Adopting a Senior Dog
This article has been adapted from the Senior Dogs Project web site. For more information on Senior Dogs visit them at
"Blessed is the person who has
earned the love of an old dog."
- Sydney Jeanne Seward
Just about everyone who
enters a shelter is looking for a puppy or a young dog (three years or under).
There are also many people who go to breeders to buy puppies. By adopting an
older dog, we can make a statement about compassion and the value of all life
at all ages. And, of course, just as a puppy has his whole life ahead of him,
so does an older dog have the rest of his life in front of him. You can give
that older dog the best years of his life while at the same time bringing a
wonderful addition into your family. By setting the example of adopting a dog
that would be otherwise euthanized just because of his age, you can help create
the climate that will enable the humane treatment of all animals.
Older dogs lose their homes for many different reasons.... most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with those of the person surrendering the dog. Many folks think dogs who end up at shelters or in rescue are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for very expensive, well-bred dogs to outlive their usefulness or novelty with folks who bought them on impulse and no longer want to take responsibility for them.
Other reasons older dogs become homeless: death of a guardian.... not enough time for the dog... change in work schedule... new baby...need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed.... kids going off to college.... allergies.... change in "lifestyle".... prospective spouse doesn't like dogs.
Frequently, older dogs adapt quicker to your living environment and rules than puppies. Older dogs who are offered for adoption by shelters or rescue agencies generally have had some training, both in obedience and house manners. (Some dogs, due to the confusion and upset of being uprooted and finding themselves in a chaotic shelter environment, may temporarily forget their housetraining. Inevitably, once established in their new home, they remember.) Older dogs have learned what "no" means and how to leave the furniture, carpets, shoes, and other "chewables" alone. (If they hadn't learned that, they wouldn't have gotten to be "older" dogs.) They have been "socialized" and learned what it takes to be part of a "pack" and to get along with humans and, in most cases, other dogs, and in some other cases, cats, as well. Dogs can be trained at any age. The old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," just isn't true.
Older dogs, especially those who have once known it, appreciate love and attention and quickly learn what's expected of them to gain and keep that love and attention.
Older dogs know how to let you finish the newspaper, sitting calmly next to you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers. They are also instant companions, ready for hiking, riding in the car, walking on leash, fetching, etc.
Also, older dogs are a "known commodity." They are easy to assess for behavior and temperament, and you also don't have to guess at how big they'll grow.
Often times people are
concerned about adopting an older dog for health reasons. With a health
assessment of the dog, you will know whether any age-related conditions are
present and you can take appropriate measures to address them. Otherwise, older
dogs need all the things younger dogs do -- good nutrition, exercise (although
less intensive, usually, than for a younger dog), and regular visits to the
vet. Veterinary attention and medication are needed at all ages and may or may
not be more costly for an older dog. Before you adopt a senior, be sure you get
a health report from a veterinarian. That way, if you discover that the dog has
a health problem, you can decide if you are able to make the needed financial
Senior dogs can make a wonderful companion for many people. Senior people often find senior dogs to be a great match. A calm, slower paced dog fits their lifestyle. While puppy energy and cuteness make them appear more adoptable, older dogs make a better adoption choice in many cases. Puppies require a lot of attention, training, and exercise. For many people a well-trained, well-adjusted, senior dog is much more practical. Giving a home to a senior dog can bring you and a deserving dog much joy.