Dogs at a shelter

Q. My daughter wants a puppy, but we’ve looked at the shelter a couple times and most of the dogs are full-grown. I don’t want to deal with someone else’s problem dog. I want to raise mine right. Is it time to buy a puppy?

A. If you’re committed to the idea of a puppy, think carefully about where you buy him. I don’t recommend buying from websites and pets stores, because those puppies often come from substandard breeders known as "puppy mills." Getting a puppy from a reputable breeder, however, who provides certification of genetic testing and raises litters inside the home with proper socialization is an option worth considering.

But honestly, I’d rather you wait for a shelter pup — or better still, I’d like you to realize how unfair you’re being about an adult dog. The idea that an adult dog is somehow "damaged goods" as an adoption prospect is strangely pervasive, especially among people for whom an older dog would be perfect: novices with neither the time nor the experience to raise a puppy properly.

Last year, I adopted my beloved Gracie, a Labrador–Pit Bull mix no one else wanted. She’s an absolutely wonderful dog, and I’m nuts about her!

Healthy older dogs have years of loving left, and they deserve a chance. An older dog can slide easily into your life and will bond with your family just as surely as the dog you take home as a puppy. Mature dogs of five years and older are also good candidates for adoption because you avoid the extended adolescence common in many breeds. And older dogs are everywhere, available from private homes, rescue groups and shelters. If you’re interested in a purebred and are willing to take an adult dog, a rescue group specializing in your breed can be the deal of the century — these volunteer organizations may offer older dogs for lower adoption fees because they’re harder to place.

An older dog can be a marvelous find, but you still have to be selective. While expecting to work on some things as your new dog gets used to you is reasonable, you do want to avoid those animals who have too many problems, especially if one of them is aggression. I highly recommend that you find a shelter or rescue group that evaluates their dogs and provides them with basic training. I also recommend signing up your new dog for a training class to help work through the rough patches.

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