6 Reasons Adopting a Senior Dog Might Be the Best Decision You Ever Make
Thinking about adding a new pooch to your family? On your next visit to the shelter or rescue group of your choice, take a moment to meet some of the older dogs looking for a home.
There are more reasons to adopt a senior dog than you might realize.
What Is a Senior Dog?
Before we get into the reasons for adopting a senior dog, let’s define what we’re talking about.
First thing’s first. Despite what many people believe, a senior dog is not necessarily the same as a geriatric dog. The American Animal Hospital Association defines the senior stage of a dog’s life as “the last 25% of estimated lifespan through end of life.”
Generally speaking, dogs become senior between the ages of 5 and 10 years. Which age specifically is considered senior is generally determined by the dog’s breed. Large-breed dogs age faster and die younger than small dogs. A 7-year-old Great Dane is considered a senior, while a 7-year-old miniature Poodle is not.
Most senior dogs are still healthy. They may be at the earliest stages of experiencing signs of aging, but unless they have a serious pre-existing medical condition, they’re not near the end of their life. And, they’re not always beset with medical issues. (Another common misconception.)
Here are six reasons why adopting a senior dog can be the best decision you ever make.
1. Save a Life
Any time you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group, you’re saving a life. But that’s even more true when it comes to senior dogs. According to the ASPCA, senior dogs have a 25% adoption rate, compared to a 60% rate for younger dogs and puppies.
“Shelters are filled with seniors (both cats and dogs),” says Doug Halsey, president and director of Ready for Rescue, a NYC-based rescue group that focuses on saving sick, injured, and senior animals from kill shelters. “It is significantly harder to find them homes because the large majority of people want puppies, kittens or younger animals. People say they ‘want more time’ or they have kids and want young animals so they grow up together.”
People also make a lot of assumptions about older animals, like thinking a dog was relinquished due to behavioral or health issues.
“Older pets are not necessarily problem animals,” says Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “Senior pets are often relinquished for a variety of reasons, usually having nothing to do with the behavior or temperament, but because their families are unable to keep them due to lifestyle changes such as a move, new infant or change in marital status.”
Sometimes, it’s because their previous human companion has died and there’s no one willing to take them.
These dogs have been part of a family for most of their lives. They just want that same feeling again, and they’ll give back the love they’re given tenfold.
2. They’re House Broken (and Possibly Trained)
Puppies are cute, but boy are they a handful, especially when it comes to housebreaking. Senior dogs don’t have that problem, so you don’t have to worry about that new rug you recently bought.
“Older pets usually come trained and understand at least basic cues,” Gilbreath says. “For example, older dogs are often potty-trained and may have mastered the basic cues such as sit, stay, come, and down. Adopting an already-trained dog saves pet parents the time associated with training a younger dog.”
For owners who don’t want to miss out on the fun of teaching their dog a trick or two, never fear. Old dogs can learn new tricks, too.
3. They’ll Never Grow Bigger
Most dogs you encounter in a shelter are mixed breed. Which often means there’s no way to know how big they’re going to grow up to be. That cute little puppy you can carry with one arm now might turn out to be an 80-pound bruiser. You just never know!
During their growing puppy years, that means buying new collars and harnesses, maybe even a new kennel. And, if you like dressing your dog up, you’ll definitely need to size-up every few weeks.
But senior dogs are already fully grown. What you see is what you get.
Meaning, you’ll never need to ditch the year-old kennel for one that’s larger because of a growth spurt you weren’t expecting. That cute collar? It’ll fit forever.
4. They’re More Chill (and Less Destructive)
Puppies are whirlwinds of energy … and often destruction. If something can be chewed on, it probably will be!
Everything is new and needs to be explored. If that means digging through your closet to get at a new smell or knocking over the garbage, so be it.
But older dogs have grown out of those habits. Their teething days are long behind them.
“Senior dogs are calm and don’t have the puppy energy, which can be very disruptive,” Halsey says. “You know what their personalities are like so you have a better sense if they will be a good fit. And, they are not as destructive as puppies.”
Plus, as mentioned above, they’re already housebroken.
They might still have plenty of energy, but they don’t feel the need to jump on every new person that walks in the door. In fact, new research has found that an individual dog’s need to explore new objects and situations goes down as they get older.
In other words, they tend to be more mellow in situations that get younger dogs all worked up.
5. They Need Less Supervision
Like the above, because older dogs have grown out of their bad habits and are generally calmer, they need less supervision from you. They’re content to nap at your feet while you watch TV.
Need to get work done from home? Good luck with a puppy that’s demanding to be the center of your attention. The senior dog is happy to relax by your side.
And, while they still need daily walks, older dogs have less energy that needs to be dispelled in order to avoid them acting out.
6. The Adoption Might Cost Less
Many shelters and rescue groups waive adoption fees for senior dogs. For instance, the SPCA of Texas drops the adoption fee for adopters who are 65 and older that adopt pets that are 7 or older. The Heartland Animal Shelter in Northbrook, Illinois does the same for seniors adopting pets that are 8 and older. And, the Animal Care Centers of NYC does the same for those 60 and older who adopt pets that are 6 or older.