Often when selecting a puppy, families tend to select a puppy recently separated from the litter. As they are just weaned from their mother, they are in the best position to be trained and acclimated into a new home. Bonding happens sooner, which makes training easier.
Occasionally though you might fall in love with a puppy that is a bit older. That perfect training time has already passed, but your adorable new puppy was simply meant to become a part of your family. Perhaps your puppy is four months, six months or even 11 months old. They are still considered puppies.
What are some of the things you need to consider when adopting and training an older puppy? Older puppies do tend to be a touch calmer and less energetic than brand new puppies. Older puppy training might be simpler in that the puppy may already be socialized and trained in a few areas. Their first shelter or home experience may have already housebroken and crate trained your puppy. Your puppy may already be used to people, children and other pets. Any of these circumstances will save you time and effort.
However, a fair warning, unless you have plenty of time and patience to spare, try to avoid adopting an older puppy that has been neglected, abused, or has special needs. Some dogs are put up for adoption because they are extremely difficult to live with or train. The added baggage that a neglected or abused dog may carry includes increased stress and anxiety, fear, and a reluctance to warm up to people, or outright aggression. This is not to say it isn’t worth doing, but it is always good to be informed.
Bring your entire family along when adopting the older puppy to make certain the pup is friendly with everyone and is not harboring aggression towards women, children, or other dogs. Does the puppy seem friendly and playful? Keep in mind that you might not want to choose the most playful puppy there as they may be more difficult to care for and train. As with most things, moderation is the key to being successful in older puppy training.
Try startling the puppy to get an idea of how it will react. Toss your keys or another personal effect on the floor to see if the older pup attacks them or becomes aggressive. The best response would be to either ignore the drop or to investigate out of curiosity. Ask the owner or staff member to pick up the puppy and watch its emotional reaction. If there is a lot of fear or aggression, you might need to reconsider your puppy choice. Take along a brush and some treats and spend some time with the dog to let you both get to know one another.
Before making your final decision, ask the owner or shelter if the puppy is already trained in any areas, if there are areas of training that you would need to focus more on (barking, chewing, housebreaking), and if they know why the previous owner decided to give the puppy up. Older puppy training would require you to know these things first to be successful.
All the same types of training will be required for older puppies as with younger puppies. This may include, but is not limited to, potty training, crate training, commands, leash training and other specific training needs for barking, aggression, chewing, and socializing. As there different series of puppy vaccinations, try to find out what shots the puppy has already received.
There are plenty of dog experts and obedience schools that offer training geared towards older puppy training. Ask around for training recommendations from other dog owners, veterinarians, pet stores, shelters, kennels, and animal hospitals. There are even classes whose older puppy training focuses only on socialization, if you feel your new dog needs more interaction with other dogs.
Many aspects of puppy ownership are exactly the same regardless of the puppy’s age. With older puppy training, you may find that some training is easier as compared to others where you have to start from scratch or even potentially retrain a puppy. You will miss some of the joys of the cute and adorable little pup, but you will also bypass many of the challenges of a brand new dog.
Regardless of the puppy you finally select, puppy ownership can be a great and rewarding experience for you, your family, and the puppy. Expect wonderful advances and frustrating set-backs as part of the process of older puppy training and ownership. With enough time, understanding, and patience, older puppy training does not have to be a burden.