Chapter 3
How To Know What Age Dog Is Best For You

Disadvantages and Risks in Adopting an Adult Dog

Poor Socialization and Fear Aggression. One risk of getting an adult dog instead of a puppy is an adult's socialization period has passed. If the dog was poorly socialized, it may be skittish, nervous or fearful.

Fear can translate to fear-aggression, which means a dog compensates for its fear by becoming aggressive. This results in a dog that might bite a person or another dog in some situations. Fear-aggression can be unpredictable, especially with an adult dog in unfamiliar surroundings. This can a particular concern for households with children. An otherwise mild-mannered dog may all of a sudden have its fear-aggression triggered resulting in a child being bitten.

Accurately evaluating an adult for fear aggression may not be possible before acquiring the dog. Dogs in shelters or other homes may not be exposed to the same stimuli they will experience in your home. Many dogs only have fear-aggression in response to a very specific event that triggers the reaction. A man with a beard and glasses wearing a hat who has a broom in his hand for instance. If dogs aren't exposed to the stimuli that results in the fear-aggression while undergoing evaluation, the new owners may never suspect the dog has fear-aggressive tendencies. This is one more reason why children should always be supervised when they are with a dog. Fear-aggression in adult dogs may be overcome with training, but a household with children is not the right place to do that training.

Separation Anxiety. Separation Anxiety is hatred of being left alone. Another way of putting it is the dog has abandonment issues. Separation anxiety can range from mild where the dog is depressed or anxious when left alone which can result in pacing or barking to an extreme reaction which can result in destructive behavior. This destructive behavior may include chewing on door or window frames, defecation or urination, or rarely attempting to pursue ‘their people’ by digging their way out of an enclosure or even by jumping through a window.

Desensitizing a dog with separation anxiety, especially in moderate to severe cases is a complex process that usually requires professional assistance. The typical dog trainer, even a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) rarely has the training required to be of much help unless they have advanced specialized training. If you have a dog with a significant case of separation anxiety you will most likely need a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (with either a CAAB or ACAAB designation) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVP).

Some Adult Dogs have Special Needs.
Special Emotional Needs - When you acquire a poorly-socialized adult dog, you'll need to invest time and probably money to hire a professional trainer to help with training and desensitizing the animal. While canine behavioral problems can often be resolved with patient, consistent training and desensitization, this frequently requires a significant investment of time. One-on-one dog training sessions with a professional trainer may cost anywhere from $50 to $100 or more per session depending on your location and the trainer.

Special Medical Needs - Some adult dogs have medical needs that require special care on either a short- or long-term basis. These needs may be relatively minor, the application of a cream to clear up a skin condition for example; or a dog may need specialized long-term medication or veterinary care, either of which could be expensive.

When adopting an adult dog, make sure you get whatever medical history that is available for the animal. If you adopt a dog with specialized medical needs, it is far better to do so after researching the expenses involved with treating the condition rather than receiving an expensive surprise after adopting the dog.