When many people think about bringing home a new four-legged friend, they automatically think of puppies. But there are lots of reasons to consider adopting older dog, ranging from their lower-maintenance lifestyles to their built-in companionship skills.
“Many people want a puppy or young adult, and by default overlook seniors,” explains Doreen Jakubcak, founder and executive director of Marty’s Place Senior Dog Sanctuary in New Jersey. “But the beauty of adopting a senior is that you can find one that fits your lifestyle—whether you’re an active person or prefer the quiet companionship of a dog lying next to you on the sofa.”
Here are 8 reasons to adopt a senior dog.
They Have Lots of Life Left
Some people shy away from adopting seniors because they fear an imminent painful goodbye. But Abbie Moore, chief operating officer of Adopt-a-Pet.com and
co-author of The Total Dog Manual and The Total Cat Manual, explains that many senior dogs in shelters still have plenty of life left. “There’s no hard-and-fast definition of a senior dog—sometimes dogs in shelters are labeled as ‘senior’ when they’re only six or seven years old,” she says. “Many dogs can live into their early and even late teens, especially small dogs and mixed-breeds, so there’s no reason to fear that you’re adopting a dog with too soon an expiration date. You may have years and years of love ahead of you.”
They Require Less Training
Bringing home a puppy can be like bringing home a baby, between the potty training, sleepless nights, and household destruction. But most older dogs will already be house-trained, and are well past the puppy stage where energy abounds and everything they see becomes a makeshift chew toy. “It’s common knowledge that the baby version of anything is excruciatingly adorable. But that cuteness also demands a lot of time, patience, and work,” says Nina Thompson, news center manager for the San Diego Humane Society. “When you adopt a senior dog, you get a fast-pass through the challenges of puppies.”
Moore adds that, generally speaking, senior dogs are also easier to care for, particularly for adopters who don’t have either the time or space to provide a high level of activity for their pets. “Senior dogs usually don’t need as much exercise as younger dogs, which is great for those of us who lack the time, energy, or ability to take two or three multi-mile walks each day to accommodate the needs of an enthusiastic youngster,” she adds.
They Make Great Cuddle Partners
Thompson notes that thanks to their generally lower energy levels and a steadfast fondness for napping, senior pets can often coax out the inner homebody in their owners—and make the perfect companions for those who lead less-active lifestyles. “Sweet seniors enjoy their quiet time…more mature animals usually have less energy, which makes them great companions for mellow, relaxed households that are looking for a cozy companion,” she adds.
There’s No Surprises
When you enter a shelter or rescue organization, it will be easy to determine a senior dog’s personality and preferences based on their behavior as well as conversations with the organization’s staff. That way, you’ll be able to find the right fit for your family and lifestyle. “What you see is what you get—senior dogs have fully-developed personalities,” Moore says. “Their temperament and characteristics are fully on display to you when you meet them.”
You’re Saving a Life
Because people are generally more willing to adopt puppies, sadly, Jakubcak says that many seniors that enter shelters do not come out. “Senior pets end up in shelters for a variety of reasons, often times through no fault of their own. Although staff and volunteers do an incredible job making shelter stays as positive as possible, it’s no place for an animal to live out their last years,” Thompson says. “By adopting a senior pet, you replace their heartache with hope and happiness to fill the time they have left.”
Animal Haven in New York City is just one organization that goes out of its way to rescue senior dogs; according to Tiffany Lacey, Animal Haven’s executive director, a large portion of its population includes dogs eight years of age and older. “We realize the joy seniors can bring to a family, and so we say ‘yes’ to senior dog surrenders and pull them from our city shelter on a regular basis knowing we will be able to place them in a loving home,” she explains. “Many of our adopters are looking for a slower, calmer dog experience—and a senior is a perfect match.”
You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
According to Thompson, while senior dogs may not require the obedience training that puppies do, that doesn’t mean you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Senior dogs can be lots of fun to train because their attention span is greater than those of their younger counterparts, and they’ll be eager to please the members of their new family. “Typically, senior pets are already trained, but even if they’re not, they tend to catch on faster and have an easier time focusing than their juvenile counterparts,” she explains.
You Can Honor the Memory of a Pet You’ve Lost
When a dog crosses the Rainbow Bridge, many pet owners are inspired to rescue an older dog to provide another senior pet with love and happiness in their final years. “When my dog, Norm, became very old…it occurred to me that if anything happened to me and he ended up in a shelter, he would most likely be overlooked. The people walking by his kennel wouldn’t understand that they were in the presence of perhaps the most perfect soul ever to walk this earth. They would only see an old man,” Moore recalls. “When Norm passed, I was overwhelmed with a need to adopt another overlooked perfect soul.”
They’re Instant Companions
When you bring home a puppy, not only will they need to be potty and obedience trained, but they’ll need to learn to adapt to their new surroundings while at the same time learning how to live inside a home and share a space with humans. “While people often think of senior pets for senior people, older dogs and cats often make great first time pets as well because there’s no real training or difficult adjustments needed,” says Dawn Kemper, executive director of Young at Heart Senior Pet Adoptions in Illinois. “They become instant companions.”