The most common misconception when it comes to dog ages is the term “senior”. It immediately brings to mind old dogs who are probably living out their last few weeks. That’s not necessarily true as the senior categorization varies, depending on the breed and size. Generally, dogs fall into that category when they’re between 5 to 10 years old.

Large breed dogs usually have shorter lifespans compared to the small breed canines. That means a 5-year-old german shepherd can be categorized as a senior as compared to a 9-year-old shih tzu. Think of them as mature dogs who are still active, healthy and of course, have plenty of love and companionship to give!

The 5 Most Common Myths

When we talk about our plans to adopt pets especially senior dogs from shelters, rumors that are totally ridiculous usually come up. If we didn’t know any better, we’d be marching straight to the pet shop to buy a puppy instead. Here are some common misconceptions about getting an older pooch.

Myth #1: It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks

They say that seniors are bent on going their own way. Training is almost impossible…NOT! It’s next to impossible finding a dog, adult or puppy, that’s untrainable. Keep in mind that your new furry pal is going to be in a totally new environment. He’ll probably have a couple of pee accidents, but be patient and consistent in housetraining. Adult dogs are perfectly capable of learning fast with your help.

Myth #2: They have behavioral issues

As you already know, senior dogs are often found in shelters. You may have seen some dogs at the shelter exhibiting aggressive behavior, barking too much and even relieving themselves where they were not supposed to. For these poor dogs, the shelters are stressful environments and most, if not all, end up there because their fur parents passed on or they strayed too far and their owners are no longer looking for them. It’s not our furry pals’ fault at all! These issues are often gone or manageable once they find themselves in less stressful environments.

Myth #3: They won’t respect you the way younger dogs do

While it’s true that adult dogs have more established personalities, it’s entirely false to claim that they’re stubborn to the core and won’t listen to you at all. As mentioned above, behavioral issues stem from not being able to handle stress in shelters. Just like humans, they have varied ways in dealing with loneliness, anxiety and depression. If they seem unresponsive to your commands, allow him some time to adjust to the new environment. Use a crate to teach him to relieve himself where you want him to. Consider obedience school to help him with basic commands and socialization.

Myth #4: Older dogs have health issues

While it may be true for some senior dogs who were not treated well or have been on their own, most older dogs are relatively healthy. Some fur parents who want to adopt tend to steer clear of senior dogs because of the “health issues” rumor. Before dogs are put up for adoption, they are examined by a vet for any infections, worms, and parasites. Depending on the shelter, the adoption fee you’re shelling out also includes vaccinations, spaying and neutering procedures, and flea and tick treatment.

Myth #5: They have a shady history

This myth may be somewhat true, especially with dogs that were rescued off the streets. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to completely go into this blindly. Rescue and shelter volunteers will gladly share some insights on your dog’s personality and how he is around other people and animals. It’s actually a wonderful thing to start from scratch! So, take this as an opportunity to start a beautiful relationship with your adopted senior dog.

If you’re a new pet parent who’s looking to adopt, it’s easy to fall prey to these false stories. Believing these myths might make you miss out on giving a forever home to a perfectly amazing pet!

The Benefits

As our dogs age, it’s no surprise to see dramatic changes in their personalities as well. Most senior dogs are lovingly described as “the calm after a chaotic day”, “my burst of sunshine when I’m not well”, or “my happy pill”. Sadly, most older dogs fall last on the list when it comes to adopting them. Humans are probably not aware that adopting senior dogs means:

Saving a life

Senior dogs are often considered last during adoption. Unfortunately, when it comes to euthanasia, they’re often the first. Did you know that roughly 2.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year due to overpopulation in shelters? It’s a sad fact, but you and your community can help lower the statistics by adopting pets especially senior dogs and cats. Not only are you giving them a chance to experience a wonderful life, but you’re also saving a life as well!

Having a calm and steady companion

Need a walking buddy? Or maybe you just want someone who’ll simply lay down and snuggle with you while watching Netflix? An older dog definitely has the makings of the perfect companion especially for the elderly. Whether you need a well-trained service dog to accompany you to therapy or a buddy who will sleep when you do, senior dogs are ideal companions who have a more calm demeanor.

Fewer problems with bizarre puppy personalities

If you’re not keen about the idea of shoes, rugs and personal belongings getting chewed on, consider a senior dog. Puppies can wreck your house minutes after they’re brought home. They’d chew anything they can land their teeth on! An adult dog is least likely to nip playfully, pee on your carpet, or chew on your furniture. As such, they make excellent playmates for young children and senior citizens.

They make wonderful pets for first-time dog owners

Puppies are a lot of work. There’s so much to consider, especially when it comes to house training and obedience. It can get overwhelming! One of the many wonderful things about senior dogs is their established attitude. Unlike puppies, it’s almost impossible for senior dogs to have erratic behavior. They’re most likely housetrained and understand commands.

Looking forward to another great addition to the family

A senior dog has plenty of love to give! They’re affectionate, trustworthy and will easily fit right into your family’s daily routine. What’s more, senior dogs will love you no matter what their past was. By rescuing them from the shelters and giving them a wonderful home, they will surely express their affection and gratitude to you.

The Challenges

When we think about the love we have for our dogs, we can’t seem to fathom why some dogs are abandoned then end up in shelters. While some owners may have completely valid reasons for giving up their dogs for adoption (e.g., no more budget for pets when they fell on hard times), others just give them up for the flimsiest reasons.

Stories like that of Baby Girl, a senior Poodle-Maltese mix, wrench your heart. From her condition, it was clear that she was on her own for a long time and was very sick when her new owner came to pick her up from the shelter. It was also evident, after a visit to the vet and a thorough check-up, that she was confined and neglected for most of her doggy years.

Fortunately, Baby Girl’s story has a happy ending. With her new owner, her tumor was removed, her vaccinations were complete, skin conditions are taken care of, supplements were given to help heal her, and she was visibly adored by her new family.

Before adopting a senior dog, it’s important to know and understand what you’re getting into:

  • If you happen to adopt a dog like Baby Girl who had a variety of health problems, you could easily find yourself taking frequent trips to the vet, spending a lot of money for treatment and grooming, and ensuring your new pet is eating right. Healing won’t happen overnight and would require a great deal of patience on your part.
  • Being in a shelter is depressing especially for senior dogs. It’s possible that your new dog will be a little aloof and unhappy after you bring him home. Sleeping for days and barely touching his food is also to be expected.
  • Though there is so much joy in caring for senior dogs, you need to have patience…okay, a lot of patience and effort to break old habits especially when it comes to housetraining. There’s going to be plenty of supervision and you might even resort to letting them wear diapers. But as mentioned, there’s no such thing as untrainable dogs and if there is, they’re a particularly rare breed. No pun intended.
  • Generally, adult dogs have no problem getting close to your puppies but may be unaccepting towards older pooches. If they’re not used to other dogs, they’re likely to lash out towards the adult dogs. Take note though that this will mostly depend on how tolerant your resident dog is towards strange canines. The more patient and sociable your furbaby is, the easier it is to introduce your new pet to the family.
  • The sad truth is having less time with your new senior furkid compared to getting a puppy. With a puppy, you’ll easily have 8 to 15 years of happiness. Adopting a senior dog means it will be less than that. And while it’s heartbreaking to lose a pet, think of it this way: the last few years of his life will be filled with love, happiness, and comfort being with you!

When you think about these challenges, it seems that the benefits still outweigh them. Indeed, your patience will be tested but then again, you get so much in return that extending your patience is not a big deal.

Important Points to Remember

Ready to welcome a senior dog to his forever home? Here are some points to think about before you head to the shelter.

1. Owner-surrendered dogs usually come with the information you need (breed, age, or health issues if there are any). With strays, you’ll only have the basic information from the time they were rescued off the streets.

2. Talk to the staff and volunteers at the shelter. Just like you, they’re eager to assist these dogs in finding good homes. Just let them know what you’re looking for, and they’ll be happy to help you.

3. Spend time with the dog before signing the papers. This helps create a bond that will make it easier for your furry pal to settle in your home.

4. Every dog is different. Just like humans, each has his own personality. So, don’t think that a Beagle will always be noisy or a Golden Retriever will always want to go hiking with you. Keep an open mind, especially when adopting strays.

5. Make a list of what you want. Do you want a female or male? Are you eager to adopt a large-breed dog? Those are questions you want to ask yourself before heading out to the shelter.

6. Consider your finances. Don’t just think about the adoption fee, vaccinations, food, and dog accessories. Take into consideration the dog’s size (the larger the dog, the bigger the expenses!), additional vet bills if there are any health issues, and even grooming fees if your dog has a skin infection that needs to be treated regularly.

7. Get your supplies ready ahead of time. That includes buying him a leash and collar, with your contact details included, or looking into having him microchipped. It may be some time before he’ll consider your house his home, so be on alert for a possible escape artist.

8. Make sure not to overwhelm your new dog with an erratic schedule. Dogs are a creature of habit and are much happier with a regular routine. To most humans, a regular routine is boring. Not to dogs! They’re happier with a stable schedule and consistency which keeps anxiety, stress, and depression at bay. They know what to expect and will feel more secure with routine activities.

9. Establish rules from the start. You may feel sorry for your new pooch, and want him in your bed or keep him in your room for the first few nights. This is not okay if you don’t have any plans of doing so in the future.

10. Don’t expect too much. Just like human relationships, it’s best to take it one day at a time. You’ll discover that there’s more to your furbaby than just being a “rescue”. Work at your relationship by providing the home and care he needs, understand why sometimes he gets a little antsy or stubborn, and be patient with him. He’ll reciprocate your love by being your best buddy, a Netflix movie night date, protector and love you with his all.

We hope that with this article we’re able to help you make the right decision in adopting a senior dog. Got a heartwarming adoption story to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below.