We recently adopted a three year old English Mastiff, after the traumatic experience of having to put our first dog to sleep. Getting Otis was not what we planned – we thought for sure that we wanted a puppy, not an adult dog, and that there was no way we’d be able to bond appropriately with a dog that had previously belonged to someone else. The short of it? We are now realizing the many benefits to bringing an adult dog into our home.
For starters, an adult dog has presumably had training, and is past the chewing stage (apparently Otis’ chewing stage included eating a porch and tearing up a linoleum floor!). Adult dogs have generally been house trained, potty trained, and taught to walk on a leash. If you’re lucky, they also know their basic commands: sit, stay, beg, and so on. Also, adult dogs only have small bouts of excitement, whereas puppies have endless energy – and when you already have kids and cats, puppy energy just may be too much to handle…
Having made the decision to bring Otis into our home, we’ve come up with some pointers for people considering similar situations (i.e the adoption of an adult or large dog):
First: Research the breed (or if the dog is a mutt, research all the breeds). Obviously, all dogs are individuals, but most share common characteristics with other dogs of the same breed, including size, temperament, and health. Make sure that you are prepared to handle any issues that may come with large size, or floppy skin, or saggy eyes. Carefully consider the cost aspect as well – large dogs do eat more, and vet checks can get pricey, simply due to their massive size.
Second: When you are ready to adopt, meet your new buddy first, and make sure you bring the whole family. You need to be sure that the dog is going to get along with everyone in your household! For us, this included having Otis and our son meet and play, to make sure that Otis would be gentle with our little boy. If you can, adopt with a trial period (ours was one week). Although most humane societies do not have “trial adoptions,” many private individuals looking to re-home their dog are happy with the idea because it means that if the dog doesn’t fit in, he’ll be able to return to the original owners to try again (instead of ending up in the pound, like so many dogs do.
Third: When you’ve decided that you all get along, find yourself a vet. We luckily already had one established, so the search was not hard… If you are purchasing pet insurance (something we strongly advise, especially with such a large dog!), make sure that your vet accepts it. Check your vet’s references, how long they’ve been in business, and their reputation. Also, make sure to get as full of a medical history as possible for your new dog, including old receipts, tags, etc. – this information will be useful to the vet, and will help you establish when your dog needs vaccinations and regular check-ups.
Finally: Begin working immediately to train your dog, especially in regards to kids and cats. Otis came to us with “get the kitty” as one of his commands. Therefore, we’ve had to work hard to teach him “no kitty,” so that our cats have some peace of mind and aren’t constantly being terrorized by the new dog. After-all, this is their home too! When teaching the dog about children, be firm – don’t ever allow him to get to riled up, to take toys or food away, etc. The dog must learn that children are also the dominant being in the house — of course, this means teaching your child as well. Our son is learning to tell Otis “no” in a very firm voice, and it works very well. Also, it’s important to teach your children not to scream at the dog, pull its tail, and so on. Teach your kids to respect the dog and to be firm in their commands.
In the end, we’ve found that adopting Otis was a great choice! No puppy antics (as cute as they are, they can cost you a lot of money!), previous training (a basis from which we can work), and a large lovable lug in the deal. He’s great with our son, fits well with us, and is learning to leave the kitties alone, so we all can live in peace! Remember – research, meet, and adjust. Be firm, loving, and patient and you may find you have the best new buddy a family could possibly find!
If this article has you considering adopting an adult dog, great! There are many avenues for finding one, including petfinder.com, local advertising boards such as craigslist.com, visiting your local humane society, and your local newspaper. Check them out!