Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog

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Not everyone who wants a dog considers adopting a senior dog. Or even an adult dog.

But as someone who has adopted both an adult dog and puppies, let me tell you this: life is a lot easier when you adopt an older dog.

Adopting an older dog

Whether the dog is legit a senior dog or just an adult, there will be so many more pros than cons. For example, no housetraining–assuming the dog comes to you already potty trained. 

But if the dog does need to be house trained or just a refresher course, you’ll learn something important. That is, the old adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, is really wrong.

When we adopted our dog Oscar, he was a full-on adult dog at age four. Oscar never learned any commands. Also, Oscar never learned to walk on a leash.

However, after just a few days of consistent work with him, not only did he learn to sit and stay but also he learned how to walk on a leash.

TV personality Jill Rappaport agrees about senior dog adoption.

Questions when adopting a senior dog

If you’re committed to adopting a senior dog, you’ll definitely want to do your homework. Be sure to ask the rescue or shelter lots of questions before signing on the dotted line.

For example, like older humans, sometimes senior dogs develop certain medical conditions. Therefore, they may need regular prescriptions of treatments. 

Do you have the budget to afford this? And do you have the time and willingness to devote to make sure they get the medicines they need?

Other questions to ask or considerations to make

How well does this dog get along with other dogs (if you already have other pets)?

Will the dog function well in my existing home? For example, if the dog has mobility issues and you live in a house with hardwood floors, you may need to invest in rugs to help with gripping. Are you willing to do this?

What do you need to know about the dog’s health and behavioral history?

When is a dog an adult

There are a couple of ways to determine when your dog is really an adult. One, there is sexual maturity. And, two, there is chronological age.

With regards to sexual maturity, some dogs reach this by as young as six months. Personally, I would never consider breeding a dog that young. However, I would consider neutering or spaying a dog before getting to six months old.

As far as chronological age, most dogs are no longer considered puppies once they hit one or two years old. However, just because they are called an adult, that doesn’t mean they won’t still have what we call puppy energy.

Finally, perhaps the one change you’ll need to consider as your dog transitions from puppy to adult is the kind of food you feed them. Puppies have very different nutrient needs than adult dogs. 

Same thing when a dog transitions from just adult to senior dog. You may need to change the food you feed them once again.

Different definitions of senior dog by breed

What makes a dog senior? Well, it depends on the dog’s breed and/or size. Or, life expectancy.

That is, smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs. Therefore, a small dog will be much older when it becomes a senior dog compared with a larger dog breed.

Smaller senior dogs

Since smaller dogs tend to live longer than other dogs, they don’t become seniors until they are almost teenagers. So expect an adoption agency or rescue to refer to any pup around age 12 as a senior dog.

Medium sized senior dogs

Some vets consider a medium size dog to be a senior when they turn 10. Others say eight is the magic number.

Both of my dogs Oscar and Sadie are considered to be medium dogs. They weigh 40 and 30 pounds, respectively.

So, when they turned eight, my vet began recommending senior bloodwork at their annual visits. To be honest, I had a hard time accepting that an eight year old dog was a senior dog.

This is primarily because the first dog we adopted lived to almost 16. He, too, was a medium sized dog. 

That meant he spent half of his life as a senior. To me, he became a senior dog at age 12, because that’s when he finally started to slow down.

A friend of mine has a medium-sized dog that just turned 18. That’s incredible.

Larger senior dogs

With larger breeds, they can have a life expectancy of only 12 years. Some don’t even make it to double digits.

Therefore, when it comes to senior citizen status, expect your vet to consider a larger dog as one at a much younger age. It could be six or seven.

Senior dogs are less likely to be adopted

When it comes to dog adoptions, most people tend to go for puppies. Having adopted puppies, I would never recommend this. But this isn’t about me.

On the other hand, only one-quarter of adopters will consider an adult or senior dog, so says the ASPCA. Therefore, fewer older dogs end up getting adopted, which means they spend more time at a shelter.

In fact, November is Adopt a Senior Dog month. It’s designed to raise awareness of adopting older dogs. 

Senior dogs have different nutritional needs than younger dogs.

Pros and cons of adopting an older dog

Here are four pros of adoption an older dog, according to the ASPCA:

Older dogs have often grown out of destructive puppy habits, such as chewing and having accidents in the house.

Senior dogs often come knowing basic training. If not, they’ll learn it quickly. 

Mature animals are likely to settle into a home more easily and quickly than younger pets.

When you adopt an older dog, you know what the animal’s personality will be like. With puppies they can sometimes grow up to be very different dogs.

Perhaps the biggest cons of adopting an older dog include not having as many years with them as you might a puppy. But you never know. 

We adopted our first dog Buffy when he was four years old. That’s hardly a senior dog but definitely an adult. We had 12 wonderful years with Buffy, much longer than I ever anticipated. 

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