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Building a Bond: Age Ain't Nothing But a Number

By: Aaron Hill, Owner of Pets in the City
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For my 12th birthday, my parents gave me an eight-week-old black Labrador Retriever whom I named Licorice.

Licorice and I spent the next 13 years growing up together.  He was there for many of life’s milestones; getting my driver’s license, going off to college, meeting my wife and many more along the way.  Losing Licorice was one of the most painful times in my young life and I was certain that I would never have that kind of bond with another dog again.  For starters, I didn’t have the time to raise a puppy from birth like I did with Licorice.  The prevailing wisdom at the time was that adopting an older dog would deprive me of forming that special kind of connection that can only come from being with a puppy from it’s first weeks through adulthood.  While I will concede that raising a dog does have it’s own unique attributes that are truly wonderful, adopting an older dog is just as rewarding.

With many more years of experience under my belt, I have discovered that there are no age limits to forming a loving bond with an animal.

I have been a professional animal trainer with my own business for nearly 10 years and worked with over a thousand dogs of all shapes, sizes, temperaments and most importantly, ages.  In that time, my wife and I have been blessed with four hounds of our own, whom we adopted from shelters and other owners who were forced to give up their pets.  Only one of our furry kids was under the age of two when we adopted him and contrary to what I thought when Licorice passed away, my bond with my dogs now is as strong if not stronger than anything I could imagine.  How can this be when some of my dogs had full lives with other people before I even knew them?  The key has been to form a mutual level of trust and respect with my dogs.  This happens the moment you meet them, whether it’s at a shelter or a doggie adoption event, dogs will look to make a connection with someone that can provide them with all the things they need.  When you adopt a dog, you provide their meals, their shelter, their safety and security which all help your new pet feel close to you.

Once your pet is home, working with them on a daily basis to further solidify that initial bond you shared is paramount.

Training your dog in basic obedience is an excellent way to form a long-term bond with your pet.  It’s important for your dog to know what you expect from him in all situations and vice versa.  This is best accomplished by creating a healthy, consistent and positive training program with your dog where he is rewarded for good behavior.  By doing so, your dog will look to you for direction when faced with new or challenging situations.  A well-trained dog is a happy dog and one that will be uniquely connected to his human companion regardless of age. 

With estimates ranging as high as eight million dogs and cats entering US shelters each year, it’s vital to adopt these animals and give them a second chance at finding their forever home.  And while it may be tempting to adopt the youngest of puppies, it’s important to remember that dogs of all ages can form just as strong a bond with you as their younger counterparts.

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Aaron Hill is one of many experts associated with Voyce. This blog post is one example of the thousands of articles composed by these experts that are featured in the Voyce Experience Member Portal, which is tailored to your dog. To get Voyce, click here!