Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog
"There's nothing quite so wise and wonderful as an old dog," says Judith Piper, founder of Old Dog Haven in Arlington, Washington.
The rescue group has a dedicated network of foster homes that specialize in saving dogs eight years and older. Most pets usually arrive at the organization after their elderly owner dies or is no longer able to care for them.
Senior dogs are also surprisingly in demand with adopters -- in part, Piper says, because what you see is what you get.
A dog's size, personality, and energy level are already known. There's no guessing what that small pup will become as an adult, and that's a big bonus for many people looking to add a pet to their household, especially if you don't want long-term ownership commitments because of expected life changes including retirement or job relocation.
Also, in today's electronic age, an increasing number of people work from home and want mellow four-footed colleagues to keep them company. Still others adopt older companions simply to get started the world of dog ownership. "It's really easier to start with an older dog that isn't as demanding as a puppy," Piper says.
Sound tempting? Before filling out an adoption application, here are a few things you should consider:
Older dogs require more potty breaks throughout the day. That means you'll need to install a pet door, hire a dog walker, or come home for lunch to let your pet outside to relieve itself.
Large dogs with arthritis don't do well in two- and three-story homes because of the stairs, and won't be able to accompany you on lengthy walks or hikes.
As older dogs continue to age, they might lose their sight or hearing. Because of this, adoption experts say, households with toddlers (either your own or grandchildren who visit frequently) are not idea. Young children who accidentally startle or frighten a deaf or blind dog might get bitten.
Another consideration is the high cost of veterinary care, says Jamie Pinn, executive director of H.A.R.T Senior Dog Rescue in Fillmore, Calif. For more than 20 years the nonprofit has specialized in rehoming dogs aged 7 and older. Each pet undergoes an extensive medical exam, so adopters know upfront about any potential health issues. "We feel we owe that to whoever is going to take them on," she says.
Canines at Old Dog Haven also undergo complete physical exams. Rescue groups recommend that adopters use local veterinarians with experience in treating ailing geriatric animals, who are also known for not pushing pricey medical procedures.
Adopting an older dog is an often-overlooked option but one that many rescue groups say you won't regret. These mellow canine companions will happily pay you back for giving them a home by filling your life with so much love and joy, you'll wonder why you never considered it before.
About the Author: Maryann Mott is an Arizona-based pet journalist.
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
Single? What to Consider Before Getting a Dog
Can a single person adopt a dog? It can be done! If cost is not a concern for you and you feel like the dog would benefit, you can always hire someone to visit your dog to let him out during the day. Professional dog walkers, pet sitters or doggie daycare facilities would be good to look into. Older dogs, or dogs that are not hyper to begin with, are quite content to take long naps during the day. When I'm home on a day off, the dogs are napping except to get up and follow me around when I seem to be doing something interesting. Otherwise, I'm just not that exciting and it's back to the couch/crate/dog bed. The young dogs will get into trouble, though, with too much time on their paws and no one to help them expend their energy properly.
~Cathy H., owner of Saluki mix
Busy? A Puppy May Not Be For You
If you're a really busy person, I would advise against a puppy as you won't have time for him. Puppies take up a lot of time because you have to mold them into the right behaviors as they grow. What you probably should have is an adult dog. I'd recommend a low-energy breed that has already been housetrained and is friendly. Breeders sometimes have young adults for sale and then there are always rescues and shelters. If you decide to go with a breeder, make sure it is a reputable one.
~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix