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Dog Adoption: When Is the Best Time to Adopt a Dog?

If you’ve been thinking about adding a four-legged addition to your home, you may be asking yourself the following questions…

“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.

Let’s get started…

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 behavioral issues, which is completely nonsense.

After all, every adult dog, which has behavioral issues, was once a puppy!

Think about it this way…

Very few children come out of the womb with serious behavioral issues. It’s not until they become toddlers, teenagers, or adults that behavioral issues (bullying, drug use, gambling) begin to develop. And no parent planned on them having behavioral 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 behaviors 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 behavioral 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 behaviors.

At this stage I encourage you to check out my program called The Dog Calming Code! This program will teach you everything you need to help your dog calm down and listen to you so that they will follow your direction when it matters most!

Click here and have a look.

For example about 13 to 16 weeks, you want to be puppy a stop to all of that mouthing and biting side of things due to puppy teething. It’s vital that you work hard during this time to teach your puppy that biting is not appropriate.

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.

He’s listening to you.

He’s focused on you.

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.

If you end up adopting a dog in this age range, I highly recommend that you check out my program called The Dog Calming Code! It will certainly help you get started out on the right “paw” while training your dog.

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.

Think of it this way…

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 behavioral issues and there are no behavioral 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.

My program, The Dog Calming Code, is still a great option for adult dogs if you find yourself running into any training or obedience problems.

Find out more about the program here.

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!

Well, that’s not true…

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 The Dog Calming Code for all the tools, tips, and resources you need now!

Doggy Dan Signature
~Doggy Dan 🙂

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

13 Responses

  1. Spot on!! We adopted a rescue dog “Miss Molly” (Lab+Indian Pariah mix). Joy and fun despite the challenges at every age you outline above. We are at the 9 month stage with her. Thanks to the 5 Rules and all the other good info videos, she’s a Calm, Loving and very alert family member. Thanks from Bangalore, India.

    1. Hi Sanjay, thanks for posting!
      Armed with the right information there is absolutely no reason not to take on a younger dog, it’s just worth assessing what works best for every family. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with Molly and are starting to see the benefits of putting some boundaries in place with her. A big thumbs up for deciding to take on a rescue dog as well! All the best…Doggy Dan!

  2. do you have any thoughts on how old A PERSON should be to adopt a dog. i.e. i am coming up 75 yrs old. my present dog is an 11 year old rescue jack russell already showing signs of arthritic left front hip (on painkillers for this so 3 monthly check ups at vets) and has lost most of his teeth. not through neglect just one of those things i was told. i have to crush his glucosamine(yumove) tablets and mix with water as he now cant chew them whole) i am fairly disabled. limited as far as walks are concerned so Hugo has 2 walkers that come only twice a week. other than that he sleeps a lot.likes to watch dvds cuddled up to me,(am sure he thinks hes in back seat of the cinema as periodically he looks at me ,i feel him doing so and as i turn he plants a sloppy kiss on my lips. lol . he doesnt eat every day/ very fussy eater always was. now on hi-life pouches. he was 2 years old when i got him, my question is, am i too old to adopt another dog if Hugo doesnt outlive me? maybe an old one who is as disabled as i am? or should i adopt a cat or sponsor a dog from one of the dog trusts or cinnamon trust that supplies one of my dogs walkers. i live alone so would miss the companionship hugo gives me.

    1. Hi Dee,
      This is a bit of a tricky question to answer but I can give you a few things to think about to maybe make that decision a bit easier for you. I think the most important thing is to be have a think about what level of effort it would require to take on a dog. Obviously a younger dog will need far more attention, guidance and exercise and so this sounds like it may not be something that would suit you. An older dog may suit you best but it would be important to have a trial period to see if a particular dog will work for you, most rescue groups do offer a trial period. It’s important to be aware that when bringing any dog into your home there will be an adjustment period for them where they may need a little guidance and patience getting used to their new home.
      As far as the breed or size of the dog you will also need to take this into consideration as a larger/stronger dog may be an issue for you but it really does depend on the personality of the individual dog. I know the greyhounds are generally the laziest dogs ever born, requiring only a little exercise and then they are pretty happy to lounge around sleeping all day.
      I do understand what you mean about having the presence and companionship of a dog around the house. Certainly a cat may provide this as well, it’s just up to you which you prefer.
      I hope I have been somewhat helpful in my response. It really is a great question and the fact that you have asked it shows you are a very caring dog owner. I hope it all goes well for you! All the best…Doggy Dan

  3. We got Mousse from a shelter after I broke my ankle and needed company. She was about 8-10 months old at the time. She was lively and a bit of a handful at first but has adapted so well and is so loving that no one can take her away from us. She loves us and really seems happy to live here. I promise I spoiled her as I make all her treats and meals. She must be about 2-2 & 1/2 now and is active and requires a lot of attention, likes to play but rest at night all night now without having to go out. I would tell everyone the best is to get a dog from the shelter as they want to please and happy to have a good home. PS. She was easy to train also.

    1. Hi,
      Mousse sounds like she is very fortunate to have been adopted by your family and there is no doubt you feel just as lucky to have her! Taking on a rescue dog can be one of the most rewarding things to do, it can sometimes require a little patience, but they really do seem to give 110% percent for their new family. If you give them the right ‘job’ then they can be the best dogs you ever own. Thanks for sharing your story! All the best…Doggy Dan

  4. Just want to say how much I agree with the comments about older dogs.
    In my opinion if you are lucky enough to have a dog that lives well into old age then consider yourself blessed. My Ridgeback/Bull Mastif bitch lived til 13 and my Rotti bitch almost made 18 yrs old. Old dogs are just beautiful.

  5. I just want to say how much I appreciate your blog article on “Dog Adoption”. The information you shared is so good and helpful. My dogs are an important part of my family and I believe that is true for many other people as well. Thank you Doggy Dan.

    1. Hi Patti, thanks for the positive feedback! Our is and always has been to educate dog owners because we know that when you get the relationship between dogs and owners right then you can create a really amazing bond. Having owners think about the kind of dog that would suit their lifestyles is a very important factor. All the best..Doggy Dan.

    1. I absolutely agree! Puppies should remain with their Mother’s up until at least 8 weeks of age. There may be some cases here it’s unavoidable to remove them earlier, like illness or rescue, but where possible they should stay with Mum. All the best, Doggy Dan

    1. When it comes to adopting puppies we do recommend that they are at least 8 weeks old as they should still be with their Mother up until that age. However there is generally no ‘best’ age to adopt a dog/puppy, it really just depends on your own preference. For example if you want a dog you can do a lot of exercise with then adopting an older dog may not be the best fit. Every dog is unique so speaking with the rescue group involved will be a good way of establishing the suitability of a dog in their care. Best, Doggy Dan

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