Deciding whether to get a younger or older pet depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and what you’re looking for in a pet. There is no doubt that puppies and kittens are cute but they can also come with a lot of work. Older pets may be more suitable for your lifestyle and may also be overlooked for their younger and cuter companions.
Dog behaviourist, Suzi Walsh, has set out some factors to consider when thinking about getting a Golden Oldie or a Young Pup (or kitten!):
- Energy Levels: The energy level and needs of a younger pet are typically much higher than that of an older pet. For dogs in particular, older pets are likely to need less exercise but breed will also be a factor in conjunction with age in terms of energy levels. It is key to consider the compatibility of the pets energy levels with your own.
- Training & Socialisation: Whilst training and socialisation may be necessary at any age, young puppies or kittens are more likely to need more social experiences and training or guidance on how to live in a home environment. Older dogs may already have some training such as being house-trained, crate-trained and/or lead trained depending on their circumstances.
- Established Characters: The personality of older pets is more developed and you can have a better understanding of what their temperament is like as an adult which is not so obvious in a young animal and still developing. In this sense, it may be easier to determine if an older pet’s personality is a good fit for your family.
- Health: Younger pets can be more prone to accidents as they learn and experiment while older pets may come with a known health history, which can be an advantage if you prefer a more predictable health situation. However, accidents may happen at any time and illnesses can obviously develop with age or at any time in a pet’s life, so age is unfortunately no guarantee of health.
- The Sad Part: Often one factor that people consider when getting a pet is the idea that taking on an older pet comes with the sadness of losing that pet sooner. Whilst there is no doubt that an older pet is likely to cross rainbow bridge sooner than a puppy or kitten, you are also potentially giving that older pet some of its best days in their twilight years and sending them across rainbow bridge surrounded by a loving family.
In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should get a young pet or a golden oldie. It depends on your personal circumstances, preferences, lifestyle, and what you’re looking for in a companion.
If you’re unsure, you may want to consult with a local animal shelter or rescue organisation for guidance, as they can help match you with a pet that best suits your needs and circumstances.
Suzi Walsh is an expert dog behaviourist and trainer with an Honours Degree in Zoology and Masters in Applied Animal Welfare and Behaviour. Suzi has worked professionally as a dog behaviour consultant for the past 16 years. She is a founding member of the Irish Veterinary Behaviour Association and is passionate about improving the lives of dogs in Ireland. As well as working with dogs who have behavioural problems Suzi also teaches puppy classes and gives workshops, courses and seminars to pet parents and other professionals in the industry as well as working as an expert assessor when things go wrong. Suzi has previously worked for Dogs Trust Ireland and with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind as a supervisor and has also worked with the veterinary department of Dublin Zoo on a nutritional research project for captive wild animals.