Should you get a Puppy or adult?
Should you get him or her from a breeder or rescue situation?
Advantages of getting a Puppy To Become Your Service Dog
- You’ll be able to control almost every aspect of your dog’s life
- No surprises like hidden baggage
- No other surprises from your dog’s history (Health issues, temperament issues)
Things to Consider about getting a Puppy to become your Service Dog
- You must have the physical and emotional energy for a puppy
- The puppy will need to be house trained in the beginning
- The puppy will need to be intensely socialized during its first several months of its life
- You’ll have to be prepared to deal with Puppy stuff, such as puppy chewing, puppy mischief, and puppy energy
Advantages to getting a [Service] Dog that is already an Adult
If you acquire your service dog after he is already an adult, he will be already done with the ‘puppy stuff’ phase. He will be done with trying to chew on your shoes and he will be done accidentally peeing if someone rings the door bell. He will likely be house trained, too.
- He may already have some obedience training
- He may be already used to people, crowds, or loud and distracting environments
Disadvantages of getting a [Service] Dog that is already an Adult
Considering the lifespan of a typical Service Dog (Service Dogs usually retire at 8-10 years old) it is best to start with one no older than 2 years old.
- There may have been some negative experiences in a dog’s life that would be difficult for him to ‘get over.’ You may or may not be made aware of these issues. If there are issues and you discover them at a later time, they may be hard to work through or they may even prove impossible to re-train. This may possibly leave you feeling a bit stuck.
Getting Your [Service] Dog from a Breeder
You can get a pedigree
The good thing about breeders is that they can show you the ancestral history of your dog and provide you with a pedigree for him (to show you that the dog is a purebred and where he came from, so to speak).
This can give you information about both the personality and genetic characteristics of your dog. You can look at the genetic characteristics of your dogs history and determine if there are any problems you can anticipate. Knowing this, you can have some confidence that your dog will not develop certain genetic diseases that are not part of his breed.
Clues About The Dogs Personality
Even the personality of your dog can be an inherited thing. So you can look at your dogs history for clues. If there are a lot of Service Dogs or Therapy Dogs or Guide Dogs in your dog’s family, then it may be likely your dog could also be a good candidate for you or someone else.
If you Need the Service Dog for Balance or Stability
- If you need a Service Dog for balance or stability, then it is imperative that you do not end up with a dog that is genetically prone to joint problems. A breeder can help to ensure this doesn’t happen. Genetic testing is super important in this regard.
- Dogs coming from breeders are typically much more expensive up-front. Considering the long run, however, it may be a better deal; rather than having to pay for your dog’s hip replacement surgery as the result of inheriting bad hips, for example
- It is sometimes difficult to find adult dogs from breeders, as many breeders deal only with puppies
Getting Your [Service] Dog from a Rescue Situation
- Obtaining your dog from a rescue situation is typically the least expensive, as the dog usually already has had most of his basic vet needs taken care of as well as being fixed
- The personality, behaviour, and genetic information, though, is almost always unknown, so this leaves a big risk in the situation. There is a risk here of emotional baggage and it may be impossible for the dog to overcome his issues.
- Rescue dogs are often extremely grateful after they are welcomed into their new family. They often form strong bonds with their people. You just have to make sure this is a healthy bond and not separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is unfortunately quite common in rescue situations.
For the Best Chances of Success in Choosing Where to Get Your [Service] Dog
There are two options for maximizing your success
1. Select a puppy that has a mother with the right temperament for service dog work
The mother dog does not necessarily have to be a Service Dog. She could also be a therapy dog or be very laid-back in her temperament. Dogs from competition obedience lines are also good options. (Dog show breeders have also started to breed for temperament, too). The best way to find a puppy whose mom has a good temperament is through a breeder. The breeder can provide you with a thorough and extensive family history.
2. Select an adult dog from a stable home environment with the right temperament
How can you do that? There are several options:
- Look for a retired show dog – some genetic history or confidence will be available. At the very least, show dogs have been trained by expert dog handlers and are usually well-socialized and trained
- Look for a dog that was returned to a breeder (the breeder will be able to show you the pedigree and family history & genetic information)
- Look for a rescue dog that has been in foster care for a long time; i.e. long enough to relax so that you are able to see his true personality and not a nervous or anxious version of himself
- A dog who has lived in a stable home environment for a long period of time
Consider the Costs of Each Option
- It may seem daunting to consider all of these different options for obtaining a potential dog to become a Service Dog. Getting a dog from a breeder can be expensive. Getting a rescue dog is less expensive.
- The thing to realize is that the upfront cost of the dog is actually quite insignificant when you consider the lifetime cost of your dog. If you pay more upfront for a dog from a breeder, you will likely spend less later at the vet.
- Similarly, if you spend less up front for a rescue dog, you may likely end up paying more later on for costs associated with veterinary costs or behavioural or emotional training or re-training. So try not to get too caught up in worrying about the initial cost, since most Service Dogs work until they are roughly 10 years old.