As the pandemic continues to stay active in all of our lives, many people are working from home or spending more time at home in general. With this extra time, many people have decided to adopt a new, furry family member from a local shelter or rescue. Oftentimes families are looking for puppies, and they do not consider adopting an older dog. This leaves an excess of them in shelters without a home. There are many benefits to adopting a senior dog that most people may not consider.
For me, I had never considered an older dog until I decided to foster one. I fostered Lucky, a 10 year old Pomeranian mix with a troubled past. He had lost two family members and was rejected by a third family member, all within 8 months. After a month with him, I realized how grateful he was to me for taking him in. I was saving his life and he took to me almost instantly. Ultimately, I adopted him (foster fail!) and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Aside from some allergy issues, he is really healthy and vibrant for his age. Some days it is hard to believe he is actually 10!
Perhaps adopting a senior is the right move for you and your family. Let’s explore the pros and cons to adopting a senior dog!
-Temperament: One of the advantages to a dog with a little more life experience is that they have the temperament that most people are looking for in a rescue dog, without having to go through the puppy phase. While Lucky likes to go for walks and play, he requires less exercise and active attention than a puppy might. He is more relaxed and enjoys hanging out with me on the couch too! He is not overly hyper, but the right amount of energy that makes it enjoyable to be in the home and take him places.
-Training: One of the most time-consuming and stressful things about adopting a puppy is the amount of time and energy you need to put into training him. From teaching commands, to watching the dinner table for disappearing food, or to the early morning potty breaks, you are constantly paying attention to what he is or is not doing. Training is a BIG undertaking and potential adopters should acknowledge what level of work and training they are willing to do with their new dog.
While no rescue dog is perfectly adapted to your routine, house, or schedule, it can be easier to bring them up to speed. This does depend on their background! More often than not, dogs from shelters and rescues come from neglect, abuse, and abandonment. It is important to recognize that these are living beings and they require time and love to build a relationship with you. No matter the age, a dog will always need training. However, puppies will 100% of the time need complete obedience training. While it is not guaranteed, there is a good chance the adult dog will be familiar with basic commands and you will not have to put as much energy into him as you would a puppy.
-History: Through a rescue or a shelter foster program, you get the opportunity to learn more information about your potential dog. Fosters get to know their foster dog’s personality, so they can offer insight on what the best home would look like for them. From the shelter, you do not get this same opportunity, but you do get a chance to meet them and see how they act with you. In these cases, you will get to ask plenty of questions to someone who has had the chance to learn more about them.
-Young at heart: Just because a dog is older does not mean that they are limited from being a dog! They also like to play, go for walks, and get attention. You still get to be part of their life for many years.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
-Health: Whether you adopt a puppy or an adult dog, you should understand and be prepared to take care of any existing or future issues if you decide to adopt. With a senior dog, you have the benefit of possibly knowing this in advance.
Be sure to take him to your local vet to get a health assessment and ask the shelter or rescue plenty of questions to make sure you fully understand their needs.
-Anxiety: There is a chance that the pup has suffered emotional or separation trauma from their past, so it is important to keep in mind any advice that a shelter or rescue offers to you to alleviate any anxiety. This experience will be new to them and there may be an adjustment period before your dog will be fully comfortable in your home. Either a puppy or an adult, they all need to decompress and get used to their new normal!
Developing a routine will help your new pet adjust to his environment quicker and establish trust in you. You can also consult a dog trainer who has experience with older dogs to give you some pointers on better adjusting your new dog to your routine.
-Socialization: Some rescues offer a trial period where you can see how your new dog gets acquainted in your home and with the occupants in your home, like with small children, large groups of people, or other dogs. Understanding the signals your dog is sending you in these situations will help you understand their comfort level. Your foster or shelter may also have some insight into their level of socialization.
While it may seem scary to take on an older pet, remember that you are saving them from a potentially dangerous situation, and they will be eternally grateful to you for it. I cannot tell you the level of appreciation I feel from Lucky every time I scratch his ears, take him for a walk, or cuddle on the couch.
Many shelters and rescues have a hard time adopting out older dogs because of stigmas surrounding senior dogs. Keep an eye out for rescues and shelters that offer a meet and greet before adopting the dog!
Spoiling and loving a dog who is not only in need of care, but also appreciates it, is one of the most fulfilling feelings you can experience. November is Adopt a Senior Month, so check out your local shelters and rescues for their available, senior dogs!