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A Guide to Adopting an Adult Dog

By Jess L. of |


If you’ve ever thought about adopting an adult dog some of the tips here will come in handy.

Adopting an adult dog is a great thing to do – after all, you’re giving them a second chance at life. Puppies are good fun but they need a lot of care before they’re fully grown. You need to get through the chewing phase (which can last a while), and they’re energetic, which means they want to play most of the time. You may find raising a puppy exhausting!

The main advantage of an adult dog is that you know what you’re getting yourself into. The dog is fully grown so you won’t get any surprises. Also, their personality is already well defined. They may also have had training in the past.

Adopting an adult dog has lots of benefits. But before you go ahead, there are things you need to consider.


Things to think about before adopting an adult dog 

When you’re searching for the perfect companion, there are three factors to assess – the breed, the dog’s health and its age. Your choice in these three categories will define your experience.

1.  The breed 

Not every breed is suited for beginners. If this is your first time considering becoming a dog parent, then obedient breeds are recommended. For example, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, King Charles Spaniels and Poodles are excellent choices for new dog owners.

It’s best to steer clear of breeds that are infamously stubborn such as Siberian Huskies, the Basenji and the Afghan Hound. Many of the breeds are left in shelters because they are difficult to train.

Adopting an adult dog can be challenging because of the experiences the dog had with previous owners. It may take a lot of time, patience and effort to coax a scared and shy dog out of its shell regardless of the breed, but you can make the process easier if you choose a more submissive breed.

When adopting a dog, you need to learn more about its breed-specific characteristics. Make sure you understand a bit about the breed before you go ahead with the adoption process. Look into various dog breeds and learn more about their history. Focus on their grooming, how much exercise they need, and how they interact socially. 

2.  Health 

We understand that a sickly dog is not everyone’s first choice, but we do believe that every dog deserves a second chance. Again, for the inexperienced dog owners, picking a dog in excellent health will prove to be easier.

Make sure to ask about the dog’s health and if it has any genetic or chronic issues. Pet care doesn’t come cheap, so unless you’re sure you can take care of a sick dog we would suggest picking one that is relatively healthy. 

3.  Age 

Although we’re talking about adult dogs, you still have a pick from ages 1 or 2 all the way up to 18 years old in some cases. Most dogs hit maturity at 1 to 2 years old and reach seniority at 7. If you opt for a younger adult dog you could still have a canine with an abundant amount of energy on your hands.

If you end up choosing one that’s older you could get a much calmer dog.

You need to consider the time you have to spend with your dog. Do you have time for daily walks, or are you away from home for hours at a time for work? Make sure you can meet your dog’s needs. 

How to adopt an adult dog 

Most people adopt from shelters, trusted websites or social media groups where dogs need to be rehomed, or even from friends and family.

Make sure you ask all the right questions such as:

  • How much is the adoption fee – if there is one?
  • What does the dog come with – leash, collar, kennel?
  • What’s the dog’s health like?
  • What is its temperament like?
  • What happens if the dog isn’t a good fit for you and your family? Can you take it back?
  • Is the dog up to date with all its shots?

Make sure you have any lingering questions answered. The shelter or individual you are adopting from should be able to answer all your questions to put your mind at ease.

The next step is to prepare your home for the arrival of your new companion.

You will need to acquire a dog bed and a crate for crate training. You will need water and food bowls, as well as a collar and leash. Poop bags, wipes, clothing, training materials, treats and food should also be ready to go.

Speaking of food and treats, you need to be aware that the nutritional needs of an adult dog and a puppy are different. The right dog food depends on the dietary requirements and age of the dog. Puppies are still growing and they need more calories, so their food should be nutrient-dense. An adult dog will require fewer calories, which means you only need to ensure the food is balanced and complete. A vet can advise you on the best feeding program and give you any other information you may need.

There is also dog kibble with specific nutritional profiles that are suited to certain life stages and breeds. The key is to meet your dog’s requirements. 

The challenges 

Adopting an animal is never without challenges. The obstacles you will meet when adopting an adult dog are different to those when you adopt a pup. 

1.  Behavior 

A puppy is like a sponge, while some adult dogs are pretty set in their ways. This can make training more difficult as you need to “untrain” the dog so you can instill new behaviors.

As mentioned above, the experience the dog had with its previous owner will have helped shape its personality. You may find a dog that’s very distrusting, or one that’s aggressive due to fear, or one that’s incredibly shy and apprehensive. On the other hand, it’s also possible to find one that’s friendly, confident and eager to please.

Just be aware of the potential difficulties you may face. Many rescue dogs need to go through professional training to rectify some behavioral challenges, especially for new dog owners.

2.  Training 

Training is mandatory for all dogs. It’s how you establish house rules, teach your dog what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Socialization is also a key contributor to a well-rounded dog. It’s never too late to socialize a dog, but we recommend doing it in a professional setting such as in a dog training class. Some shelter dogs are more aggressive and haven’t had much dog-to-dog interaction. If biting or fights break out the expert trainer can step in.

3.  Bonding 

Bonding with a dog requires spending time together and taking part in everyday activities. Something as simple as brushing your dog’s coat daily can create a special bond between the two of you.

Playtime, walks, petting and stroking, maintaining eye contact and speaking to the dog will strengthen your relationship. With adopted shelter dogs, this can take some time.

Be sure to give your dog space. If you see their tail between their legs and their ears back when you try to pet them, pull back and try again later.

It’s important not to force your dog and to give them the time and space they need to come out of their shell. 

Advantages of adopting an adult dog 

Adopting an adult dog sounds hard, but there are definite advantages.

For one thing, the potty training can be infinitely easier since most older dogs are housebroken. Any dog parent who had their puppy from the beginning will tell you that potty training is one of the toughest parts of owning a dog.

Adult dogs will probably have had some type of training, which can make training easier. They can also be more receptive to new types of training.

To put it simply, an older dog will be much easier to control as it will be a lot calmer than a puppy. You won’t have to manage daily zoomies and deal with the aftermath of excitable pups.

An adult dog is probably over the chewing phase. Keep in mind however that boredom and separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors in adult dogs, but generally chewing will be at a minimum.

An adult dog will have been on walks before, which means it is probably leash-trained. A leash-trained dog is less likely to pull, lunge or chew on the leash.

Adopting an adult dog will also leave no room for surprises in terms of size. We have seen our fair share of cases where puppy owners are surprised by how big they grow. This tends to be an issue with mixed breed dogs.

Don’t worry about training when you adopt an older dog, because you can most certainly “teach an old dog new tricks”.

Where to find a dog 

No matter where you live, there will be an animal shelter within driving distance. Sites such as Kijiji, Petfinder, Facebook, non-profit organizations, SPCA websites and others you can find via Google will have plenty of dogs of all ages needing a forever home.

It’s unfortunate that so many dogs need a loving home. It’s also upsetting that most of the dogs in shelters are adult, as most people want to adopt a puppy.

A reputable shelter or individual won’t offer their dogs to just anyone. While you need to ask them questions, a trustworthy organization will also ask you a lot of questions to make sure the dog will be going to someone who can meet its needs.

We suggest doing a quick search and due diligence into the organization or individual you are looking to adopt from to ensure a safe transaction.

Extra tips for adoption success

1. Stay open-minded

If a dog been at a shelter for a long time it can still make a great pet. Some people are in a rush to adopt puppies at shelters while overlooking adult dogs, which is why adult dogs stay at the shelter for prolonged periods.

If the dog has been at the shelter a long time, it will need some additional training to fit into your home. It may need to be the only pet in the household. Some dogs also have medical conditions that need to be treated before they can get a new home.

You should also know that dogs tend to become shy when they stay at a shelter for a long time. The new noisy environment can freak them out, which means they may avoid eye contact; this doesn’t mean they’re bad. They are just overwhelmed by everything that’s happening around them. When you get the dog out of the shelter, regardless of whether they’re shy, you’ll become fond of each other with time.

2. Take the dog to a different environment to see what they are like

Dogs may be fearful when they’re in the kennels. Take the dog to a yard away from the shelter so you can socialize and get a better idea of what it’s like. You can also opt to foster the dog and get to know it better before committing yourself; this way you can bring the dog home and spend time together. If you do choose to adopt you’ll be well versed with the dog’s personality.

3. Be patient

An adult dog needs time to become familiar with its surroundings. You need to ensure they’re secure and safe. The dog will feel insecure at first, but they’ll become familiar with their new environment fast, as long as they feel protected.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to the staff at the shelter. They will offer some guidance and training assistance to ensure you have the best beginning with your new pet.

4. Ask the shelter staff to help you find a good match

The shelter staff can shed light on the personalities of the dogs in their care. Some shelters have come up with a matching program which means you can easily find a dog that fits your lifestyle. If there’s no staff present, check the information card at each kennel which will tell you about each dog’s personality. You can also inquire about each pet’s unique needs and learn more about how active they are to determine whether they will fit your routine. Some breeds are much more energetic than others.

5. Consider the costs

The cost of adoption varies, and the deals you get will be awesome.

When adopting an adult dog check its vaccinations are up to date, as well as worming and flea treatments. Also, the dog may have undergone a veterinary exam recently – you can ask for a copy of the medical records.

Most shelters microchip dogs to have a better chance of finding them when they’re stolen or lost.

As well as food and ongoing medications for worms and fleas, your dog will also need to get its shots each year and have a vet check. Vets are expensive. You need to be sure you can afford a dog’s veterinary care before adopting.

Final words

When it comes to adopting an adult dog you need to understand the basics.

You can now adopt a dog and take it home where you can bond and get to know each other better. If the dog is shy at first, there’s no need to worry. You’ll get used to each other with time. Remember to check out the breed characteristics before you start the adoption process, this will help ensure you adopt the right dog for you.


About Jess: Jess’s life is full of love and loyalty from her fur babies. It’s never boring. Being able to write about dognerdz products and being a doggy mom gives her insight into what’s important when choosing the right products for our cuddly pals. You can find her online at

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