Looking for a new dog can be an overwhelming experience, especially for first-time pet owners. A lot of families come into an adoption event with the idea that they would like to adopt a puppy from us. Some families leave with puppies, but many choose to adopt an adult or even a senior dog from us instead.
Kari Horton is a volunteer with Heartland Small Animal Rescue
– a nonprofit that rescues animals scheduled for euthanasia in local shelters. To read more from Heartland, check out the rescue’s community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Tails from the Heart
Adopting a senior dog has many benefits that often aren’t considered when searching for a new dog. A senior dog can make a first-time pet ownership experience less stressful, more rewarding and less work.
(Just for the record, a senior dog is over the age of seven.)
What you see is what you get
Senior dogs are full-grown and usually have very distinct personalities. With seniors, you don’t have to worry about the same things you do with puppies – like whether they will into those big paws or whether their hyper behavior will calm down as they grow older. Senior dogs are an open book. You can see their sizes, weights and personalities up front.
Know the basics
Most senior dogs already know basic obedience and often a lot more. A solid base of training opens up the possibility to teach your senior dog new things. Children are delighted when their new pets can sit and lay on demand. Older dogs usually listen well in general. This may cut down on the frustration of how long it takes to teach some puppies the basics.
Part of the pack
Typically, senior dogs have already been part of a family and know what it is like to be a pet. They see humans in the family as the pack leaders. Often, they can be rather agreeable when it comes to meeting a new canine family member as well.
Leash manners and jumping
Two of the hardest behaviors to correct in dogs are jumping on people and pulling leashes while being walked. Seniors tend to know how to calmly walk on leashes and enjoy leisurely strolls. They make “walking the dog” an enjoyable chore for all age groups. Puppies love to jump to show their excitement, and this behavior often scares young children. Seniors tend not to be jumpers and may be better fits for families with younger children. They are also good fits for family members who have disabilities, who have been afraid of dogs in the past or are elderly.
Calm, cool and collected
Seniors have been through a lot and have seen it all. They do not bark at every small noise or movement – this will come as a relief after realizing how many doorbells are rung on television each day. Seniors typically don’t jump fences to chase the mail man either. Their laid back attitudes make the transition to owning a new pet a fun and enjoyable experience.
If you have ever house trained a puppy, you know it is easier said than done. Some may learn quickly, and some may take much longer than expected. This becomes especially difficult if you have young children, carpet or other dogs. Cleaning up mess after mess can wear on the nerves of even the most patient new pet parent. Most seniors are already house trained. They also do not require middle of the night trips outside as many “in training” puppies do. This is an enormous time and stress reliever to new pet parents.
Senior pets still require exercise, but much less than new puppies do. They may enjoy a walk around the neighborhood or park, but typically do not need a long run to release their built up energy. This often makes a senior a great match for elderly people and those with longer work days.
Save your furniture
Puppies are known to chew on anything and everything within their reach. They may eat your shoes, chew on your child’s favorite toy or ruin your new couch. Fortunately, seniors are typically over this stage. They may enjoy a bone or treat, but know dirty socks or cardboard boxes aren’t tasty enough to mess with. Some puppies will also “mouth” things – including your child’s hand. Children often perceive this as biting and are scared. Seniors do not typically exhibit this behavior.
Saving a life
Whether you adopt a puppy, adult or a senior, you will be saving a dog’s life. I have found seniors seem to truly appreciate the second chances they are given. Older dogs are often overlooked in shelters and rescues. Dogs over seven still have plenty of life and love left in them. They become loyal companions and adore the families that save them.
Every dog, including a senior, has its own personality. Not every senior dog will already be house trained, and some may not like other dogs or children. We are happy to help you decide which dog is right for you!
Meet some of our wonderful seniors at www.heartlandsmallanimalrescue.org! Our rescue has reduced adoption fees for dogs over seven years of age. Their adoption fees are only $75. We hope this encourages families to give seniors a chance.
Would you like to be a community blogger for The Elkhart Truth?
Get in touch with community manager Ann Elise Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.