- Sydney Jeanne Seward
Sometimes people say that I'm an angel for rescuing the old, the blind and the disabled, but they are wrong. I'm lucky because I get to spend my life with these babies, and because they enrich each and every day. Little old, frail dogs capture my heart in an instant, and never let it go. Would you wish you never saw a butterfly because it briefly touches a flower and then is gone?
There are many misconceptions about adopting an older dog, and yet there is nothing more rewarding. Here are some common questions and answers about senior dogs.
1. Won't I just be adopting someone else's problems? If the dog were so wonderful, why wouldn't the previous owner's have kept him?
Answer: Older dogs lose their homes for many different reasons....most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with those of the person or family surrendering the dog. Many people think the dogs who end up at shelters or in rescue are genetically and behaviorally inferior. But it is not at all uncommon for very expensive, well-bred, well-trained dogs to outlive their usefulness or novelty with those who bought them on impulse and no longer want to take responsibility for them. As sad as this is, its all too common. Even when shelter staff tell them their dog has a high likelihood of being euthanized, they shrug and walk away. Some people would rather surrender a dog while they go on vacation, than pay for board!!!
Other reasons older dogs become homeless include, death of a guardian....not enough time for the dog...... change in work schedule..... new baby..... need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed.... kids going off to college.... allergies.... change in "lifestyle".... prospective spouse doesn't like dogs. (All these reasons are taken from real case histories.)
2. What advantages do older dogs have over puppies or young dogs?
Answer: There are many advantages to an older dog, for example:
- Older dogs who are offered for adoption by shelters or rescue groups generally have had some training, both in obedience and house manners. (Some dogs, due to the confusion and upset of being uprooted and finding themselves in a chaotic shelter environment, may temporarily forget their housetraining. Inevitably, once established in their new home, they remember.)
- In addition, older dogs have learned what "no" means and how to leave the furniture, carpets, shoes, and other "chewables" alone.
- They have been "socialized" and learned what it takes to be part of a "pack" and to get along with humans and, in most cases, other dogs, and in some other cases, cats, as well.
- Older dogs, especially those who have once known it, appreciate love and attention and quickly learn what's expected of them to gain and keep that love and attention.
- Older dogs know how to let you finish the newspaper sitting calmly beside you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers. They are instant companions, ready for hiking, riding in the car, walking on leash, fetching, etc.
- Finally, older dogs are a "known commodity." They are easy to assess for size and temperament, and you also don't have to guess how big they'll grow or whether they'll turn out to have serious behavior problems.
3. Aside from any advantages an older dog has, is there any good reason to adopt an older dog instead of a puppy, who has his whole life ahead of him?
Answer: Just about everyone who enters a shelter is looking for a puppy or a young dog (generally a year old or under). There are also many people who buy puppies from breeders or puppy mills (especially online). By adopting an older dog, we can make a statement about compassion and the value of all life at all ages, as well as register a protest against the indiscriminate and inhumane breeding of dogs for profit. And, of course, just as a puppy has his whole life ahead of him, so does an older dog have the rest of his life in front of him. You can give that older dog the best years of his life while at the same time bringing a wonderful addition into your family.
4. Don't older dogs cost more in vet bills?
Answer: Veterinary attention and medication are needed at all ages and may or may not be more costly for an older dog. Before you adopt a senior,you can also get a health report from a veterinarian. That way, if you discover that the dog has a health problem, you can decide if you are able to make the needed financial commitment before making an emotional commitment.
5. Do older dogs have any "special needs"?
Answer: With a health assessment of the dog, you will know whether any age-related conditions are present and you can take appropriate measures to address them. Otherwise, older dogs need all the things younger dogs do -- good nutrition, exercise (although less intensive, usually, than for a younger dog), and regular visits to the vet.
6. Isn't it true that you can't train an older dog the way you can train a puppy?
Answer: Seriously????? Dogs can be trained at any age. The old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," just isn't true.
7. How long will it take for an older dog to settle into a routine with me?
Answer: Each dog is an individual and comes with a unique set of experiences and from varying circumstances, so it is hard to predict how long a specific dog will require to make an adjustment. If a dog has been in a shelter or kennel, the stresses of such an experience may cause him to be confused and disoriented for a while. Some dogs forget or are confused about their housetraining. With care, patience, and a kind, understanding, loving attitude, just about any dog will come around. It may be a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.
8. Is there anything special I will need to do during the dog's "adjustment" period?
Answer: Again, this will depend on the individual dog. In general, with a dog of any age, it is a good idea to set aside a period of several weeks during which you can spend more time than usual in reassuring the dog, establishing good communication with the dog, and creating the special bond that will ensure a good future together.
9. I just lost my old dog. What if I lose another soon after I adopt him?
Answer: Grief is a very personal matter. Some people feel that giving a home to an older dog in need is a tribute to their former dog and actually eases their pain. Also, just the thought of knowing that adoption has saved a dog from euthanasia and will allow her quality time for whatever period she has left, often enables people to focus on the positives and to deal better with loss.
Consider also that there are never any guarantees about length of life with any dog. Quality of time together can matter a great deal more than quantity.
So in other words, give an older dog a chance. I promise you won't be sorry.