Timid older light tan large dog being hugged by new adoptive parent.

Why Adopting an Older Dog Brings New Joys and Saves a Life

When considering bringing a furry friend into your life, the idea of adopting an older dog may not immediately spring to mind. Yet, these seasoned pets carry with them an array of benefits, often overlooked in favor of their younger counterparts. Setting aside the common misconception that older dogs come with insurmountable training challenges or health issues, the reality is that they can be a perfect fit for a variety of homes.

Their typically calmer temperment, past training experiences, and settled personality can make the integration into your household a smoother process. In many cases an older pup can be a perfect match for older people.

Senior dogs present a heartwarming advantage: they are in desperate need of a second chance – one filled with love and comfort for their remaining years. Making the compassionate decision to adopt an older dog can be incredibly rewarding. You can provide a loving home environment to a pet that might otherwise be overlooked and in return, gain a loyal and affectionate companion.

Key Takeaways

  • Older dogs may have a calmer termperment and are already trained .
  • Adopting a senior dog offers them a much-needed and loving home for their twilight years.
  • It’s vital to consider their health needs and comfort to ensure they live happily in their new environment.

Read more: Why Adopting an Older Dog Brings New Joys and Saves a Life

Benefits of Adopting an Older Dog

Adopting an older dog offers distinct advantages that are both rewarding and mutually beneficial. These dogs often come with life experiences that make them wonderful companions. Here’s a closer look at why senior pets could make a splendid addition to your home. There are many reseasons why you may want to adopt a senior dog.

Many older dogs have been taken in by animal shelters and rescue groups after the death of their owner or being abandonded by their previous owner. As a result, they are desperate for a kind word or a loving touch. Many are grieving the loss of their former home, and therefore very eager to find a kind soul who will take them in.

Immediate Bonding

When I adopted my two dogs who had been rehomed when they were 5 years old, they were extremely loving and eager to connect with me. As a result, I have found that immediate bonding is a significant benefit of adopting a senior dog.

Unlike puppies, older dogs are more likely to form strong attachments quickly as they seek comfort and security in their new environment. They appreciate the love and affection bestowed upon them, reciprocating with unwavering loyalty.

I tried in vain to get them to sleep in their own beds, but they insisted on sleeping with me and clearly wanted to be as close to me as possible. They had been rehomed after 5 years and ended up living in a kennel for nine months before I found them. Both dogs were eager for love and attention and seemed tremendously relieved, when I brought them into my home.

Lower Energy Levels and Exercise Requirements

In general senior dogs have lower energy levels compared to their younger counterparts, making them ideal for a more laid-back lifestyle. Their exercise needs are typically manageable; a leisurely walk can suffice, aligning well with owners who prefer less strenuous activities.

My dogs were pretty energetic at age 6 when I adopted them, but they were house broken and did very little damage when left alone. This is in great contrast to a puppy who will typically get into everything.

Training and Manners

Adopting a senior dog usually means you’re bringing home a pet that’s already trained. Many have mastered basic commands and understand household rules. This means I can skip the demanding training phase, a relief for those not looking to undertake the arduous process of training a new puppy. A huge advantage is that older dogs are more likely to have already had potty training. And even though they are mature dogs, they are often eager to learn new tricks.

My new dogs understood a couple of basic commands and were house broken. So, they were easily trained to learn a few more. They were very food motivated, so training treat helped a lot with addtional commands such as “stay”, “wait”, and “come”.

Saving a Life and Adoption Rates

By choosing to adopt a senior pet, especially during Adopt a Senior Pet Month, you’re often saving a life. With lower adoption rates for older animals, giving a senior dog a home can be a life-changing act of kindness. Senior pets in shelters await a second chance and the opportunity to show their immense love and devotion to someone who sees their value beyond age.

Understanding Senior Dog Behavior

When I consider senior dogs, I recognize that their behavior is informed by a complex interplay of personality, health, and experience. My focus on understanding these older companions delves into their personality and temperament, the changes that come with age, and the specific ways to address any anxiety they may experience.

Personality and Temperament

Senior dogs often exhibit a settled personality, reflecting the temperament they’ve developed over their lifetime. They can be calm and affectionate, having moved past the boisterous energy of youth. However, I’ve also seen that some retain a spirited character, which is important to recognize. My two senior dogs at age 11 still have alot of energy and eagerness to play.

Senior dogs may also show increased patience and loyalty, traits that have been reinforced through long-term bonds with previous owners or families.

As dogs enter their senior years, it’s common for them to experience a change in behavior due to aging processes. These changes may include:

  • Cognitive Decline: Just like humans, older dogs can experience deterioration in memory, learning, and awareness.
  • Sensory Impairments: Diminished sight and hearing can alter their responses to stimuli, sometimes causing confusion or fear.

Senior dogs may also face mobility issues that can affect their behavior, perhaps making them more reserved or hesitant to engage in physical activity.

Handling Anxiety and Separation Issues

Beautiful but sad black dog looks through cage at shelter

In my experience, anxiety and separation anxiety can be more pronounced in senior dogs due to their increased reliance on routine and familiarity. To mitigate these issues, I recommend:

  • Establishing a Routine: Consistency in daily activities can provide a sense of security.
  • Creating a Safe Space: A dedicated area with comforting items like a favorite blanket can alleviate stress.

When approaching separation, it’s important to gradually acclimate them to periods of alone time, ensuring they do not associate isolation with negative emotions. Some dogs feel safer in a crate or in their bed in a safe space like your bedroom or a corner of the living room. Make sure your pup has comfy blankets and favorite toys around them. You may also want to leave one of your socks or a scarf with your scent to help comfort your new pooch while you are away.

By maintaining a stable environment and showing patience, I’ve found that these strategies can significantly help in managing a senior dog’s anxiety and separation issues, preventing the emergence of undesirable behavior.

Let Your New Dog Know You Will Return and Not Abandon Them

My dogs were more anxious about being dropped off at the vet or doggie day care, then they were about being left alone at home. I attributed this to being rehomed and left at a kennel for several months. Therefore, I only left them at doggie day care for short periods of time, and always repeated “I will be back” each time I left them at home or at day care.

They eventually came to understand this phrase as well as their experience of me returning within a short time. After about a year or so, the became much calmer when I dropped them off for daycare, or at the groomers or vet. They also became more comfortable when I left them home alone for a few hours.

Health and Wellness

When I adopt an older dog, I always prioritize their health and wellness. This means ensuring regular veterinary care, managing any chronic conditions such as arthritis effectively, and providing a diet that supports their digestive system.

Veterinary Care and Check-Ups

owner taking new shelter dog to vet
Owner taking newly adopted dog to the vet.

I schedule regular vet visits for my senior dog. This ensures they receive comprehensive assessments that include physical exams and any necessary blood tests. Dental disease is common in older dogs, so I make sure to discuss dental hygiene and care during these check-ups.

Dental health becomes more critical as dogs age. Like humans, our pups are subject to dental decay which can lead to other health problems. Younger dogs may do well for a few years. But by age 6 or 7 a dog should have their teeth cleaned at least every one to two years.

My dog Georgia had never had her teeth cleaned when I adopted her at age 6. I noticed one of her back teeth was totally black and she seemed to chew carefully. After having her teeth cleaned, the vet determined the black tooth was totally decayed and needed to be removed. After the removal, she seemed have less pain and ate more heartily.

Managing Chronic Diseases and Arthritis

For chronic diseases and arthritis, maintain communication with your veterinarian to create a management plan. If your senior dog shows signs of joint pain, consider therapies like physical rehabilitation or acupuncture, on vet advice.

My dogs both have low level arthritis. I have periodically noticed both of them limping a bit after a hearty romp at the dog park. This can be managed by taking them to a canine chirorpractor periodically.

Diet and Digestive System

Pay special attention to ypur dog’s diet and digestive system, since mature dogs can have sensitive stomachs. A diet rich in fiber and easily digestible proteins can be beneficial. Ensure proper hydration to aid in their overall digestive health.

When I first brought my two dogs home I fed them way too many treats! Several hours later they both threw up in my living room. They were very excited and not used to eating so many doggie cookies. So, I gave them less treats after that and stuck to the kibble formula they had been used to.

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment

When adopting an older dog, ensure that they feel safe and secure in their new home. This involves careful planning and consideration for their rest needs and the establishment of a routine to help them adjust.

Setting Up a Restful Space

White dog with brown ears sound asleep with back feet up in the air having a nightmare.

Select a quiet corner of my home to set up a restful space for your new companion. Make sure to choose a spot that’s away from high traffic areas to minimize stress. Here’s a checklist for creating this perfect spot:

  • Soft Dog Bed: Chose a dog bed that’s orthopedic to provide support for their older joints.
  • Accessible Water Bowl: The water bowl is placed within easy reach to encourage hydration.
  • Toys: A couple of soft toys for them to cuddle with, which can be comforting.

Establishing a Routine

Create a predictable routine that includes regular feeding times, walks, and rest periods. An outline of your daily schedule could look like this:

  • Morning: A short walk followed by breakfast.
  • Midday: A rest period in their crate, if they’re crate trained, as it’s a familiar and secure space for many dogs.
  • Evening: Dinner, followed by a gentle play session or another short walk before bed.

By following this routine, your dog knows what to expect each day, which greatly helps with their adjustment and reduces anxiety. Being consistent with these planned activities is crucial for their sense of security and overall well-being.

Ensure that your dog has regular excercise as well. This will release tension and stress and provide your dog with some enjoyment during their day. Even though my two dogs are now 11 years old, they still love to get out every day for walks. We periodically go to the dog park or the beach where they love to run an play.

Preparation and Adjustment

Thorny rose bushes needed a fence to protect my new dogs.

Thorough preparation sets the stage for a smooth transition to a forever home for your new dog. Ensure that your home and yard is safe and stock up on supplies and dog food.

Before I bought my new dogs home, I placed a small fence around two ancient rose bushes with wicked thorns. I also placed a short fence around my garden and checed the fence surrounding the yard for holes and loose boards.

Being Prepared for the Adoption

Before the dog arrives, ensure that your home is a safe and welcoming environment for them. Secure trash cans, place cleaning supplies out of reach, and consider the mobility needs of an older dog, making accessibility adjustments if necessary. For instance, creating a comfortable resting area with easy access and without stairs prevents strain on their joints. When adopting a senior dog, knowing their medical history, temperament, and established routines will help you plan for their care and well-being from day one.

The Adjustment Period to the New Home

Patience is key during the adjustment period. It’s essential to allow a new dog ample time to settle and become comfortable in their new surroundings. Introductions to other household members—human or animal—should be gradual and calm to prevent overwhelming them.

Diet transitions are carried out slowly, possibly beginning with the food they were used to, and then incrementally introducing new food. Remain patient and be understanding, and give your senior dog the time and space they need to adjust at their own pace. Feeding your new new dog a similar diet to what they were used to is important and will help your new dog’s sensitive tummy.

Support and Training for an Older Dog

Senior Dog Training Needs

Senior dogs often come with their own set of behaviors, some well-established. Introduce basic commands like ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ and ‘come’. It’s important to be patient and consistent with training methods, as older dogs might require more time to assimilate new commands or modify existing habits. Dogs from a senior dog rescue, are often already house-trained, which alleviates a significant part of the initial training requirements.

Health problems can influence a senior dog’s behavior. In my experience, issues such as impaired vision or hearing can lead to hesitance or non-compliance with commands that they previously followed. Acknowledging the possibility of underlying health issues is the first step. I ensure regular check-ups and create a supportive environment at home. For instance, if my dog exhibits discomfort in following a command, I’ll investigate if arthritis or joint pain is a factor, and then adapt my training and interactions accordingly.

Financial Considerations

When deciding to adopt an older dog, be aware that the initial adoption rate isn’t the only cost to consider. There are ongoing expenses and the option of pet insurance to think about, which are often essential to ensure your new dog’s well-being without unexpected financial strain.

Adoption Costs and Ongoing Expenses

Adoption Costs:

  • Average Adoption Rate: Adoption fees can range significantly, but on average, expect to pay around $500 for dogs from a reputable source. Older dogs might cost less to adopt than puppies due to reduced demand.
  • Included in Adoption Fee: Often, this fee covers initial vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and sometimes a health check-up or microchipping.

Ongoing Expenses:

  • Food and Supplies: Quality senior dog food, bedding, toys, and grooming supplies.
  • Veterinary Care: Older dogs typically require more frequent vet visits for check-ups and managing age-related health issues.
  • Medications and Special Diets: Depending on their health, my senior dog may need medications or special diets, which can add to the monthly expenses.

Considering Pet Insurance

  • Why Consider Pet Insurance: Given the increased potential for health issues in senior pets, pet insurance can be a wise choice. It can help cover expenses arising from accidents, illnesses, and even some preventative care.
  • What to Look for in a Policy: When selecting a pet insurance policy, I prioritize plans that cater to senior pets’ needs, including coverage for chronic conditions, cancer treatment, and ongoing medications.

Compare plans and read the fine print to ensure the insurance offers substantial coverage with reasonable deductibles, ensuring it’s financially beneficial for my older dog’s care. Pet insurance is a good option, especially for an older dog. See more about adopting and caring for older dogs in my post about adopting shelter dogs.

Advocacy and Ethical Considerations

Adopting an older dog is an ethical choice that addresses shelter overpopulation and provides senior canines with a compassionate home during their golden years. It’s an act that goes beyond love for animals; it’s a commitment that contributes positively to the overarching animal welfare issues.

Shelter Overpopulation and Rescue Efforts

Shelter overpopulation is a critical issue that rescue groups and local shelters are tirelessly working to manage. A staggering number of dogs enter shelters each year, and older dogs are often at a greater risk of living out their final days within these facilities.

In Summary — Senior Dog Adoption Can be a Wonderful Way to Enhance Your Family

As an advocate for senior dog adoption, I stress the multiple benefits of adopting an older dog. Senior dogs often come with a calm demeanor, a known personality, and more training.

Please see my page on senior adoption to find my recommendations for senior dog rescues and other organizations where you can adopt. Through educational outreach, I work to dispel the myths surrounding senior status in dogs, high-lighting their often-overlooked qualities.

By promoting senior dog adoption, you will not only enhance the lives of older dogs but also enrich your own life with a new best friend. An adopted senior dog can be a pleasant addition to your family and home.

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