Puppy vs. adopting an older dog

I’ve had a few dogs in my life. Total number of dogs I’ve had from a puppy (age about 8 weeks) is four. I am not proud of owning the first three puppies because I was not able to keep them. This is my personal story and opinion, I hope you’ll read it and take what you can from it.

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BARNEY – my first puppy, a Yellow Lab

I was 8 years old, of course I begged my parents for a puppy for years. I told them I had read all the dog training books and that I was old enough and ready!

So, puppy came, puppy peed, puppy chewed a bunch of books, puppy chewed furniture, puppy grew big quickly, little Lilli couldn’t walk puppy because puppy only knew how to pull/drag little Lilli, so puppy didn’t get exercised as much as he should, puppy was bored and got into a lot of mischief, puppy peed and pooed in the house a lot, puppy would get in trouble, puppy would get sent to his floor (the basement), little Lilli found the basement cold and didn’t visit puppy much, puppy would cry and whine, puppy loved Lilli and Lilli loved puppy but little Lilli was in over her head. Little 8-year old Lilli was so sad and upset when she had to say goodbye but puppy had grown really big and needed better owners.

My mom felt badly for Barney and made arrangements with my uncle who has a farm in Alliston. When Barney left for my uncle’s farm I promised to visit as much as I could. I think I only got to see him twice before he ran away. 😦

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This is Stimpy’s mom, Bailey. I didn’t have a picture of Stimpy. My mom took this pic from the car, Bailey wouldn’t let too many people near her. But we were buddies.

STIMPY – Shepherd mix

I was in High School, I thought I was ready, I still loved dogs, I wanted a companion, I wanted a dog to come home to… Who was I kidding? I didn’t have time, there were boys, homework, teenage rebellion. I read about treat training and that’s how I convinced my parents to get her from a litter my uncle had at his farm. I told them it was different from Lab puppy, this time I was going to really train her.

So, puppy came, puppy was kept mostly in our basement which had concrete floors, puppy made messes, teenage Lilli would clean up her messes, puppy was overly excited to see teenage Lilli all the time and jumped a lot, teenage Lilli would try to correct her but it was hard, puppy grew up so fast and was really strong, puppy took treats with a vigor and began biting teenage Lilli’s hands. The biting game was fun for puppy, puppy’s teething stage left teenage Lilli’s hands and arms cut up sometimes teenage Lilli just took her to the backyard and then put her back in the basement.

To be honest, teenage Lilli neglected this puppy. Stimpy didn’t live in the house, she didn’t spend much time with the family, she didn’t know what was expected from her, she was expected to know things no one taught her, she wanted to please us but didn’t know how, she was cooped up and frustrated. So, with a lot of regret she was soon taken back to my uncle’s farm. Teenage Lilli felt like a failure and unsupported by her family.

Rottweiler pup – my co-share puppy with my brother

For the life of me I can’t remember what we named her or even if we had a chance to name her. Why get another puppy while I was a teenager still? Not too long after Stimpy the mixed Shepherd? It was my brother’s idea that we share her, he would help pay and take care of her. We split the cost of $500 for the puppy, gave it to the breeder in Oakville and picked her up in my brother’s Sunfire. I was so excited to have her and that my brother paid for half, so what if I knew he wouldn’t really take care of her even though she was ours.

The first night, puppy didn’t eat and cried all night, the second day puppy had the runs all over my room and vomitted everywhere too, the third day puppy was not eating and barely drinking, puppy had lost weight in two days, I carried puppy to an Animal Hospital 20 minutes away, vet said they needed to hook puppy up to an IV because she hasn’t been eating and it would cost $1000 a day plus run tests, they thought she had Parvo disease.

I freaked out, I didn’t have money, so I called my brother, brother came and picked me and puppy up, we called the breeder, breeder said bring puppy back, so we did. The breeder took a look at the puppy and said she’s fine and we could take another puppy if we want. We were heartbroken and tried to tell them she needs medical help, she’s sick, they brushed it off saying she’s just “homesick”, we asked for our money back and they said no refunds.

We left, no puppy, no money, hearts broken.

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JAEL – Pit Bull Terrier

I got Jael when I was around 23 years old and I lived with my parents at the time. They lived on a 10 acre property in Kleinburg. I was determined to do things right with this puppy. Jael stayed in my room when I was home. I had a crate and I took her out constantly for potty breaks. I was the type of person that did not want puppy Jael to pee or poo in my room. There were no newspapers or pee pads to pee indoors. During the weekdays, I had the priviledge to take her to work and I would take her outside for potty breaks every other hour or between her naps, the perks of being the boss’s daughter. I scheduled her food and water so I knew what was going in and I estimated when to take her out so she could eliminate. She had two accidents growing up and that was amazing! But I was super tired! I woke up in the middle of the night even to take her out. I was sleep deprived the first four to six months of having her but I was determined. My mom told me it was like I had a newborn.

Oh boy, then the teething came, she was great until one day I went to do a bank deposit at BMO, she came with me as usual and one guy (let’s call him stupidhead) asked if he could see her. He starts petting her and asks me what breed she is, I tell him she’s a pit bull, he puts his hand in her mouth and starts saying, “Bite down”, “Bite Down!”. He thought he was hilarious. I pulled her away from him and told him, she’s actually not supposed to put any skin in her mouth. After that day she was mouthing at my hands and arms. She got corrected by her chain collar and I’d try to redirect her onto a chew toy but she liked to play “bite down” on Lilli. I think she even created the “kneecap game” (ok, I called it that), she would find the perfect time when I wasn’t paying attention (like on my flip phone) and run towards me and try to bite my kneecap. We went to a trainer in Mt.Albert to correct it and worked on obedience, I was in terror of her trying to eat me from 1 year old to 2 year old and it was a power struggle almost every other day.

When I got Jael, I promised myself, I would not give her up to my uncle’s farm no matter what. By the time she was two years old, I moved to North York where there were so many dogs, cats, racoons, skunks, and squirrels. She was unsocialized with other dogs (my mistake totally), living on my parents 10 acre lot didn’t give us a lot of chances to meet other dogs. The pit bull ban was coming into effect so I needed to learn how to take control of her dog aggressive behaviour. It took a lot of training and patience until we were finally cool. She became the best dog but it took a lot of money, time, effort, love, bandaids, tears, and patience.

When anyone asks me if I would ever get a puppy again, my answer has been no, never again. All the puppies I had were work, but Jael was the most work because I stuck through all the crap she dished out and kept her knowing what the meaning of work was, it was being a responsible dog owner. And it’s not temporary.

Even though I’m experienced with handling a lot of dogs now, my answer is you’d have to pay me really well for me to consider getting a puppy.

Here’s my advice if you are thinking of getting a puppy vs. adopting an older dog.

I’ll always recommend getting an older dog because there are so many out there needing a second chance.

Bolt (my American Eskimo) was given up at two-years old, we found him on Kijiji, his family could no longer care for him, I could see the heartbreak in their eyes as they said goodbye with a mixture of relief that I would be the better home for him.

Smokey (my Schnauzer mix) was given to me when he was six-years old, his family felt he would be less anxious with me and my schedule rather than their busy family.

Yes, I did need to train out some bad habits they had and they’ve come a long way. Some rescue/adopted dogs may have behaviour issues but I believe it is possible to train or manage them with the right trainer. And I would like to believe a bunch of dogs in the shelter system were given up without given enough of a chance and were with the wrong person/family.

I’ve heard it said that some people want a puppy so they can bond with it more than an older dog. But to be honest, rescued dogs have such an amazing bond with their rescuer. Ask any dog owner that has rescued a dog and they will tell you, their dog knows they were given another chance and the love and gratitude is overwhelming at times.

Ok, so, the only time I would tell someone to get a puppy would be if they were totally ready for the responsibility and had a lot of dog experience. The person would have to be ready for the commitment of potty training, teething, doing what’s best for the puppy no matter how cute they are, keeping in mind that puppy is going to grow to be 10 times or even 100 times bigger than they are when they are a puppy and they need to be treated with consistency and as if they were already fully grown.

Too often, I see dogs with behaviour issues because their (potentially) naughty behaviour was cute when they were a puppy. Yes, it’s cute to see a Great Dane puppy think it’s a lap dog, but really…if you’re not the owner but the one under the Great Dane when it’s fully grown..is it really that cute and funny being crushed by a small pony? Or if a Lab puppy loves to bounce around and jump on everyone not caring if it jumps on a child or adult and you think that’s funny, will it really be funny when puppy is a year old and knocking people down? Or if a German Shepherd puppy loves to play tug of war and teethes on your hands and arm sometimes, you say, “Oh he knows to bite gently”, will that be cute and funny when he’s fully grown and wants to play by mouthing your arm and making wounds? Correct the bad behaviours before they become problems and habits, because puppies grow into dogs and they grow up really fast. It’s so sad when bad habits are created in puppies and then the owners give up on them and surrender them. I raise my hand, I am I guilty of not knowing what I was doing when I had my puppies. If you’re not willing to seek professional help and pay for sound advice and TAKE ACTION, then you’re not ready for a puppy.

We have the ability to make choices. We have power. As Peter Parker’s uncle said, “with power comes responsibility”. Please be responsible if you’re getting a puppy. Read, research, talk to other owners, get some experience, dog walk, dog sit, pick up poop, think about the financial costs, budget out costs and time that you’ll need to take care of the four legged living being.  A dog is not a toy.

If you don’t know anything about dogs, please don’t get a puppy to start your dog ownership journey.  

Through my personal experience, puppies are a lot of work. Dog ownership is a responsibility. Some people don’t have the capacity for that responsibility, like 8-year old Lilli or teenage Lilli. I had good intentions but I wasn’t mature enough for the 10-15 year commitment.

Things happen for a reason. I am sorry I wasn’t able to keep Barney and he ran away, I am sorry Stimpy was neglected and I was an irresponsible teenager, and I am sorry the Rottie puppy was a forgotten memory until I wrote this post.

I am thankful for committing to keeping Jael through thick and thin, she taught me what love is and what true dog ownership is. I am thankful for Bolt and Smokey who are my funny boys, I have shared them with others who were thinking of getting a dog. Some families have gotten a dog and some realize it’s too much. Koodos to all those families.

Dogs should be for life. Look five, ten, fifteen years into the future before you get your next dog and be sure you see that pup / dog in your future.

In the words of Stitch, “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind…or forgotten”

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