After getting injured by a dog in 2011, Camille has dedicated herself to caring for and understanding dogs. She regularly dog-sits as well!
Dogs, dogs, and more dogs! Yes, my life—for better or for worse—is all about my dogs. My friends know I recently added a second to my brood: a 13-year old super-mutt called Paco. Though there have been a few unforeseen challenges, adopting Paco has been one of the best experiences of my life. He's calm, loving, and a joy to be around. If you're looking to adopt a dog, please consider giving an older gent or lady a chance. Muttville, the Bay Area's foremost rescuer of senior dogs, is responsible for introducing me to Paco. Check them out if you're ready to fall in love!
Why give an older dog a chance? Well...
1. They're Housebroken
Hmmm. Not so into cleaning urine (or worse) off your floors, courtesy of your adorable new puppy? One of the best things about older dogs is their ability to hold their bowels until the time is right. It's likely someone's already done the dirty work and housetrained your new buddy. You can typically leave your pooch for a few hours without having to worry about a soiled rug or floor. Best of all, they'll usually let you know when they need to go out instead of simply unleashing in the house!
2. They're Already Fully Grown
In addition to fully formed personalities, older dogs are fully grown. This means your cute 15-pound dog won't double, triple, or even quadruple in size!
3. They're Calm (And Settled)
The photo below perfectly encapsulates how Paco spends most of his days: sleeping (and being harassed by the puppy). Described as "the very definition of an “easy-keeper”", Paco lived up to the hype. Older dogs like him have "been there, done that" and are usually content just lying at your feet.
Another advantage is that older dogs are settled and have fully formed personalities, so it is quite evident how they'll behave when you get them home. Puppies, on the other hand, are impacted by external factors (YOU, other members of your household, other pets, etc.), and may change from the docile, darling little bundle you brought home to an unruly beast. At least you know what you're getting with a mature mutt.
4. They're Trained (Usually!)
Puppies demand a great deal of time and attention. If you want a well-behaved dog, you've got to put in YEARS of training. Kinda lazy? Set your sights on a "pre-trained, previously owned" guy or gal. Older dogs usually know how to walk on a leash and will come when called. They can also be trusted to not destroy your possessions if left unattended. Be careful when letting her off leash, though; some dogs will run after a scent or critter when untethered, picking up the pace when you attempt to give chase, making it nearly impossible to catch her.
5. They're Always Up for a Walk (Or Whatever You Want to Do)
Older dogs, especially large breeds, may be afflicted with painful, mobility-limiting conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia. Though this may be the case for your new (old) dog, you should still walk him regularly. While he may not tolerate those hour-long jaunts you're accustomed to, he's probably still up for a walk or two around the block. Walks are essential for maintaining your dog's health and weight. If he's clearly suffering on your treks, swimming is an excellent alternative exercise.
6. They're Appreciative
Dogs clearly know the difference between being in a shelter and being in their forever home. An abandoned or surrendered dog will be acutely aware of the difference between home and her (hopefully) temporary den. Once she's had time to settle in, you'll have a friend for life who will try to be on her best behavior to show her appreciation. After all, you likely saved her life.
Tips for Caring for Older Dogs
Older dogs make fantastic pets, but there are certain considerations that become more important when caring for a canine in its "golden years."
While your 7+ year old dog may be accident-free for most of the remaining years of his life, you may have to deal with urinary or fecal incontinence at some point. Accidents may occasionally happen even though your dog is clearly housetrained. Never scold him for an accident; instead, contact your vet for help. Friends have diapered their dogs, and there are even indoor potties (featuring patches of faux grass) and dog litter boxes to help mitigate issues.
Sometimes older dogs need a little help using the bathroom. A quick walk around the block in the morning and evening can help prevent accidents by getting things moving. You should also try walking your pooch after meals to cover all your bases.
Caring for your dog includes making sure to brush her teeth several times a week. There are many helpful resources to show you how, but basically you'll want to make sure you're touching your dog's teeth and gums regularly, gradually introducing an enzymatic dog toothpaste and toothbrush. Good oral hygiene is of the utmost importance in older dogs as problems in your dog's mouth can cause serious health problems elsewhere in her body. You should also have her teeth professionally cleaned once a year, selecting a vet who does not use anesthesia to minimize potential issues (it's also less expensive!). In addition to brushing and having your senior's teeth professionally cleaned, make sure you're feeding her dry kibble with each meal. The kibble will clean your dog's teeth as she eats.
Obviously, walking your dog is incredibly important. Hoofing it with an older dog is especially critical since exercise helps your dog (and you!) maintain a healthy weight - paramount to alleviating the symptoms of arthritis.
Keep an eye out for any changes in your pup's condition. Limping, struggling to stand, shaking, and/or lifting of paws likely indicate an emerging mobility issue. The ASPCA advises you call your vet if you witness "shortness of breath, coughing, weakness, unusual discharges, changes in weight, appetite, urination or water intake... increased vocalization and uncharacteristic aggression or significant behavior change" in your dog.
Add a joint supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to your senior's food. Such products can help relieve symptoms of arthritis. Olive oil can also be added to give him a yummy treat, keep his coat healthy and shiny, and treat the dry skin often found in elderly dogs. Coconut oil also works well for this purpose and boasts a number of other health benefits, such as diabetes prevention and weight reduction. Start slowly by adding a 1/2 teaspoon to each meal; adding too much oil too fast can adversely affect your dog's digestion (read: poo 'splosion).
The Story of Muttville
What the Experts Say...
FurMinded on April 19, 2016:
Thanks for an informative article. All of the dogs we have adopted have been senior dogs. They love you and never let you down.
Marcelle Bell on November 13, 2014:
Great hub! We adopted an "adult" dog, just over two, a few years back and I agree with all the points you have made. There is a saying that when you rescue a dog, they thank you for the rest of their lives (and really rescue you). She was already well-trained and had spent much of her puppy energy. In the future, when we are empty nesters, my husband and I plan to adopt senior dogs to give them a loving home during their last months or years. Thank you for publishing this hub!
hubsy on July 12, 2014:
Thank you so much, I myself have an older dog, and always feel bad when people adopt younger dogs simply because they are younger. When I visited the pound, there were many older dogs that people would not even look at because of their age… I love my little Baxter!
Camille Harris (author) from SF Bay Area on July 10, 2014:
@Phyllis: Thank you for sharing your story about Marvin!! He sounds absolutely darling.
@Alastar: Thanks for reading and commenting!
@Pamela: 120 pounds? Erm, that's as big as many humans! Holy cow. Good to hear he's obedient!
@MizBejabbers: Very cool username. Are you a dog-owner, too? So nice to hear that your friend gave an older dog a chance.
@Stevie: I think it's the name, but your new profile pic is very fetching!
@WriterJanis: WOW, you had a pit that lived to be 16?? That's pretty amazing in and of itself. Obviously you took great care of her. Glad you had that experience and hope you do it again!
Janis from California on July 10, 2014:
We adopted a 10 year old pit bull and had her for almost 7 years. She was the sweetest and tamest dog I ever met.
Stevie Cenko on July 09, 2014:
Totally off topic. OK, that's it. This selfie is over a year old. Time for a feminine photo of me. This is the second time I've been mistaken for a man. I had someone on another site say I looked like Neil Young which horrified me. Maybe I'll switch to the two year old photo, until I take a new one.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 09, 2014:
That is wonderful that you and Paco bonded so quickly. I have a friend who adopted a 12-year-old dog last year that has become the canine love of her life. I’ve forgotten what kind, but she is a large-breed mix. This dog gets along well with their 9-year-old lab, rescued as a puppy, and is very docile and loving. My friend sometimes goes to the local animal shelter to make a donation and just to look at the cats. This dog caught her eye and started bonding with her before she considered taking home another dog. Now it’s like they were made for each other. Beautiful hub and my thanks to Phyllis for sharing.
howtopam from Alberta, Canada on July 09, 2014:
Yes; young dogs can be a handful. I have gotten all my dog when they were pups and I really did not mind doing the house training and teaching obedience. After some years I moved to the country and decided to get myself a bigger dog so I adopted a six month old newfoundlander/border collie cross and the challenge began.
Harley is extremely intelligent and respectful so obedience training so easy, but he love to play like most puppies do and at his now 120 pound body weight I am always losing at the tug of war. It will be nice when Harley matures and is not is playful because I do not have his physical stamina.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 09, 2014:
Much thanks for writing this , Camilla, Paco is quite the fellow. And thanks to Phyllis for sharing it.
Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on July 08, 2014:
This is such a wonderful and very thoughtful hub, Camille. My older dog has become the center of my life and I cannot imagine life without him now. I have had him for over a year now.
I know exactly what Stevie experienced with Esmeralda when he was packing. When I first got my little Marvin (12 year old Pom, now 13) from the shelter, he bonded to me quickly and hung on for dear life all the way home. I had already set up his own places, beds, near the places where I spend most my time. Because Marvin is so small, I made 'box beds' for him and put a soft blanket in each one, by my desk, dining table, in the kitchen, and near my bed. Wherever I am, he has his secure place where he can watch me and snooze. If we go out (I rarely leave him alone), he has to sit on my lap in the car (I do not drive).
Tip for inexpensive box bed for small dogs: The printer paper boxes are perfect for a box bed. They are sturdy and give the older small dog security. I put the lid on the bottom of the box, which makes it even more sturdy, then cut an opening on one side down to the lid and across to the other side, with about 3 inches border on each side. Marvin loves his beds. When we go on picnics or visiting, I take his bed with us so he has a familiar place near me always -- usually, though, that secure place is on my lap.
Camille Harris (author) from SF Bay Area on July 08, 2014:
Stevie, thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine how scary that must have been for Esmeralda, thinking she was going to lose you, too.
Paco's owner surrendered him and apparently loved him a great deal. I guess ish happens, but I can't imagine having to do that to him or any of my fur babies. So glad Esmeralda had you (and you her) to live out the remaining years of her life.
Stevie Cenko on July 08, 2014:
All my pets have always been rescues. I adopted Esmeralda the dog from a shelter when she was estimated to be seven years old. Her so-called family moved and left her abandoned in the apartment. The landlord found her and brought her to the shelter. After I had her a year or two, I had to move. When I was down to the last couple boxes, she stood upright and threw and wrapped her front paws and arms around me. I almost broke my heart. (She was a mess while I was packing.) She was very happy to join me in the moving truck after that. She lived for another seven years. She was a great dog (but aren't they all).