We’ve never adopted a senior, but our three have now reached that phase in their lives. Our Chocolate Lab is now 13 years old and the other two are 8 years old.
You should follow this young man on Instagram who keeps adopting old dogs, even some with disability and giving them a wonderful life. So far he’s got seven dogs, one turkey, one bunny, a chicken, a pig…I think that’s it. Here’s the link @wolfgang2242
Before I jumped into the reasons why you should or shouldn’t adopt a senior dog, let’s take a look at some basic information.
How old is a senior dog
I was surprised to learn that veterinarians consider a dog to be a senior when he’s around seven years old. Most shelters and rescue organizations also list dogs over 7 years of age as “seniors”.
Obviously, there are different stages of ‘old age’. Our 13 years old dog is definitely showing signs, such as walking slowly, stiff legs, sleeping a lot. The other two on the other hand are very much active, chasing squirrels, running with the ball, jumping. Although the Beagle started having trouble getting on my bed a month ago, so I removed the frame holding the box spring and mattress, which lowered the bed.
How long can dogs live
In general, the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan. But again, you never know.
Our Golden Retriever lived till she was 11 years old. Our Lab mix passed away at 15. Our dog park friends’ Newfoundland is still enjoying her life at 13.
Small breeds like the Chihuahua might live to 15 or even 20 years old! Others such as the Beagle, the Shih Tzu, or the Lhasa Apso, to name a few, have an average lifespan of 15 years.
As you can see, a senior can have a lot of years left to be pampered and loved by his forever home.
Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog
1. An older dog will likely be house-trained
If you think getting a puppy is fun, you’ll be shocked at the amount of time you’ll spend house-training that cute fur ball. It’s really like having a baby, it requires your attention day and night.
An older dog should already be trained to ask for the door to do his poop business. And this is done naturally on a schedule. They eat, they go out (if you have a fenced backyard like we do), they do their business. They come back in. Or they will do it on their daily walks.
Very rarely do my dogs wake us up in the middle of the night to go out. We do take them outside around 11pm before we go to bed so they have a chance to pee. It’s amazing how their body/brain/system know that’s why they’re going outside, even when it’s raining.
2. You get to save a dog’s life
Senior dogs will likely be passed over when visitors are looking to adopt. Mainly because people don’t know enough and think they don’t have long to live, or will be sick, etc.
In the States, there are rescue organizations devoted only to senior pets. Not only do you save the dog you’re adopting but the shelter now has space to take another dog in.
These seniors should have a second chance and by adopting a senior dog, you can make the last years of their lives the best years.
3. A senior dog is not necessarily a problem dog
Many times, these older dogs end up in shelters through no fault of theirs.
It could be their owner has passed away and his family can’t or won’t take care of him. And the poor dog is taken from his home and put in a shelter, where he might stay for the rest of his life, alone.
Maybe the owner is a senior and needed to be placed in a home. It’s so sad that they won’t allow seniors to take their dogs with them. They must be devastated, I know I would, to be separated from their beloved pet.
It could be the previous owners decided they don’t have enough time anymore for the dog. This is what happened to our Beagle. We were told he spent the first year of his life in a crate, but we don’t know why. Then a family adopted him and kept him for 5 years but then the kids were older and the parents worked and nobody had time for him anymore.
It could be there’s a new baby in the house and the dog doesn’t get the attention and exercise he deserves, which is understandable since the first year of a baby’s life demands a lot from the tired parents. If there’s also a toddler in the house, the dog’s life would not be too peaceful anymore.
It could be the dog was a breeding machine and now the owner has no more use for it, and the dog is being discarded like an old piece of furniture.
4. A senior dog will need less exercise
Now some breeds or mutts will need different level of exercise. You’ll need to get a dog with an energy level to match yours. If you’re not too active, definitively don’t get a Border Collie or a Jack Russell, or similar breeds requiring lots of running, ball throwing, etc.
You should be able to find out from the rescue or shelter, how active a dog is.
A lot of the rescue organizations around where I live, use foster parents instead of a physical shelter. A dog will live with the foster person which helps identifying and knowing more about the dog, like its needs and personality.
5. You will know more about the dog
Contrary to adopting a puppy, when you adopt a senior dog, you’ll instantly know its size, weight, grooming needs. You’ll know in advance how much to budget for the food, for the accessories, such as a dog bed.
You’ll also know if the senior dog has health problems. If so, what kind and how to treat it and how much it would cost. You’ll be able to assess if you can manage the situation and the expense.
6. An older pet will love you deeply
I firmly believe that your older dog will be grateful and devoted to you because you saved him.
Imagine being taken from your familiar, most likely peaceful, environment and now living in a shelter with constant noises of barking, whining and strangers walking around all the time. It’s frightening.
Then you take him home to a nice loving and warm place to live for the rest of his life, enjoying cuddles and belly rubs. Old dogs have soul and they love you with everything they’ve got.
7. An older dog usually is low key
An older dog will go with the flow and adapt to a routine of walking, eating, napping and sleeping. As I’m writing this, there’s one dog sleeping on a dog bed, another one sleeping on my bed and the last one sleeping in a dog chair.
I’m sure they also have an internal clock, as each morning at exactly 6:30am, Happy the Beagle, lifts his head, sits and get off the bed to let me know it’s time for breakfast and as soon as I get up the others come running.
After lunch and their walk, they’ll be sleeping until about 4:20pm when one or two will come next to me and sit and either give the paw or just stare at me because it’s time for dinner. Then they’ll sleep again until our dinner time. Everyday it’s the same, they know what to expect at different time during the day.
An older dog will be content just being around you and being part of your life.
8. They’re beyond the stages of chewing and digging
They’ve been there and done that, most probably. An older dog won’t waste time chewing your shoes or furniture, or the deck! We had a young dog who did exactly that, she chewed a wooden post of the deck railing. I tried all kinds of tricks to make her stop. She eventually did but by that time, the post looked like it had a waist!
That same dog, a Lab mix, also when she was young, got out from our fenced backyard. I had left her outside in the backyard while I was gone to the store for about 15-20 minutes. She dug a hole under the fence and squeezed herself in there and made it to the other side.
Luckily, we live in a semi-rural area and our friend’s daughter, who lived next door, heard the dog cry near the fence. The dog wanted to come back inside the yard but of course didn’t know how. Our friend took her back and I only found out the next day what had happened.
I never left a dog outside ever again while nobody was home.
9. An older dog can be a nice companion for an older person
A senior dog could be the perfect match for a retired man or woman to keep them busy and somewhat active. Living by yourself could be lonely. Taking care of a dog will give you purpose and a reason to get up and move, if only for small slow walks.
They’re also great napping buddies!
It’s also a presence you can talk to…yes I talk to my dogs all the time, so does my husband. When we used to take them to a babysitter the night before we would travel, it was so quiet and weird. The house felt empty without them.
10. Think of fostering an older dog
If you’re not ready to adopt but still want to care for an older dog in need, you might want to consider fostering one. The dog would live with you and you would be responsible for its well-being until he is adopted. This works exactly like fostering kids.
Medical care, spaying and neutering and basic necessities such as cage and dog food are provided to the foster family by the rescue organization.
Be warned though, fostering can be a failure, as you might end up adopting the dog! It happened to us. 🙂
Why Adopt a Senior Dog
Senior dogs go with the flow.
They don’t chew your shoes.
They don’t dig in your yard.
They don’t need constant supervision.
They probably won’t chase the cat.
They are great napping buddies.
They are a great companion.
All they want is love and have so much to give back as well.
6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Adopt a Senior Dog
I think it’s important to mention here the flip side of those reasons which is: not everyone should adopt an older dog. And here’s why.
1. Your living accommodation is not suitable for an older dog
Does your living space include stairs which the dog would have to use to get around or get to the front door? If the senior dog you contemplate adopting is a very small dog that you can carry in your arms, then there’s no problem. Otherwise an older dog, at some point, will not be able to manage steps.
2. You’re not sure you can cope with an older dog
Even if you adopt a senior dog who is in great shape at 8 years old, he will eventually show signs of old age, such as needing assistance to get in the car for a vet visit, taking meds every day, or might not see too well or hear at all. You need patience to cope with an older dog.
Our 13 year old goes through periods that he drinks but can’t keep it down so we wipe the floor many many times. He also goes through phases when he seems to have dog fur balls and throws up slimy stuff that is very hard to pick up.
That’s why it’s important to consider what would make a good match for you in terms of temperament, energy-level, emotional and health care needs, and exercise requirements.
Taking care of a dog is a commitment you need to be prepared to stick with.
3. You work outside the home for 8 hours or more
It’s not fair to adopt a senior dog to then leave him alone for such a long period. According to my research, an elderly dog can be left alone between two and six hours. But that’s only a guideline. How long you can leave a dog alone also depends on its size, health, and habits.
In my opinion, six hours is way too long. The longest we have left our dogs alone is 4 hours. When we know we will be longer, we hire a local dog babysitter to come over for about 30 minutes to let them out and give them treats and cuddles.
4. You’re also a senior
In this day and age, I consider a person to be a senior when they’re about 80 years old! If you want to adopt an older dog, you have to think of the dog’s and your own age.
It’s not realistic to adopt an eight year old Beagle who could live for another seven years when you’re let’s say 78 or 80. You have to realize that you may have to move to a home and the poor dog will have to go back to a shelter.
5. You’re not in good health
No matter what age you are, if your health is bad and you live alone, you should not adopt a senior dog or any dog for that matter. Taking care of a pet requires time, devotion, and being able to exercise him.
On the other hand, if you live with another person or family who can assist you, it would benefit you and the dog. Companionship for you and a second chance at a wonderful life for your pet. A win-win situation.
6. Your budget cannot sustain the expenses
It’s not always the case, but senior dogs might need medication at some point. If the dog you are considering adopting is already taking pills, you’ll know in advance how much it would cost.
Otherwise, you have to budget for unexpected expenses.
Last year, our Chocolate Lab was diagnosed with renal problems. One morning, he just couldn’t get up, when he tried he just collapsed. We thought that was the end for him.
A visit to the vet confirmed he had some problems and was giving meds which needed to be adjusted over time. He’s still taking two pills a day and baby aspirin as well. And he’s also on special food we can only buy at the vet and is more expensive than regular food.
And like the Energizer Bunny, he’s still going…at a slower pace of course.
Yes when adopting a senior dog, you never know how long he will live. But this holds true for any age, not only senior dogs.
We were heartbroken when our rescue dog Niko, who we adopted when he was 10 months old, started having epileptic seizures when he was only two and half! He was on medication for 9 months but they stopped working and he passed away at 3 years old.