dog-656224_1280If you’re an animal lover, it breaks your heart to hear about people dumping an older dog at the shelter — one day it has a family, the next day it’s alone in a cage. Sometimes this is no fault of the dog’s owner; perhaps the dog belonged to an older person who died or went into a nursing home or other facility where pets aren’t allowed. Other times… you just wonder. Maybe they couldn’t control the dog’s misbehavior, or maybe they were afraid of the medical expense of having a senior dog… or maybe the reasons were far more selfish. But for whatever reason, thousands of senior dogs are surrendered at animal shelters every day, with much less chance of adoption than puppies.

But if you ask me, older dogs make even better pets than puppies. Here’s why the next addition to your family should be a “senior” dog — considered a dog age 7 or older, depending on the breed (smaller dogs usually have longer life spans than larger dogs, and are “seniors” later in life).

  • Most dogs surrendered to shelters have already had some training, both in obedience and house manners. This may be imperfect, but it’s a great place to start.
  • Dogs of any age can be trained. The idea that you can’t train an old dog is a myth. In fact, sometimes older dogs are even easier to train than puppies.
  • Many dogs’ “behavior problems” are easy to fix with the proper structure and leadership. Perhaps the dog needs more exercise. Perhaps the dog needs a more confident “alpha” or needs to be crate-trained. Most solutions are simple.
  • dog-443398_1280Older dogs are generally calmer and more patient than puppies. They are less likely to chew up your new rattan porch furniture, and may need less exercise.
  • You don’t have to wonder how big they will grow, if they will become too large for your environment.
  • Older dogs may have more costly vet bills — but there’s no guarantee a puppy won’t have health problems too. If you find a vet who is willing to work with you compassionately rather than immediately recommending every expensive test and treatment, the expenses might not be unreasonable at all.
  • Yes, you will “bond” with an older dog. How could you not? He will be so grateful to you for giving him a second chance at having a loving home.
  • You’ll feel like a hero. Because you are.

Now, a testimonial: We have adopted 2 older dogs; one was a 4-year-old German Shepherd Dog, not quite a senior. He did however come with some “baggage” — he had been abused. With love, lots of exercise and interaction and patience, he became a wonderful pet. (He’s now 13.) The other was a 9-year-old Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix, who was 9. His previous owners said he was too “hyper” and they couldn’t house train him so they kept him in an outdoor pen where he got huge sores from flea bites. We had him neutered (yes, at age 9), he settled down and within two weeks he was snuggling in our bed, sores healed, and only had an “accident” once. Well, maybe twice, but that’s OK! He lived with us two years until we had to put him down due to cancer. Awesome

Perhaps that is the ultimate reason people don’t want older dogs – they know the dog will not have long before they have to say goodbye, and it’s very difficult to put a dog down at the end of its life. With Jake, we all cried like babies. But our hearts were full, remembering how happy he was with us, knowing we gave him the only thing a dog really wants, a loving family, and reassurance that he’s a very good dog. And maybe a nice squishy ball. And that hot dog you’re eating.