Adopting a senior dog is something that every dog lover should do at least once in their lifetime.
I don’t say this only because of my fondness for those golden oldies, but because there is something life-changing in giving a senior dog a happily ever after.
I understand the reluctance to take on senior dogs, I really do, but the truth is that a senior dog is just a much less demanding creature overall.
Most adopters these days head to the shelters and rescues seeking out that brand new puppy. That adorable ball of fluff with razor sharp teeth who doesn’t know how to potty outside, who is guaranteed to chew up everything you value most, and who has no concept of time…particularly at 3 am.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore puppies as much as the next dog lover, but I find it amazing that so many potential adopters are willing to take on this challenge yet not even consider adopting an adult or senior dog.
“But I’ll only get a few years” I hear you say, “I just couldn’t take losing another one so soon”. Believe me, I “get that” too. But in the grand scheme of things do you have any guarantee that your new puppy will live for 12-16 years?
Life is unpredictable and yes, puppy breath is amazing, but I’m telling you, if you give a senior dog a chance, even if you get just six months with that frosted face, they will be the most amazing six months of your life.
So today, in an effort to encourage more of you to take the chance and open your home and heart to adopting a senior dog, I want to cover some of the most frequently asked questions that may be weighing heavily on your mind.
Answering the 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Adopting a Senior Dog
Q: Won’t adopting a senior dog cost me more in vet bills?
A: Not necessarily. If you know anything about Jet, you will know that from a very young age he was a million dollar pup. There wasn’t a single year that we did not experience a major medical incident with him. Adopting a senior dog doesn’t mean you are taking on a sickly dog and adopting a puppy doesn’t mean you are taking on a healthy dog. Life is full of unpredictabilities, that’s just the way it goes.
Q: Isn’t an adoptable senior dog a dog that someone has given up because they’re a handful?
A: Dogs wind up in rescues and shelters for all kinds of reasons. Owners die, financial situations change, people simply decide they no longer want a dog, and yes, some dogs do have behavioral problems that are often the result of poor training, lack of socialization, and too little exercise. If you want to get a better idea of the dog you are adopting, spend time with them prior to adoption, talk to their adoption counselors or foster families, and know what you are taking on.
Q: Doesn’t adopting a senior dog mean that I have to get a mixed breed?
A: Of course not! There are rescues all around the world that specialize in purebred dogs and plenty of animal shelters take in purebred owner surrenders every day. If you are looking for something specific in your adopted dog, spend the time to research dogs, talk to rescue organizations and shelters, and spend as long as it takes to find the right dog for you.
Q: Are there setbacks to adopting a senior dog?
A: There may be setbacks in adopting any dog. A three-year-old dog may develop a life-threatening illness six months after you adopt them just as a senior dog may. A new puppy may run in front of a car the same way that a senior dog may pass away from any illness. The point is, we are never guaranteed a full lifetime with our dogs and we can never presume to know what lies around the corner.
Is there a higher likelihood that you will get less time to spend with a senior dog than a puppy? Perhaps, but is that a good enough reason to miss out on some of the most amazing years of a dog’s life?
Q: Does adopting a senior dog mean adopting a dog with special needs?
A: This depends on the dog that you adopt! If you fall in love with a senior dog that has special needs. then yes, it means adopting a dog with special needs. If you fall in love with a senior dog that has no special needs, then no!
Q: Do I need to make changes to my household when adopting a senior dog?
A: Adopting a senior dog doesn’t have to mean making changes to your household, it depends on the dog that you choose! If your dog has arthritis, for example, putting down extra rugs can help them to maneuver more easily. If the dog you choose is in perfect health, you may not need to make any changes!
Adopting a senior dog is no different to adopting any other dog, really. Adopting a puppy means puppy-proofing your home, adopting an adult dog may mean protecting against counter-surfing…
Q: Won’t a senior dog just sleep all day?
A: Perhaps and perhaps not! Different dogs have different energy levels that are influenced by many different factors. One eighteen-year-old border collie may still be active in fieldwork while a twelve-year-old Jack Russell may sleep all day.
If you are looking for something specific in the dog you are going to adopt, spend time researching available dogs and getting to know their personalities. Just keep in mind that a shelter isn’t always the best place to get to know a new dog, it can cause confident dogs to be nervous, happy dogs to withdraw, and friendly dogs to growl.
If you really are concerned about “what you will get” from your newly adopted dog, talk to a local rescue that uses foster homes to acclimate their dogs to family life.
Q: Isn’t it harder for a senior dog to settle into a new home?
A: Dogs, like people, have individual personalities and quirks that can influence how quickly and how well they settle into a new home. It’s important to remember, though, that settling into a new home is difficult for everyone, human, and animal. It means new surroundings, new people, new routines, and nothing familiar at all. So be patient no matter how old your dog is, adjustment takes time.
Q: Doesn’t a senior dog require special food?
A: Not necessarily! Dogs require nutrition that is catered to their health conditions, weight and activity level, this doesn’t have to mean a “senior formula” food, in fact, it’s often better for a senior dog to eat a “regular” adult maintenance formula food!
Q: Isn’t adopting a senior dog bringing an unknown into the household?
A: When you adopt a senior dog from a rescue organization, the rescue spends time vetting their dogs and getting to know their personality. This helps to ensure that each of their dogs is placed with the perfect family for them.
While animal shelters have less time to get to know their dogs, they do put their dogs through testing procedures to determine their personality and their suitability for adoption.
Are there going to be other unknowns? Of course! Bringing any new living, breathing creature into your home means facing unknowns, but it also means experiencing untold joys.
Considering Taking the Plunge?
Adopting any new family member requires consideration and a LIFETIME of dedication, but if you’re up for the commitment, a senior dog can change your life.