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Should You Adopt a Senior Dog?

Senior dog with short brown fur, white fur around face and legs, standing on a dirt path in woods covered in snow

Are you looking to adopt a dog? Have you thought about seeking out a senior dog who needs a home? For some, adopting a senior dog becomes a very fitting move and can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for you and your family! Sometimes a high-energy puppy can be a lot to take on and despite senior dogs being more likely to have health problems, you might be surprised by a senior dog being a better fit.

It’s important to look at this new chapter of your life from multiple angles and think about what is best for your lifestyle. Like anything, there are also challenges with adopting senior dogs. But who knows – for you they could be outweighed by the advantages! So, let’s dive in.

Senior dogs can often have a calm demeanor and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors or require as much training. Unlike puppies whose personalities are still developing, senior dogs typically have established personalities and behaviors. This makes it easier to know what to expect in terms of temperament and behavior. On the flip side, they may not be as receptive to training as younger dogs. Keep that in mind if you see yourself wanting a completely clean slate for training a dog.

Many senior dogs have been house-trained prior to adoption, which can save you the time and effort needed for housetraining a younger dog. Overall, they generally require less time and attention than puppies which can be helpful for individuals or families with busy schedules. Since they require less exercise than younger dogs, they can be a good choice for people with less active lifestyles or limited mobility. With a senior dog, you also may not need to deal with teething, excessive chewing, or unpredictable growth spurts that can often come with puppies or middle-aged dogs.

Older dogs often form strong bonds with their new owners. They may even show a deep sense of gratitude for being adopted into a loving home in their golden years, which could save them from spending their final days in a shelter. Oftentimes, potential dog owners don’t realize that by adopting a senior dog, they’re supporting the rescue and adoption of older dogs and other animals. This can help make room for other dogs in need.

While there are many advantages to adopting a senior dog, they may also have specific health needs or require special care due to their age. This is one of the reasons why giving a senior dog is very admirable – you may be taking on some health conditions from the get-go. Regular veterinary check-ups, a comfortable environment, and lots of love and attention are essential to ensure they live their remaining years in comfort and happiness.


Getting Ready for your New Best Friend

Getting ready for your senior dog's grand entrance is important and will prepare you to be equipped for whatever they may need.

1. Creating a Comforting, Fun & Safe Environment

It's time to "pup-proof" your home! Search for any sneaky dangers like tempting items to chew on or tripping hazards – especially if your new friend has mobility restraints. Clear away any delicate items you don’t want to get damaged as you get to learn your dog’s habits, capabilities, and curiosities. Are there any rooms or floors you need to block off with a gate?

Additionally, be sure they have easy access to water, their food bowl, and a cozy resting spot for when they need to take a break. Buy some fun toys to keep them stimulated when they feel the urge to play around. Many dogs love chomping on treat dispenser balls, squeaky toys and rope toys. Snuffle Puzzle Pads are a great activity that encourages mental stimulation too. This can help keep them occupied and staying out of trouble which can be a result of dog boredom!

Brown dog with nose in snuffle mat. Snuffle mat has many flaps of felt that dog puts nose in to search for hidden treats

Anti-slip mats and carpeting can help with any areas you’re concerned about. Did they use a ramp or stairs to access higher areas? Be sure these are in place if you need them getting up into a car or steep set of stairs.

2. Dog Food, Supplements and Medication

Support their digestion during this transition. Ask your dog’s shelter or previous owner about the food they eat and any supplements or medications they take. For food, it’s much better for your dog to be able to carry over the same brand and type, or at least having them wean off it as you wean them onto a new food. A harsh stop and start with your dog’s food can be irritating to the digestive system. And while they’re getting used to their new home, having a digestive system properly working will definitely be more of a comfort for them!

If looking for a new dog food, click here to read our blog post on a brief introduction to the dangers of some dog foods and here to read about Seven of the Scariest ingredients often found. It’s important for your dog’s immediate and long-term health to be aware of the unfortunately common, dangerous ingredients found in many dog food brands.

3. The Gift of a Routine

Create a daily lineup for meals, potty breaks, playtime, and bedtime ahead of time. At least for the first few weeks. This is extremely important for their transition and can help keep them calm. It will help them to feel they are getting all their needs met in a timely manner. This way you can anticipate any shifting around of your own schedule especially in the beginning and if you need to reach out for extra help. Your senior dog will appreciate a predictable schedule!

As we all know, our schedules are subject to change and at some point, they will have to adjust. This will be much easier for them once they have established trust and feeling safe in their new environment. You’ll need to strike a balance of allowing their schedule to occasionally be disrupted while also providing extra support so that they can still have all their needs met when needed.

4. A Healthy Start

Have an initial vet visit on the calendar, scheduled for as soon as you can after your dog’s arrival to give your dog a thorough checkup. If the shelter or previous owner already has records of a recent visit, ask your new vet what they recommend for a timeline of brining your dog in for his first visit. Be sure to have their medical history on hand from their previous owner. If your pup needs meds or supplements, have them ready to tell your new vet about and ensure they can fulfill the prescription moving forward. Also, enrolling in pet insurance can help with any unexpected health issues. So, take the time to decide if that is right for you.

5. Socializing and Exercising

Introduce your pup to family members, furry housemates, and guests slowly and with lots of treats to encourage happy interactions and bonding. Aim for earlier in the day when they may be more receptive and before they become tired and needing downtime.

Before having them play with any new dogs at the park, be sure to ask other dog owners if they can play. If you’re still unsure of how your dog will react to other dogs, it might be a good idea to hold off on having them play with any dogs you’re unsure of for a little while as they get used to their new life. Sometimes starting a whole new life can be stressful for a dog and you don’t want them to get aggressive in a state of feeling overwhelmed.

Take them out in a stroller to provide exciting mental stimulation if they are unable to walk long distances. They will enjoy seeing their new surroundings! Be sure to know what their previous method of exercising was to know what they are used to – whether it be running around an enclosed area, going for walks, or other. Their vet will also have valuable suggestions for this as well.

This is one area a senior dog should still be flexible in straying from their old routines as long as its within their physical abilities! Fresh air is amazing for both dogs and their owners. Additionally, the mental stimulation of so many new smells that they pick up from miles away helps to tire and satisfy them.

6. Good with Grooming

Keep your dog looking good and staying clean with regular grooming sessions whether from yourself or a professional. Making a habit of brushing them at home can be a quick and easy way to keep up their grooming hygiene between visits. Bathing frequently enough will prevent their hair from matting or lots of dust and dirt to collect. Some senior dogs begin to have skin problems and depending on the advice of your veterinarian, enrichment sprays can be a huge help.

Remember to keep up with cutting their nails so that they don’t become painful, and they are used to having them trimmed. Having your dog routinely walk on pavement can be like a human using a nail file. The tough and textured ground can help wear their nails down.

7. Emergency Plan

In case something comes up, be sure to know your vet’s hours and whether they have an on-call doctor. If not, see what they suggest for if something unexpected comes up with your dog and you need medical assistance for them.

8. Shower them with Love

Be sure your dog feels loved and gets plenty of attention from the start as they adjust to their new life. Know what rules you are going to have for them such as no begging at the table or only laying on only a certain part of the couch. Deciding on these rules from the beginning and being consistent will help your dog to know exactly what to expect and fall into a good training pattern quickly. All that praise and love will make them thrilled to obey your commands.

Remember that every senior dog has its own history, personality, life experiences, and way of thinking. Begin learning what their tendencies are and look for cues to give you an idea of what they may be thinking or needing next. There are many experts out there that can help guide you on how to make their golden years, golden.

Whether you feel that adopting a senior dog is right for you or you are going to go the puppy route - enjoy your new best friend! They are truly precious.