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Should I Get A Puppy Or A Dog? 6 Major Differences Between The Two

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Should I get a puppy or a dog?

After having both at the same time we quickly found out that there are major differences between training a puppy vs dog.

It has been many moons since we last fostered an older dog.

That all changed 9 months ago when we brought home a Golden Retriever not so aptly named Raven (she’s an English Creme Golden Retriever almost white in color).

Puppy vs Dog
Should I get a puppy or a dog? 6 Major Differences Between The Two

A short 2 weeks after Raven entered our home we picked up our 8 week old service dog puppy in training, Archer.

We had both an untrained adult dog and puppy for the first time, simultaneously!

We quickly found out that there are some major differences between training a puppy vs dog.

Should I Get A Puppy Or A Dog? 6 Major Differences Between The Two

Quick Recommendation: If you’re planning on getting a new puppy or dog we recommend getting a good book on training like Puppies for Dummies which we read several times before bringing home our first puppy, Linus.

If you’re trying to choose between a dog and a puppy then some of these factors may be the difference-maker when trying to decide between the two.

#1 History

Many people who are interested in bringing home a puppy are doing so because they want a pet with a known history.

If you get your puppy through a breeder (even sometimes from a rescue organization) you can oftentimes meet both parents and siblings as well as find out the lineage of your puppy.

  • Archer: We got to meet Archer’s mama and papa as well as all of his siblings.  We also had the opportunity to temperament test a select group of puppies from his litter.
  • Raven: We knew she grew up in a kennel and wasn’t socialized, but we mainly learned on the job with Raven. She was terrified of the crate. She wasn’t potty trained. She didn’t know basic obedience. Her house manners weren’t so great as she tried to get on the couch and bed. She had some behavior issues including jumping up and getting mouthy with people.

Winner: PUPPY.  Ideally, I think we’d all like to know the history of our pets.

We were lucky and it wasn’t too difficult to teach Raven and introduce her to things like her crate.

However, we are still working to socialize her and build her confidence in areas as basic as our neighborhood walks.

UPDATE: It’s been 4 years since I originally wrote this article. Archer is a working Service Dog in Seattle, WA. Raven lives with us and is now a well-behaved wonderful family dog.

#2 Bladder Control

An 8-week-old puppy doesn’t have the greatest bladder control.

If you brought home a puppy recently then you may have already experienced your puppy going potty outside then coming inside and going potty again.

Yep, puppies have smaller bladders than adult dogs.

  • Archer:  As I mentioned puppies will sometimes get their business done outside and then have a pee accident inside and Archer was no different.  While we have gotten pretty good at detecting when a puppy has to potty by watching for signs like circling, sniffing, etc we are still not 100%.  I feel like sometimes Archer didn’t know he had to pee until after he started peeing.  Ahhh…the joys of raising a puppy 🙂
  • Raven: When Raven came to the house she had great bladder control her problem was she didn’t know she was supposed to potty outside.  Because she had better bladder control than a puppy we gave her more freedom. She is potty trained now, but if we had treated her like a puppy (limited freedom, watching her 100% of the time) I have no doubt she would have had zero accidents in the house and she probably would have been house trained within a couple of weeks time or possibly less.

Winner: DOG. While I haven’t potty trained many older dogs the fact that they can physically hold it longer than a puppy is a huge plus.

#3 Immune System

Puppies don’t have a fully developed immune system and this makes them vulnerable to sickness and disease.

The rule of thumb is to be more cautious with your puppy until they are fully vaccinated (around 16-20 weeks of age if you’re following a standard vaccination schedule).

When our puppies are not fully vaccinated we generally avoid areas frequented by unknown dogs like parks (especially dog parks), and pet stores, and we’re extra careful at the vet’s office.

  • Archer: Lucky for us Archer is being raised as a service dog so there are plenty of places for him to socialize where dogs don’t regularly frequent like grocery stores, shopping malls, book stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and most places the general public can go.
  • Raven: As an adult dog we weren’t worried about Raven’s immune system when taking her out.  Her biggest issue was anxiety which we attribute to factor #1: History.

Winner: DOG. Sadly, we’ve experienced puppy Parvo outbreaks firsthand. It’s not fun.

Dog vs Puppy
Puppy vs Dog…Archer vs Raven…Who’s going to win this battle?

#4 Size

One of the things I do when I first bring home a puppy or dog is given a bath.

Let me tell you it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to bathe a 10-pound puppy compared to a 70-pound dog

Yeah, I’m sure this is not much of a factor if you have a 3 lb Yorkie and it grows to 8 lbs, but when it comes to most of the dogs we’ve raised size matters.

Dogs compared to puppies take longer to bathe, they eat more food, have bigger poops, shed more fur, and can be more difficult to control.

When training it’s much easier to manage a jumping, pulling puppy than it is to manage a jumping, pulling dog.

The list goes on and on. SIZE MATTERS!

  • Archer: If I recall correctly he weighed in at 8 lbs. His bath was a joy!  If he pulled on leash my arm remained in the socket 🙂 I could carry him around like I was Paris Hilton.
  • Raven: She came to us as a full-grown Golden Retriever and a healthy 70 lbs. Her first bath took at least an hour. She had very little training so in the beginning, when she pulled on leash it was not fun.  When she jumped up on us we were nearly nose to nose.

Winner: PUPPY. When raising and training smaller size makes life easier.

UPDATE: One point I failed to mention is you do not know how large a puppy will actually be when fully grown. Our puppy, Charlie only grew to be 55 pounds. Mom was 75 pounds and Dad was 90 pounds. On the other hand, if you bring home an adult dog then he is already fully grown. I’ll still give the slight edge to the puppy, but the gap narrows.

#5 Cuteness

Cuteness is a puppy’s saving grace.

After he eats your favorite pair of sneakers, whines all night in his crate, and pees on the carpet he still has those adorable puppy eyes…all is forgiven.

How can you look at a puppy pic without saying: “awwww….”?

Yep, puppies are definitely cute!

  • Archer: Just look at the pics!  Nuff said…
  • Raven: She’s definitely cute, but I’ll bet you a million dollars that the 8-week-old puppy version of Raven was the definition of cuteness.

Winner: PUPPY.  Puppy = Cute

#6 Teeth

Little tiny vampire teeth! They’re like daggers!

Rarely do I get a puppy and not come away with a few battle scars on my hands, arms…sometimes legs, and feet, but not too worry your puppy’s adult teeth will come in at around 5 months.

Until then you’ll probably want to work on controlling any mouthy puppy behavior.

  • Archer: We were lucky with Archer he was more of a nibbler.  However, every other Lab puppy we brought home was mouthy, mouthy, and mouthy.
  • Raven: She was mouthy when she first arrived, but lucky for us she didn’t have the tiny dagger teeth otherwise we’d definitely have some battle wounds.

Winner: DOG.  If you have a puppy then you know what I’m talking about.

Guess what?

After tallying the score it’s a 3-3 tie in our little competition between Puppy vs Dog.

No, I did not plan it this way.

I guess that’s why in sports they have a 7 game series, not 6.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a 7th factor.  Maybe that’s something you can add in the comment section below.

Have you raised and trained both a puppy and a dog?

What differences have you noticed between Puppy vs Dog?

Add the seventh factor and help us break this tie.

Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you decide a puppy is right for you then we highly recommend the Calmeroos Puppy Toy with heartbeat and heat pack. It will help your puppy get used to his first few nights in his new home.

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Puppy vs Dog
Puppy vs Dog. Archer vs Raven. Who’s the winner? You decide.

This article was originally published on April 29, 2016.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Beef Collagen Sticks - All of our pups love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Collagen Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. Raven was still pretty young when we brought her home. She was 1 1/2 years old. I would not recommend bringing home an untrained dog and puppy at the same time. Raising a dog and puppy at the same time requires a lot of time and patience. We were lucky that Archer and Raven were quick learners and the two got along very well.

  2. How old was raven when you first brought her home? I am debating if I can handle the same scenario ( 6yo adult dog untrained and 9 wk old puppy both in need of training) because I am a first time dog parent .

  3. Totally agree! Raven was an adult when she joined the family. She didn’t have much training wise, but she definitely picked up on things like crate training, potty training, and basic obedience much faster than any puppy I’ve raised.

  4. This is very true and a good reason for keeping training sessions short. I remember when I first started working with puppies I was told to work on training in between commercials while watching my favorite TV shows which was usually around 2-3 minutes. I guess nowadays you don’t have to sit through commercials, but 2-3 minutes is usually a good amount of time when training a puppy. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. Puppies are so cute and cuddly, it’s hard to resist taking one home but they can be quite challenging. I’ve had some great dogs who joined our family as an adult…I would encourage anyone to consider an adult dog, especially if you’re interested in a rescue.

  6. For me, the 7th factor is the attention span. Trying to train a puppy is like letting 1 piece of confetti fly in the wind. Chances are, it won’t land where you want it.

    A adult dog is able to focus on what you are saying, and as they start to understand what you want, they will try to get it right. Breaking something down into manageable bits helps a lot.

    A puppy has an attention span of a couple seconds. You might get them to ‘Sit’ one time, but then they have lost interest and are off exploring.

  7. When we get new service dog puppies we keep them on leash and manage their behavior nearly 100% of the time when they first get home. Doing this helps put our older dogs at ease when the puppy is around because we didn’t allow the puppy to jump all over the older dogs.

  8. Love this post! My dog loves his attention, so it would be a big change for him if we brought a new puppy into the home. Is there any good ideas you could suggest that could help the process be less drastic?

  9. Yes, we love our seniors. Unfortunately we said goodbye to Stetson a few months ago. You can always check out the local shelter or rescue. Unfortunately, they usually have plenty of senior dogs available. I’m sure they have one that would fit your lifestyle.

  10. We are older and hv had many animals through the years. We would like to adopt a small Senior dog whose owner can no longer care for him/her. They are usually potty trained and need daily walks which will giv us exercise also.

  11. Unfortunately, we don’t have cats at home because my wife is allergic, but we always socialize our service dog puppies with cats and other animals.

  12. How about getting along with other family pets? We have an older cat who tends to just avoid our fosters. The puppies are curious, but I find it easier to socialize them with the cat. We just had an adult dog who attacked our cat. She apparently was cat friendly when we got her, but not so.

  13. I’d say it’s probably easier to train a puppy than it is to (un)train a dog with bad habits. One thing I’ll say about Raven (adult dog) vs Archer (puppy) is Raven can focus better than Archer.

  14. We were lucky with Archer as he never really had a bad teething phase, but every other dog probably drew blood at least once. Those tiny little daggers can be painful. Yep, it’s always nice to visit the puppies, but not always so fun to raise them. The good news is it gives me a chance to take some cute pics 🙂

  15. We love the challenge of a puppy, but also enjoy raising and training adult dogs as well. We’ve adopted and fostered and each dog can really be a mystery. It sound like you’ve hit the spectrum of dogs and puppies. I think it’s great to have all of the experiences puppy and dog.

  16. How about for #7: Training. Do you think it’s easier to train a puppy rather than train a dog (or untrain a bad behavior and retrain the good one)?

  17. Oh I love this so much, especially the last part about teething. Oh my goodness Laika was the worse when it came to teething, I don’t know if I ever want to go through that phase again.

    I think any future dogs of mine will be adults, and I’ll stick to admiring cute puppies from afar 🙂

  18. Since I have terriers, puppy size works against me! I’ve stepped on my poor, wiggly, ninja-fast puppy so many times! I’m sure I’d feel different if I had large breeds. I love that I can pick my dogs up and walk them over if there is broken glass on the sidewalk.

    I’ve raiser 2 adult dogs and am now a month in to my first puppy. My first adult dog was breeze. I think it took literally one hour to crate train him, and from there potty training was just a matter of course. We enjoyed two obedience classes back-to-back and he easily got to an off-lead heel. He was basically the best dog in the world for the first-time owner I was.
    My 2nd adult dog was/is a complete nightmare. Fear aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety so bad he’d scream and actually injure himself when crated. I had to give up on crate training it was so bad. He was the “problem dog” in training class. The one that screamed and lunged the whole time. But on the last day of that class we all took tests and he literally received the highest score in the class and got a trophy! So our hard work and effort paid off and that was satisfying in a way that training my mild-mannered dog wasn’t.
    The new puppy is somewhere in the middle. All in all, I’m really glad to have the “puppy experience” for all the reasons you mentioned (I know the guy who owns his parents!) but I think my next dog will be another adult.

  19. Yeah, don’t ask me why we keep raising puppies. I guess we like to torture ourselves. At least they’re cute.

  20. We took our time with Raven and crate training. She wouldn’t even put her head inside to eat her food, but luckily she adapted quickly. We’ve had a few fosters that were afraid of the crate. We took it slowly, but we never had them long enough to finish training. We’ve had a pretty wide spectrum when crate training puppies. Archer was probably the easiest and was pretty much at ease even on his first night. Stetson was on the other side of the spectrum and took about a month before he was comfortable in his crate.

  21. I got all of my current dogs as adults. You just reminded me why. I don’t think i could ever do puppy again. Thank goodness for puppy cams.

  22. I thought kennel training was much easier with a little puppy than some of the adult dogs I’ve fostered. I don’t know why. I guess because my puppy is so little and adaptable. Some of the adult dogs seemed afraid of the kennel and would panic when placed inside. Then, they would bark much louder and could do damage to the kennel or even break out. A puppy … just some crying for a few days and then he was used to it.

    On the other hand, some adult dogs in need of fostering/adoption are ALREADY kennel trained. That’s a huge plus. My dog Ace was kennel trained when I got him. Very helpful.

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