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In Praise of Senior Dogs

The benefits of adopting an older pup.

by Tom Cushing
Updated August 1, 2013
Old dog being pet by person
AdobeStock / Photoboyko

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

You’ve probably read about the many health benefits of being a pet parent. Did you know that adopting a senior dog means that you can skip the chewed-up chairs and potty training and go straight to the best parts of having a dog? Study after study has shown that blood pressure goes down, cholesterol levels improve, and even heart attack risk declines. Companion animals may be the anti-aging medicine that you really should “ask your doctor about.” Having an older dog also encourages you to get out and exercise, even if it’s just a gentle daily walk. Statistics don’t count the warmth, companionship, and pure love that an older dog can bring into a home.

Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog

November is Adopt-A-Senior-Dog Month. Time to spread the word about what makes a senior dog a great addition to a home. Here are a few reasons why you should adopt a senior dog:

You know what you’re getting.

Adult dogs are settled into their personalities, so you know what you’re getting more than you would with a puppy or yearling. Seniors settle into their new homes more quickly because they enjoy a more laid-back schedule, and have already passed through messy puppy stages.

They know all the tricks.

They are usually house-trained, and may already know basic commands like “sit” and “stay.” Contrary to the old adage, you can teach these dogs new tricks—with adolescence out of their systems, they tend to focus pretty well on teaching moments. Their desire to please their people is very well ingrained.

They’re grateful.

And I can’t prove it, but I’ve heard it said too many times to discount the notion that adult adoptees are just plain grateful—they’ve seen the world’s harsher side and seem particularly appreciative of the new lease on life they’ve been given.

You can get them at a lower cost.

In recognition of the many mutual benefits of matching older dogs with their human counterparts, many shelters have established “seniors for seniors” programs. They offer reduced adoption fees to folks older than some threshold age for mature dogs—typically six or more years old.

I recall an older gentleman who was looking over some impossibly cute foster puppies. Asked where he planned to be in ten years, he replied, smiling, “Dirt nap!” With many breed life expectancies in the 12–18 year range (smaller being typically longer-lived), six- or seven-year-old dogs—and even teenagers, still have plenty of good “tread-life” on them.

Praise for Senior Dogs

A shelter in Reno recently received a letter from a woman who had adopted a senior dog there some time ago and then returned for another. She wrote: “Frankie’s time with me was very good. He was loving, gentle and a good friend. He would bound out of the house at the end of the day when I returned home from work. He would wiggle with happiness to see me. He would do those “play bows” that sometimes much younger dogs do.

“I want to tell you that I think I needed Frankie more than he needed me, but he loved me and I was grateful for that wonderful creature every day that I had him. My new girl, Willow, is lying at my feet chewing on a rawhide. I hope this makes sense—I heard her snore last night while I was watching television. I can hear her breathe and I am not so alone. It is possible that animals are our greatest gifts in this life.”

If you have a hankering for “one more good dog,” please consider adopting an older best friend—it’s one of the biggest win-win opportunities that senior life affords.

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Tom Cushing

Tom Cushing works to place stray animals and lawyers into new situations where they may prosper. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.