Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog

Adopting a senior dog has a lot of advantages. These golden oldies are already housebroken, obey obedience commands, and require significantly less exercise than their younger counterparts.

"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.