Senior Dog Rescue: Adopting an Older Dog
Many times people are afraid to adopt an older dog - not because they don't like them, or are afraid of any extra care or money that might be needed - but because of how soon they might lose them. But death is a part of life. Imagine giving a senior dog a loving, secure, and happy retirement home for whatever time he has left. His life, and yours, will be richer for it.
The Benefits of Adopting an Older Dog
- Calmer temperaments. Older dogs are less likely to have that crazy puppy energy that can challenge even the most patient of pet owners! Senior dogs often enjoy just hanging out with their people or going for quiet walks.
- What you see is what you get. You know how big the dog is going to get (he's already full grown) and you know his temperament.
- Many older dogs are already good house pets. They're housetrained, know what they should (or shouldn't) chew, and are happy to find a soft place to nap. And they're happy to share their nap time with their people, too.
- You give a deserving dog a loving home. Every animal needs love, even older ones. They still have lots of love to give and deserve a family that will return that love.
Homes Suitable for Older Dogs
There's no easy answer to figuring out what kind of home is best suited to a senior dog. Senior dogs' personalities and abilities are as varied as younger dogs (and people)! Some of the things to consider, though, include:
- Easy access around the house. It's easier for older dogs with joint or mobility problems if they don't have to navigate a lot of steep stairs. There are ways around this, of course - many companies these days manufacture ramps that will help dogs climb onto their favorite couches, beds, etc.
- Quieter household. Young, rambunctious children or dogs (or other pets) might not be the best fit for a senior dog that enjoys his sleep!
- Families willing and able to care for an older pet. This includes time, effort, and finances. Many dogs live to a ripe old age, happy, active, and with only minor health issues. However, if the aging process starts to catch up with the pooch, his family should be willing and able to put in the extra effort and money into his care.
Senior Dog Health and Financial Considerations
Many people believe that senior dogs automatically come with health problems. While it's true that older animals, just like older people, may have health issues to consider that younger animals might not.
(We should note that younger animals can have health issues too. Being young doesn't always mean perfect health, unfortunately. Taking care of health issues is just a part of being a pet owner!)
Health issues in senior dogs should be taken into consideration because they will affect the adoptive family too. It's always best to go into an adoption with as much information as possible so that you are prepared for additional care or costs that might occur. Old dogs that have been surrendered to humane societies or rescue organizations by their previous owners may have more information available about them. Dogs that are admitted also get examined by a vet who may be able to provide insight into the dog's overall health.
Treating illness or injury always comes with a financial responsibility too. The adoptive family should be prepared to manage any known health issues their new canine friend has, as well as any that might be found (or might develop) as they continue to age.
Many senior dogs continue to lead active and healthy lives. Watching them happily basking in their retirement years is a great joy!
Two Older Dogs Romping on the Beach with Their Friend
Can Old Dogs Bond With New Families?
So many times I've heard people say, "I want a puppy because it will bond with our family." They worry that older dogs won't be able to bond with someone new.
There's no need to worry. Older dogs do bond - and bond very tightly with their new families, just as much as younger dogs bond. People who have adopted senior dogs often remark that their dogs seem to understand that they've been given another chance and are grateful to have loving homes!
Bonding with any dog takes time and effort (although sometimes a dog and a person will hit it off right away). With an older dog who's led a full life before meeting you, it might take a little longer. Remember, he could be missing a family he's lived with for many years, or if he was mistreated in the past, he might take longer to form that bond. But once a dog learns to trust you, that bond will be close. Some of the things you can do to help your older dog adjust include:
- Use your scent. Give him an article of clothing that you've been wearing (don't wash it), and let him sleep with it. Put it somewhere that he associates with comfort, like his doggy bed. He'll learn to associate comfort with you too.
- Spend time with him. Just sit with him and pet him; gently groom him; or take him for a walk or play-time at the lake. Let him learn that being with you is a fun & positive thing to look forward to.
- Let him sleep near you. Ok, not everyone likes to have a dog hogging the whole bed (and some dogs don't like sleeping on the bed since it's so hot and crowded)... but make up a big, comfy sleeping area / doggy bed in the bedroom with you.
More Resources for Adopting Senior Dogs
- SAINTS - Senior Animals In Need Today Society - A senior animal sanctuary
SAINTS is an end-of-life sanctuary for senior and special needs animals that have nowhere else to go. We provide a loving environment and proper medical care for all residents.
- The Senior Dogs Project
Photos and descriptions of older dogs available for adoption across North America.
- Petfinder.com: Adopt a pet and help an animal shelter rescue a puppy or kitten.
Adopt a homeless pet dog or cat from animal welfare organizations across the country.
- Pet Links: Humane Societies in Canada
Links to many humane societies throughout Canada. Pay a visit to your local shelter to see if there are older dogs looking for loving homes.