I have trained and worked in animal care as well as in career advising. I live in Lancashire, in the UK.
For this article, I am considering dogs to be older if they are seven years or older. However, in health and lifespan terms, medium and smaller dogs (such as miniature poodles and cocker spaniels) are generally considered older at nine years and above. This is because, on average, they have a longer lifespan than the larger breeds.
Whether you are reading this because you are thinking about adopting a dog or if you're just reading this out of curiosity, I hope to be able to dispel some of the worries you might have about adopting an older dog and help you decide whether it would be a good option for you.
Why Do Older Dogs Need Adopting?
Whilst young dogs are sometimes brought into rescue because their owners have found them too boisterous or difficult to train or because they chewed things up when left, older dogs rarely come into rescue for those reasons.
Older dogs may be given up because: their owner has died or had to move into residential care where dogs aren’t allowed, their owner can’t afford to keep them, the owner has decided they would prefer to get a younger pet, their owner has had a baby and the dog has struggled to accept the baby or the owner no longer has time to care for the dog, the owner’s working hours have changed and the dog is being left for too long, they are no longer needed for breeding.
Why Do Older Dogs Come Into Rescue Centres?
Do you Want to Adopt a Dog, but Work Full Time?
Not all rescues will home a dog to full time workers, but some will consider committed potential owners who work full time, for selected dogs on the basis that a good home is rarely going to be 100% perfect and there are always more dogs needing homes than there are homes available. You will need to demonstrate that someone will be available to drop in around midday each day to give the dog a comfort break.
What Are the Advantages of Adopting an Older Dog?
Most older dogs will have been living in a home environment for a long time which means they are used to that environment and have usually learnt some basic house rules. There are exceptions of course. For example if you are adopting a dog which has been used for breeding it may have spent its life kennelled and therefore won’t be housetrained.
Advantages of Adopting an Older Dog
- More likely to be house-trained.
- Less likely to be destructive when left and past the stage of chewing things you'd rather keep whole.
- More likely to have a well-documented history passed to the rescue; for example whether it has lived happily with children or other pets.
- Often settle very quickly and gratefully back into home life.
- Likely to have lower exercise requirements then a younger dog, but this doesn't mean they are a lazy option. Nettle, my 16 year old German shepherd cross still enjoys a two mile walk at a gentle pace and Bruno my 11 year old Labrador will happily walk 10 miles at an energetic pace.
- Often a more suitable option then a young dog for people who work part time or in some cases even full time if someone pops home at lunch time to give the dog a comfort break.
- It’s very rewarding seeing any dog relax in your company and enjoy its new home, with older dogs you often get a real sense of relief and gratitude from them – especially if they have spent time in kennels before coming to you.
- Even the potentially shorter lifespan can be an advantage if you are confident about what your situation will be for a couple of years and would like to offer a dog a good home, but aren't so sure about the long term.
- May be much more suitable for an elderly owner then a young dog. Having said that, I know one 76 year old lady who was very cross that a local dog rescue centre would only consider her for an older dog because she liked to walk at least 6 miles every day.
Older Dogs Can Be Surprisingly Adaptable
What Are the Disadvantages of Adopting an Older Dog?
You may only have a short time with them, but this can apply to any dog – because even a young dog can die unexpectedly. My feeling is it’s better to have them for a short time than for no time at all.
They may come with health problems which they can’t be insured for – this is true and you may have to decide you can’t afford to take that risk financially. Some rescues offer dogs with known health conditions on a long term foster basis, whereby they cover the veterinary costs for existing conditions. Otherwise you need to ascertain from your own vet how much it will cost to treat the dog for its condition each month and then decide if you can afford that. Relatively common conditions in older dogs which may need on-going treatment are arthritis, urinary incontinence, diabetes, dry eye or a heart murmur.
Some older dogs can be ‘set in their ways’. For these dogs it is usually helpful if they are adopted into a similar home to the one they have left. For example if they’ve been the single pet of an elderly owner who has died, they may find it easier to adapt to living with the same sort of person with a quiet home. However lots of older dogs adapt surprisingly well to change. It can be very rewarding to watch a lethargic older dog, who has been missing out on exercise because its owner had been too unwell to get out for a walk, develop muscle tone, fitness and a joyful spring in their step when a new owner gently reintroduces walks.
Where Can You Adopt Older Dogs From?
Most local dog rescue centres will have older dogs available for re-homing, but there are also a few charities, such as the 'Oldies Club' in the UK, who specialise in re-homing older dogs.
You may be able to re-home an older ex-breeding dog direct from the breeder.
Your local vet may be aware of older dogs within their client base needing a home.
Many dogs are advertised privately through newspapers or websites such as 'preloved'. A disadvantage of this is that there is usually no back up if the adoption doesn't work out for some reason.
- Oldies Club
Oldies Club - The Oldies Club helps older dogs find forever homes. Homes and volunteers needed across the UK. Oldies club is an excellent and well respected charity.
- The Senior Dogs Project
The Senior dogs project links up potential adopters with older dogs across the USA.
- Animal adoptions and shelters | RSPCA Australia | For all creatures, great & small.
The RSPCA is a community based charity that works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection. They operate re-homing shelters across Australia
There's Life in the Old Dog—Nettle, a 16 Year Old German Shepherd Cross, Enjoys His Walk
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on December 05, 2012:
I'll be interested to hear more when you find out. I always like hearing about people's dogs or potential dogs.
Maria Janta-Cooper from UK on December 04, 2012:
I don't know exactly. My husband will contact David shortly, then I'll know more. I understood, the dogs were retirees from some services, probably disability support dogs.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on December 04, 2012:
Thank you for visiting and commenting. Are you looking at dogs which have retired from the police or from service as a disability support dog jantamaya or is it somewhere else altogether?
Maria Janta-Cooper from UK on December 04, 2012:
Voted up, great help and information. I with my husband, we intend to adopt a retired dog. We met such dog few weeks ago. David, his "dad" told us about this possibility. I'm really excited to do it!!!!! Have you ever heard about retired dogs?
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on July 17, 2012:
Hi Bertie, very nice to have a visit and lovely comment from you. It would take a hard heart not to recognise the charms of a golden oldie hound and to appreciate the value of years of experience of trying to keep the human race out of too much trouble!
Bertie Squibble from The Isle of Dogs on July 13, 2012:
Nettlemere, thank goodness you have the good sense to highlight the plight of us golden oldies. We may have fewer teeth and a tendency to break wind at regular intervals, but we are worth our weight in gold, and if your hub persuades other human personages to take on a more mature canines, then I think you have done a sterling job. Yours, in canine comradeship, Bertie Squibble Esq.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on July 08, 2012:
Thanks reptilia, it's good to know there are like minded people around.
Rachel on July 07, 2012:
Thanks for the comments and whatnot. I really liked this hub. I wish more people were open to adopting older dogs. There are so many of them out there waiting for a home!
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on June 03, 2012:
Thank you Writer20 I'm so pleased you would consider adopting an older dog.
Peggy W, lovely to hear that your mother had such success and pleasure from adopting older animals.
I'm glad you both enjoyed reading this.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2012:
My mother successfully adopted several older dogs from local animal shelters and they greatly enriched her life. We have adopted some older dogs (and cats, for that matter) as well. Nice that you brought this to people's attention by writing this hub. Voted up, useful and awesome!
Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on May 27, 2012:
Great hub with a really video. If I was looking I would definitely condsider an older dog.
Voted up and awesome.
I'll be following you.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on May 19, 2012:
Thank you for the votes of confidence Kashmir, Habee, Thom and Rebecca. There is definitely a lot to be said for the company of an old dog. Speaking of which - mine is requesting dinner - I'd best comply!
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on May 19, 2012:
All great information in this well written hub on the pros and cons of adopting an older dog,great job .
Vote up and more !!!
Holle Abee from Georgia on May 18, 2012:
I suggested older dogs in one of my hubs, too. I wish more people thought the way we do! lol. Older dogs have so much to offer. Voted up!
thom w conroy on May 17, 2012:
Great, Great Hub! There's nothing quite like having an older dog as a friend (just ask my wife).
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 17, 2012:
I think one would receive a very special blessing for adopting and older pet. I would love to do that if I had more time! Bless you for writing on this subject!