The Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog

Posted by Jackie Ly on

senior dog held by their owner

Dog adoption is always an exciting journey, both for the family members and the dog. But it doesn’t mean that just because you want a new addition to the family, you should always adopt a newborn or a puppy. 

Sometimes, an older, more mature dog is best fit for your home, especially if you want to experience a more laid-back lifestyle with the company of a newly adopted pet who can even be potty-trained. 

Aside from deciding the right dog breed that suits your family, take some time to meet senior dogs looking for a home too. Consider them as an option on your next visit to the shelter or rescue organisation. 

There are many more benefits to adopting a senior dog than you might realise, like how all the dog products you’ll buy will always fit because they’ll never grow bigger. 

In the following sections, you’ll learn more about senior dogs and the benefits of adopting them.

How old is a senior dog?

Most dogs are puppies up to the age of 6 to 12 months. Then they move to adulthood which lasts until they are about 5 or 6 years old. At that point, the senior life stage's obvious signs begin to appear, though some dogs reach 12 years old before they begin to age.

The answer to the question "How old is a senior dog?" still contains inconsistencies backed up with contradicting statistics. With that, the general consensus is that the 'senior' life stage of a dog typically happens in the last quarter to one-third of a dog's expected lifespan.

Small dogs

Smaller dogs that are less than 20 pounds usually age faster than other larger breeds as they are often fully matured by the time they are 6 to 8 months old. However, after this, they age more slowly.

A small-breed dog can live up to 16 years, which is often longer than a large-breed dog. As a result, a small, healthy dog may not be regarded as senior until they are 12 years old.

Large dogs

Large dog breeds often have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds, thus they reach their golden years earlier.

A good example of large breed dogs is the labrador retriever. Since they live an average of 12 years, they would start their senior years at the age of 8 or 9. 

Giant breeds, like the Bernese Mountain Dog, have quite shorter life spans; "Berners" in particular live to be on average 6 to 8 years old, therefore would be regarded as seniors around 4 to 5.

Common misconceptions about senior dogs

The phrase, “age is just a number,” should also be applied when deciding to adopt a pet. A dog doesn't have any less love to give just because they aren't puppies anymore. 

Here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about senior dogs: 

  • They don’t play anymore
  • They won’t bond with their new owner
  • They are hard to train
  • They require more expensive vet bills
  • Owners won’t have much time with them

    These myths make people who want to adopt a dog to steer away from senior dogs, when in fact these things cannot be farther from the truth. 

    Here are 7 truths to debunk these myths– 7 benefits of adopting a senior dog.

    7 Benefits of adopting a senior dog

    They were already housebroken

    Although they are adorable, puppies may be challenging, especially when it comes to housebreaking. Senior dogs don't have that issue because they are usually already housetrained and have lived with other humans. 

    According to experts, older dogs are usually potty-trained and already learned basic cues like sit, stay, come, and down. Adopting a dog that has already been trained allows pet owners to save time used for training a younger dog. 

    You can bring your new senior dog straight into your home with less mess and no worries! 

    They’re calmer and less destructive

    Senior dogs are usually calmer because much of their energy was spent during their puppyhood.  Puppies are overflowing with energy and often destructive, while senior dogs have grown out of those habits. 

    This may not be true for every dog since there will always be those who don't want to stop playing. However, for the majority of dogs, as they age, their desire for play lowers and they're less energetic during the day.

    • Your furniture is safe - Older dogs cause less to no destruction since they are less eager to explore everything or chew on carpets, furniture, or shoes. Senior dogs are more likely to be laid-back since they outgrew their previous habits and are done with the teething stage.
    • They have better manners - Dogs with calmer attitudes usually behave better than younger, more energetic dogs. Older dogs benefit from their previous socialisations with both dogs and people, making them more likely to have positive interactions in the future. Additionally, older dogs probably had some form of obedience training, which helped them be more polite.
    • They need less supervision - As mentioned above, because senior dogs have grown out of their bad habits and are typically calmer, they need less supervision from you. A senior  dog is content to relax by your side.

    They can instantly form a deep connection with you

    You and your senior dog can have a strong bond just like a young puppy. When you save an older dog, it seems as though they understand right away that this wonderful new human saved them and transformed their lives forever.

    Many adopters agree that adopted senior dogs are aware of how lucky they are and they're grateful for the second chance at happiness their new owner has given them. From their perspective, life is excellent, and they are appreciative of additional attention, extra cuddling time, and extra treats.

    They learn new tricks faster

    No matter what level of training your new adult dog went through—and regardless of how much— it makes everything easier. They most likely already know how to sit and stay, and if you're lucky, they can even be leash-trained.

    Older canines who already received training can learn new command cues more quickly. Your dog will pay closer attention to every action you make because of the strong connection you two share. This natural awareness makes your new dog much more willing to learn new commands.

    They’ve reached their size

    The majority of dogs at shelters are mixed breed. Because of this, it's often impossible to predict how huge they will eventually grow. That adorable puppy you can currently hold with one arm may grow up to weigh 80 pounds. 

    But older dogs have grown up. You get exactly what you see.

    That means that you won't ever need to replace dog beds or their crates. That new collar you bought will always fit.

    Adoption cost is less expensive

    Many adoption centres and shelters reduce adoption costs for older dogs, especially for senior citizens adopting them.  You'll find that elders pay lower adoption costs when they adopt older dogs—those that are six years old or older—from shelters and animal care facilities.

    In addition to adoption fees, senior dogs' vet bills are lower than those of puppies, whose first year of care can cost over $1,000.

    You can have the dog you always wanted

    Come to think of it, if you cannot afford a newborn puppy of the breed you’ve always wanted, you can adopt older dogs with the same breed! They are sitting in a shelter somewhere, waiting for you to adopt them.

    Also, when adopting an older dog, you are aware of what to expect from their behaviour. Another benefit is that you already know all of their medical history– vet visits are less frequent because the vaccinations were already taken care of.

    Bonus: You give them another chance at life

    This is a bonus because it’s more of a benefit for senior dogs than for you.

    You are always saving a life whenever you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue organisation, but when it comes to senior dogs, that is much more true. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA) reported that the adoption rate for senior dogs is 25%, compared to 60% for younger dogs and pups. 

    A lot of assumptions are often made regarding older animals, such as that a dog was given up because of behavioural or medical problems. But sometimes, it's just that their former owner passed away and nobody would adopt them.

    These dogs spent the most of their life living with a family. They just want to belong again, and being adopted by a new family is exactly what they long for.

    In the end I guess this also benefits you, as this can make your heart happy knowing you gave a lovely, adorable senior dog a chance to enjoy life again.

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