If you’re weighing up the pros, cons and benefits of adopting an older dog our guide can help you come to an informed decision on the multiple advantages of adopting an older dog.
Dog shelters are not short of older dogs for adoption and this guide will help to break down some of the myths about how and why senior dogs often end up in shelters, available for adoption.
First, let’s do something that would be considered rather controversial – ready? OK, here goes.
Let’s trash the reputation of puppies!
Puppies are overrated.
There, I said it. Once you’ve seen one puppy, you’ve seen them all. The benefits of adopting an older dog will make you see puppies in a whole new light (maybe).
OK, I admit to taking a degree of creative licence with these heinous, somewhat hyperbolic accusations about pups, but let’s be honest here, puppies are more attractive in concept than reality.
Which brings us on to myth number one about the disadvantages of adopting an older dog.
Do older dogs bond with new owners like puppies?
Yes. Unequivocally, the answer yes.
Puppies are extremely pliable and they will establish a relationship with their first owners but all dogs have the capacity to adapt to new lives with new owners at any age. This is a reality proven by the sheer number of shelter dogs who, in some cases, have gone from multiple homes and established genuine canine / human bonds with different owners whether in foster homes or semi-permanent settings.
A puppy will bond for a period with the person or people who feeds and trains them. The same is true of older dogs. It may take a little longer, but the emotional ability to bond and fit in to a new pack is innate in dogs, the species.
Why do dogs even love humans in the first place?
Please, don’t buy in to the myth that it is only possible to form a lifelong bond with a puppy. Older dogs can bond just the same.
Shall we tackle the second (big) myth about adopting an older dog?
Older dogs in shelters are problem dogs
Not true. Absolutely not true.
We can dismantle this myth with one, very simple thought experiment.
Older dogs in shelters were puppies once.
Somebody, somewhere had that older dog as a puppy. If it were true that the best way to get a dog was to get a puppy and then establish lifelong bonds leading to the perfect canine / human relationship, then how come there are thousands of ex-puppies who are now living in shelters as older dogs?
Doesn’t add up, does it?
In shelters you will find dogs of all types, with all kinds of backgrounds, temperaments, histories and personalities.
Yes, there are dogs in shelters who need special care from experienced owners. If that’s not you, don’t worry. Good shelters don’t want to pair you with a dog like that. Good shelters want you to get the dog that is most suitable for you and your family.
Do not, please, buy in to the myth that any dog above 2-years old is somehow problematic.
Dogs end up in shelters for a variety of reasons.
The most common reasons dogs end up in shelter
Dogs, particularly older dogs (7 years or above) find themselves seeking new homes for a multitude of reasons, but the most commonly overlooked ones are:
- Owner encounters financial problems and can no longer care for dog
- Owner deceased
- Owner has to move to new rented accommodation and can’t find pet friendly landlord
- Owner(s) experience relationship breakup and neither party can afford dog ownership costs
- Owner changes profession and no longer has time to adequately care for dog
All of these scenarios present an innocent victim. The older dog who finds themself seeking a new home via a shelter despite never having a single episode of bad behaviour or ill health.
The advantages of adopting an older dog
Older dogs are still able to give lots of love even when they are showing signs of grey hairs. Best of all, they may still have plenty of years left to give you companionship, fun times and can enrich our lives just as much as a puppy.
As we’ve established, puppies can be one of the most loveable pets on the planet but can also demand lots of time, attention and effort to get them to settle into your lifestyle pattern. An older dog can in many cases take a lot less time to adapt to the care that you have to offer and will lap up all the love that you have to give and will actually appreciate it more.
An older generation dog, especially one that you might have picked up from your local animal shelter might have been there for some time and whilst the staff at the shelter do a magnificent job, they cannot offer much one to one attention, as they would like, to each individual dog as you can. Even an older dog that is moving from owner to owner will usually adapt to the situation a lot greater than some puppies do.
So, how can I convince you that you should adopt an older dog rather than go for a puppy?
Well, if your mind is made up and you are adamant that you are after a puppy then I wouldn’t even attempt to convince and change your mind. You have still made a worthwhile decision to look after a dog, train a dog and give him all the love and affection that they deserve.
I would have no reason to convince you. Also, if you have no intention of getting a dog then, again, there will be no point in trying to convince you. Those people who are thinking about getting a dog and have not decided what type they want or how they want to go about it, it is you I’m trying to appeal to.
Adopting an older dog brings extra joy to both of you
The evidence that adopting an older dog has many benefits is plentiful.
Your newly adopted older dog will more than likely be housetrained and will not feel the need to urinate in the home, because he is excited, when your nephews’ and nieces’ come to visit. A dog has to do what a dog has to do and as long as you allow your older dog time outside, whether it be in the garden, or walks in the park, your dog will do his business in an exterior location and not in front of the dining room. Don’t forget to pick up any doggie business that he may have left and get rid of it in the proper manner.
More appreciation for what you do
We all love to shower our dogs with gifts; we probably get the greater satisfaction out of this than our dogs do. Older pets are much more receptive to gifts and presents than the puppy generation*. Puppies just love to play and be it a squeaky toy or an expensive knitted dog coat, it may not be long before he gets his teeth into it and attempts to rip things to shreds. The older pet welcomes the attention that you are lavishing on it.
*I did say I was going to trash the reputation of puppies – and I meant it!
(Disclaimer: most puppies love and appreciate the same things as older dogs but come on, I’m trying here!)
Walks in the park with an older dog are bliss
Older dogs are much more unlikely to roam away and investigate things on their travels. A puppy will want to be everywhere at the same time, impossible but will want to none the less. An ageing dog is more likely to appreciate his daily walks and will not stray far from you. Been there done that is what he would be thinking. He will want to walk on a regular basis but will take his time and plod along.
Increased knowledge about the dog as an adult
If you adopt an older dog from a rescue centre, more often than not he would have already been vaccinated and neutered. This is benefiting you as you now have a vaccinated dog whereas a puppy may need a whole host of vaccinations, which could cost you a tidy sum. Not that this should put you off. If you have decided to invest in a puppy then you should be aware of any financial implications. An older dog from a rescue shelter will have been fully looked after during its time there. You can also guarantee that caring and helpful staff would have looked after the dog.
More than anything, if you adopt an older dog from a rescue the good staff at the adoption shelter will be able to tell you everything they know about your new dog. What does she like? What doesn’t she like? Is she good with cats? Does she enjoy the company of children?
With a puppy, you sometimes have to wait a long time to find out these things.
Adaptability of older dogs to new homes
Older pets are normally easier at adapting to human lifestyles; after all they have probably lived in a similar situation before. Alarm clocks, telephones and your Eminem CD all have the potential to create noises that may cause stress and / or intrigue in a puppy. An older dog is probably used to all the noises that a puppy may find disturbing. An anxious, disturbed or even excited puppy may feel the need to yellow stain your carpet.
Benefits of adopting an older dog for elderly people
RSPCA urges lonely people to volunteer or adopt a pet in bid to tackle loneliness Pets can keep lonely people company and help them meet new people.
As the Royal College of General Practitioners revealed the health dangers associated with loneliness, the RSPCA is urging anyone feeling the effects of being alone to consider taking on a rescue animal.
More than 1.1m people are thought to be chronically lonely with 17% of older people having human contact less than once a week.
The Royal College of General Practitioners revealed that loneliness can be as bad for someone’s health as having a long-term illness such as diabetes.
The RSPCA is urging friends, relatives and neighbours of anyone they suspect of feeling lonely to consider rehoming an animal or taking up volunteering.
Why dog adoption is beneficial for elderly people
Dr Julia Wrathall, chief scientific officer at the RSPCA, said: “Adopting a pet can be a fantastic way to combat loneliness and animals can make wonderful companions for those who find themselves alone. As well as pets helping people, pairing lonely people with a suitable animal could also help to ease pressure on the animal welfare charities and rescue centres across the country who are full to bursting with unwanted pets. And of course, it can provide the opportunity for a wonderful new life for a needy animal too.
Summary: think about the advantages of adopting an older dog
You may be nearly convinced but worried why the dog was placed in the rescue centre in the first place. Does it have behavioural problems? Is it a troublemaker? Worse still, has it a nasty temperament, especially where children are concerned. The common reason that dogs find themselves in this situation is to changes in their owner’s domestic circumstances and not necessarily because of an underlying behavioural problem.
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Therefore, most of the dogs that you have the chance to adopt are likely to have very good temperaments. The staff at the centres will advise and help you as much as they can and more importantly they will be honest. They don’t want to see the dog back with them in two weeks time. With a puppy you have a clean slate and the way it behaves and learns is ultimately down to you. An older dog will not require the same sort of attention and you may actually learn something from it.
Bring joy, adopt an older dog
By giving an older dog a home, you can make a difference. They can give you plenty of happiness, love and affection and in return you can offer the same. We all know the advantages of purchasing a puppy, but don’t forget that these older dogs were puppies once. You may have thought ‘is a 7 year old dog too old to adopt?‘ but remember, for many dogs they’re not even in to the second half of their lives yet.
Their first owners probably had just as good intentions as you have of having a dog. If you have ever visited a rescue shelter and walked along the rows and rows of cages and seen the dogs in these cages, then you will have seen dogs of all differing personalities. The one that is running around chasing his tail probably makes you laugh, then there is the cute looking one that makes you want to go “awwwww”.
The older dog is probably the one just sat watching the world go by. It might seem quite boring to you but this dog has so much love to give to you. Give him a go, you will find that it will be worth it.
Older dogs available for adoption right now
If you’ve been persuaded to give an older dog a chance, here are some older dogs seeking a new home right now.