Reasons to Adopt a Senior Dog
Senior dog adoption is an attractive option when you're looking for your next pal because of the benefits that come with it. It'd be great to see more pet parents giving senior dogs a forever home. When you're considering your next canine companion, there are several reasons why you should look for senior dogs rather than rambunctious puppies. Sure, puppies are very cute, very fun and are likely to be around many years longer than a senior. There's no denying the great adventures that come with bringing home a puppy. However, older dogs have their own special characteristics to offer, and they should not be overlooked.
One of the greatest attributes of older dogs is that they have already grown into themselves physically and mentally. Although there might be some changes in behavior seen at a shelter, most older dogs are going to be accurately assessed and you know exactly what kind of dog you're adopting. You'll know if he likes cats, does well with children, prefers to be alone sometimes, how much activity he needs, and more. One of the main reasons puppies and young dogs are returned to shelters is because their owners didn't understand exactly what they were getting into. By adopting an older dog, you have a good idea of the pet you're lucky enough to bring home.
Most older dogs are already trained or need very little training to get on the right track in their new homes. Most senior dogs have already lived in another home and have found themselves in a shelter due to various reasons. Unfortunately, many people do not have the resources to find new homes for their older dogs as they make cross-country moves, for example, and many senior dogs end up in shelters. However, these dogs usually have some training behind them already and just need to adjust to the rhythms of your household.
For instance, many are housebroken, walk nicely on a leash, and don't steal food or counter surf. Senior dogs are usually pretty well socialized, too. While they will still have an adjustment period when they arrive at your home for the first few weeks or so, most of the hard work is over and done. The time needed to adjust to an older dog is much shorter than to a puppy. Remember, puppies will need training for everything, as well as general care that doesn't apply to seniors. They have zero manners, they need potty training, they will teethe and need proper toys to chew on, and they just need a basic understanding of how to share a home with their new human family.
Because older dogs often are already trained and fit for home life, they tend to be great dogs to adopt for pet parents that have never had a dog before. You can start with basic training, for the skills he might not already possess, but the amount won't be as rigorous as it is with puppies. Adopting a senior dog helps you ease into pet parenthood without all of the overwhelming care and attention that a puppy needs.
Adopting a senior dog does not get you out of exercise; all dogs need physical activity. Exercise keeps their bodies and minds healthy and limits a lot of undesirable behavior that is brought about by under-stimulation. That said, older dogs need much less exercise than puppies and young dogs. Puppies are always go, go, go, even when it's not playtime! Many pet parents have to crate their puppies when they aren't home so the little guys stay out of trouble. (And crate training your puppy is yet another skill to teach him, too!)
But this definitely doesn't mean that senior dogs don't have fun! Most senior dogs love activity. In fact, many are surprisingly active and agile in their mature age; they just don't need quite as much exercise. A walk a day, a game of fetch with their favorite toy, or a quick swim is often enough to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. PetMD advises playtime may have to be shorter as mature dogs may not have the stamina they once had.
Senior dogs want to be with their people, and they are content to settle in their favorite spot in the house as they are to be outside in the sunshine. Because they don't demand as much attention and care from their human family as puppies do, senior dogs are an excellent choice for someone who is a little more laid back and looking for a cuddle buddy on the couch. Adopting an older dog gives pet parents exactly the energy level they are looking for in a furry friend.
It might seem like a senior dog will need more veterinary care than a puppy or young dog, but this is actually not the case. Unless you're specifically looking to bring home a dog with special needs, most senior dogs in shelters are healthy and just need somewhere to call home. They are already spayed or neutered, they are up to date on their vaccinations, and they are less susceptible to the many diseases that pose a danger to puppies. Puppies need several sets of vaccinations to avoid infections and diseases, which senior dogs are very unlikely to contract, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. A senior dog is grown, established, and ready to find a home he can stay at forever.
If you're considering adopting an older dog, make sure to also consider what you're going to feed him. Mature dogs require different nutritional requirements than their younger friends. For this reason, picking up a generic bag of dog food at your local grocery store might not be the best fit.
You should look for a food that is formulated specifically to meet the needs of your aging dog; including brain function, energy and vitality, immune and digestive system, and coat support. Consider a food like Hill's® Science Diet® Youthful Vitality dog food, specially formulated with the needs of mature and senior dogs in mind to help support their ongoing vitality through increased activity, interaction and mobility.
Not sure if your dog is considered a senior yet? Use this helpful tool to determine how old your dog is human years.
Senior dog adoption gives you the opportunity to choose the personality that fits perfectly with your lifestyle. Not only are there enormous benefits to bringing home a senior dog, you can feel great about giving him a forever home in his golden years.
Katie Finlay is a Los Angeles, CA based dog trainer and writer. She has been working with dogs and their owners both in person and through her articles for over six years.