, and you have a good idea of what to expect, and whether the dog will fit in with your lifestyle.
  3. Surrendered dogs are good dogs too. Yes, people do surrender their pets because of behaviour problems – but in many cases these are possible to resolve and it’s just a matter of the owner looking for an easy way out. However, many perfectly healthy, well-adjusted dogs get dumped at shelters as well. Just think of the number of people who are leaving the country, and leaving their dogs behind as one example. There really are many, many dogs to choose from.
  4. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Remember, many shelter dogs were once part of a household, and have likely already been housetrained. Some have even been trained a bit more extensively. But that is not where it stops! Should you want to get involved in further training, it’s entirely possible to work with an older dog. Many rescues have gone on to take part in dog sports such as agility, or even became therapy dogs.
  5. You can still own your favourite breed. Gone are the days where only crossbreeds end up in shelters. The situation has become so dire that all kinds of dogs end up homeless, to such an extent that breed-specific shelters are commonplace.
  6. You will be a hero. From experience I can promise you that nothing beats the feeling you get when you watch your dog at home – perhaps throwing a ball around or catching a snooze – happy, content and so loved. You know very well what could’ve happened to this precious soul, and you are grateful that this dog never has to know.

Adding a dog to your family is a big decision, and you need to do what’s right for you. Take your time, do your research, make the right choice. But do give some consideration to the older dogs. Remember how easy it is to love any dog that crosses your path. Go to your local shelter and give them a chance, even if you still prefer a puppy! Spend some time with a few different dogs, play with them, get to know them. Trust me on this one, chances are that you will fall in love. Head over paws.