Senior Dogs—Aren’t They Just “Has Beens” or, Why Should I Consider Adopting a Senior Dog When I think i Want a Puppy?
We decided to search the web and ask others for their opinion on adopting a senior dog. You might be surprised and what we learned. Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions about adopting a senior dog.
1. When we say “senior” what exactly do we mean?
Answer: Veterinarians say that dogs start to fall into the category of "senior" around the age of 7. But, it depends on size. The smaller the dog, the later in life the dog becomes a senior. Regardless, a dog in a rescue or shelter can be as young as 5 and still have trouble finding a new home. Technically speaking, many dogs who aren't "seniors" in the veterinary sense of the term, are considered by prospective adopters to be are already "over the hill." Of course, that isn't true. Dogs, when well cared for and given appropriate exercise, remain happy, active, playful and puppy-like well into their senior years.
2. Won't I be adopting someone else's problems? If the dog were so wonderful, why wouldn't they have kept him?
Answer: 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 or family surrendering the dog. Many folks think dogs who end up in rescue are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for very expensive, well-bred, well-trained dogs to outlive their usefulness or novelty with people who bought them on impulse and no longer want to take responsibility for them.
Other reasons older dogs become homeless: death of their owner....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. (All these reasons are taken from real case histories.)
3. What advantages do older dogs have over puppies or young dogs?
Answer: Older dogs who are offered for adoption by rescues 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. 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. Finally, older dogs are a "known commodity." They are easy to assess for size and temperament, and you also don't have to guess how big they'll grow or whether they'll turn out to have serious behavior problems.
4. Aside from any advantages an older dog has, is there any good reason to adopt an older dog instead of a puppy, who has his whole life ahead of him?
Answer: Just about everyone who enters a shelter or contacts a rescue is looking for a puppy or a young dog (generally a year old or under). There are also many people who buy puppies from breeders or puppy mills (especially online). By adopting an older dog, we can make a , as well as register a protest against the indiscriminate and inhumane breeding of dogs, whether it is for profit or to "teach the children about birth." 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.
5. Don't older dogs cost more in vet bills?
Answer: 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 commitment before making an emotional commitment.
6. Do older dogs have any "special needs"?
Answer: 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.
7. Isn't it true that you can't train an older dog the way you can train a puppy?
Answer: Dogs can be trained at any age. The old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," just isn't true. Take the case study of a dog named "Autumn," who was called "Stupid" by her family for the first ten years of her life. She was adopted at the age of 10 by a caring person and at age 14 was winning awards for being first in her obedience class.
8. How long will it take for an older dog to settle into a routine with me?
Answer: Each dog is an individual and comes with a unique set of experiences and from varying circumstances, so it is hard to predict how long a specific dog will require to make an adjustment. If a dog has been in a shelter or kennel, the stresses of such an experience may cause him to be confused and disoriented for quite some time. Some dogs forget or are confused about their housetraining. With care, patience, and a kind, understanding, loving attitude, just about any dog will come around after a while. It may be a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. In our own experience, we've had dogs who are right "at home" as soon as they walk in the door and others who have needed a couple of weeks to make a basic adjustment, and then became more and more "at home" over the course of several months.
9. Is there anything special I will need to do during the dog's "adjustment" period?
Answer: Again, this will depend on the individual dog. In general, with a dog of any age, it is a good idea to set aside a period of several weeks during which you can spend more time than usual in reassuring the dog, establishing good communication with the dog, and creating the special bond that will ensure a good future together.
Senior dogs need homes just as badly as younger dogs, and make loving and loyal companions. There are great reasons to consider an older dog when you’re ready to adopt.