Savvy Blog

Reading With Patchen

“…as far as training goes, I have no idea why there’s that stupid saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ That’s simply untrue.”

When people begin looking for a family pet they often think that they need to get a puppy—an animal that can grow up in the family. Many people assume an adult rescue dog won’t bond well with new families or will be harder to train. But these are misconceptions.

Rather than talk in the abstract, let me tell you about Patchen.

We adopted Patchen as an adult dog when she was about three or four (as estimated by the wonderful folks at the animal shelter). On the practical side, her age came with many benefits. She wasn’t a puppy so her bladder was fully-developed, which made house-training easy as can be. Within two days she had that down and hasn’t had an accident since. She was over the puppy-stage of destroying the house, so we never had any problems there. She didn’t play bite or get too rough. Like a middle-aged human, she had a cultivated sense of calm. She knew how to have fun, but she didn’t need to tear down the house to do it.

From the day she came home with us she’s acted like family. And she seemed almost, well, grateful, to have steady meals and lots of love. She’d spent some hard days and lonely nights at the local animal shelter, and she was more than happy to adjust to her new home with a soft bed and warm floors. Ask any family who’s adopted an adult dog and they’ll probably tell you that these mature canines seem to have a certain awareness about where they’ve been and their good fortune in finding a forever home.

And as far as training goes, I have no idea why there’s that stupid saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That’s simply untrue. Patchen completed advanced obedience classes and even had a stint as a certified therapy dog back in the early 2000’s. Together we visited the local nursing home where she made many close friends. I’d like to believe she’s a special case, but there world is full of stories of adult rescue dogs who’ve gone on to do great things.

I’m not trying to say people shouldn’t adopt puppies. There are lots of great reasons to adopt puppies. But far too often adult dogs are overlooked because people think they won’t bond with their families. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Patchen didn’t come from a breeder or even a breed rescue. I have no idea what kind of dog she is other than awesome. And there are literally millions of dogs like her dying in shelters every year.

But did you know that every day somewhere around 2,000 homeless pets are killed in Arkansas alone? That’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? Around the nation millions, literally millions, of dogs are euthanized in shelters each year. Sure, some of these dogs are aggressive or sick. But most of them are great dogs, often adult dogs, that are looking for a good home.

After adopting Patchen, and our other wonderful dog Elsie, I spent sometime volunteering with the shelter. I saw, time and time again, wonderful dogs killed just because no one came to adopt them. It was heartbreaking. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

So, if your’re considering a pet for yourself or your family, please do some research and consider adopting a shelter pet, especially an adult dog. There are numerous rescue organizations all around central Arkansas who can help you find a best friend for your family.

Visiting is a great place to get started. You can type in your zip code, size of dog you are looking for, and they’ll help you narrow down your search.

Have you adopted a shelter dog? Tell us about your dog in the comments below! 

Patchen cooling off in the shade. 2011. Image by Saira Khan.



Meredith is the online editor of the Savvy Blog. She lives in Little Rock with her twin sons, dogs, cats, and husband.
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