When we originally got Rooster, the vets and foster organization guessed that he was about seven years old. He was on the verge of becoming a senior dog, as bigger dogs are often considered seniors around 6-8 years old, but he still had all the spunk of a young dog. As the years have gone by, it’s become more and more clear that we have less time with him.
Adopting an older dog has its pros and cons. For example, senior dogs are some of the sweetest dogs and are great companions. On the flip side, there are some health issues that come with age and they might not have a ton of energy for exploring. Because of the amount of care that they might need, senior dogs are some of the most overlooked ones in shelters and with potential vet bills, it can be hard for shelters and humane societies to properly care for them.
One thing I always want people to know about animals, and especially about senior dogs, is just how much time and patience you’ll need. As the dog ages, their habits and schedule might change over time. Senior dogs move a whole lot slower than you might like, which makes walks a bit more peaceful but it’s not so great when you’re in a rush. They’ll also need some extra care (i.e. more bathroom breaks) and in some cases, will also need special diets or creative ways to get them to eat. There might be times when they have accidents, not because they’re not house trained but because they’re just old and might not realize that they’re inside and had to go.
- 9 Health Problems Seen in Senior Dogs by Jenna Stregowski, The Spruce
All of this sounds so negative but in reality, I just want people to understand the amount of care that senior dogs need. And to be honest, you’ll still need to dedicate a lot of time, energy, and resources to a dog of any age. Younger dogs will need to be house-trained, will need other kinds of training (like how to walk on a leash or to sit on command), and will probably need a lot of exercise. The type of care and how much time they’ll need will depend on a whole lot (i.e. their breed and personal history) and that’ll be true throughout a dog’s life.
There’s a common phrase that comes to mind with senior dogs: ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In reality, senior dogs, especially senior rescues, might have some quirks and habits but they’re still usually able to learn new tricks! Just like with younger dogs, it takes time and energy to learn new things but it’s still possible. Milo, for example, was about nine years old when I taught him to shake and I was able to do so with repetition and treats. It took a few days of doing it over and over again but he eventually figured out how to shake on command!
- Odenton [Maryland] family creates bucket list for adopted senior dog, wins $10,000 grant for BARCS by John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun
At least in my own experience, senior dogs give so much love and care back. Having Rooster in my family, even during his golden years, was still one of the best decisions we’ve made because he’s brought so much joy to every person he comes across. He’s a lot of work some days but when he looks at me with so much unconditional love, I know everything we do for him is worth it.
I would love for nothing more than for every senior dog to have their forever homes because I know how much I love my own senior dog. If you’re able and understand what you’re getting into, I personally recommend adopting a senior dog. You might have less time with them compared to a puppy but that time will be filled with just so much love and happiness. And senior rescues will just be so happy to have a forever home to live out the rest of their days.
If you aren’t able to adopt a dog of any age but want to help out senior dogs, there are a few organizations that actually focus specifically on helping senior animals. The Old Dog Haven is based in western Washington and helps to place senior dogs in foster homes so that they can spend their last days in a loving home instead of a shelter. Susie’s Senior Dogs is a US based organization that uses social media to help get senior rescue dogs into forever homes. There’s also the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary based in Tennessee that provides senior dogs with a loving home.