Choosing between a rescue dog and a puppy can be very difficult. On one hand, you might really want to care for a dog from the earliest stages all the way through adulthood. Where other people may recoil at the idea of a puppy chewing on a treasured pair of slippers, you might find an endearing, irreplaceable memory. Raising a puppy is often compared to bringing up a baby, not only in the amount of care required but also for the emotional power of the experience.
On the other hand, adopting a rescue dog will be appealing to those who want to bring a neglected dog into a loving home. There's no better feeling than doing what you can to improve the life of a loving dog who doesn't understand why she's been abandoned. Many people also want to find a purebred dog, which leads them to rescue groups as opposed to shelters (where most dogs are mixes). Choosing a rescue dog, like choosing any dog, is a process that requires you to carefully consider what kind of dog you can responsibly bring into your life at this time.
If you haven't already, take a little time to honestly examine your current life, making sure that you are in a position to add a dog to it and make your dog happy. For help on this, check out our article, "How To Decide Whether You're Ready for a New Dog."
If you determine that you're ready for a dog, and are trying to choose between a rescue dog and a puppy, the following may aid you in your reflection.
- Does the idea of an excitable, teething and urinating puppy sound unbearable to you? Would you laugh about the occasional accident or cry about it? If you look forward to the process of training a puppy and know that realistically some accidents will definitely happen, then go for the puppy. If you'd cry over the accidents, then consider a rescue dog instead of a puppy. Most rescue dogs are past puppy age, which means you won't have to worry about teething or housebreaking. But some dogs will be more mature in age and you end up asking yourself, 'Do I want a nine-month-old rambunctious adolescent or a five-year-old mature adult?' Not an easy choice!
- Does the idea of nurturing a neglected or abandoned dog fill your heart mainly with joy, or is there some reluctance lurking in there as well? Rescue groups should be able to talk to you about a rescue dog's past, including whether he was mistreated. A dog often becomes a rescue dog because the original owners didn't bother to consider whether they had the time and resources to own a dog. Other rescue dogs ended up in their current situation because an owner became too weak or ill to properly care for the pet. Many rescue dogs have lived happy, comfortable lives, but some are victims of abuse. Quite often a mistreated dog will need time and lots of love before he can give love in return. It takes some time for a dog to regain her trust in humanity. Are you ready for this commitment and the frustration it might initially entail?
- Do you have your heart set on a particular breed? If so, and if you are a little flexible about whether you have a rescue dog or puppy, then you won't ever have to settle for a sub-par breeder or rescue group. If you can't find a good breeder of the particular breed in mind, then try looking for rescue groups. You'll know a good breeder or rescue group by their attitude toward their dogs and toward you, the adopter. Rescue groups vary greatly in their approach, much like breeders. And as with breeders, you need to make sure that the rescue group takes proper care of its dogs if they are kenneled. Rescue dogs must be neutered or spayed and properly vaccinated. And unlike most shelters, rescue group should also be able to answer your breed questions and give you detailed descriptions of their dogs' histories, temperaments and inclinations.
- Do you have children or other pets? Some breeds at puppy age aren't ideal playmates for young, noisy children. But in maturity, these same breeds can be perfectly amiable and patient. However, other breeds get along much better with children if they are maturing through puppyhood right alongside the young kids. The same can be said of how some breeds interact with other pets. Listen to the information provided by your breeder or rescue group, and supplement that information with your own breed research. For information about dog breed characteristics, a good resource is the Dog Breed Information Center.