I'm a devoted pet owner who shares her home with four happy animals.
Many times, people are afraid to adopt an older dog—not because they don't like them, or are afraid of any extra care or money that might be needed, but because of how soon they might lose them. But death is a part of life. Imagine giving a senior dog a loving, secure, and happy retirement home for whatever time he has left. His life, and yours, will be richer for it.
The Benefits of Adopting an Older Dog
- Calmer temperaments. Older dogs are less likely to have that crazy puppy energy that can challenge even the most patient of pet owners! Senior dogs often enjoy just hanging out with their people or going for quiet walks.
- What you see is what you get. You know how big the dog is going to get (he's already full-grown), and you know his temperament.
- Many older dogs are already good house pets. They're housetrained, know what they should (or shouldn't) chew, and are happy to find a soft place to nap. And they're happy to share their nap time with their people, too.
- You give a deserving dog a loving home. Every animal needs love, even older ones. They still have lots of love to give and deserve a family that will return that love.
Homes Suitable for Older Dogs
There's no easy answer to figuring out what kind of home is best suited to a senior dog. Senior dogs' personalities and abilities are as varied as younger dogs (and people)! Some of the things to consider, though, include:
- Easy access around the house. It's easier for older dogs with joint or mobility problems if they don't have to navigate a lot of steep stairs. There are ways around this, of course—many companies these days manufacture ramps that will help dogs climb onto their favorite couches, beds, etc.
- Quieter household. Young, rambunctious children or dogs (or other pets) might not be the best fit for a senior dog that enjoys his sleep!
- Families willing and able to care for an older pet. This includes time, effort, and finances. Many dogs live to a ripe old age, happy, active, and with only minor health issues. However, if the aging process starts to catch up with the pooch, his family should be willing and able to put in the extra effort and money into his care.
Senior Dog Health and Financial Considerations
Many people believe that senior dogs automatically come with health problems. It's true that older animals, just like older people, may have health issues to consider that younger animals might not.
(We should note that younger animals can have health issues too. Being young doesn't always mean perfect health, unfortunately. Taking care of health issues is just a part of being a pet owner!)
Get as Much Information About the Dog as Possible
Health issues in senior dogs should be taken into consideration because they will affect the adoptive family, too. It's always best to go into an adoption with as much information as possible so that you are prepared for additional care or costs that might occur. Old dogs that have been surrendered to humane societies or rescue organizations by their previous owners may have more information available about them. Dogs that are admitted also get examined by a vet who may be able to provide insight into the dog's overall health.
Treating illness or injury always comes with a financial responsibility, too. The adoptive family should be prepared to manage any known health issues their new canine friend has, as well as any that might be found (or might develop) as they continue to age.
Many senior dogs continue to lead active and healthy lives. Watching them happily basking in their retirement years is a great joy!
Two Older Dogs Romping on the Beach with Their Friend
Can Old Dogs Bond With New Families?
So many times I've heard people say, "I want a puppy because it will bond with our family." They worry that older dogs won't be able to bond with someone new.
There's no need to worry. Older dogs do bond—and bond very tightly—with their new families, just as much as younger dogs bond. People who have adopted senior dogs often remark that their dogs seem to understand that they've been given another chance and are grateful to have loving homes!
Bonding with any dog takes time and effort (although sometimes a dog and a person will hit it off right away). With an older dog who's led a full life before meeting you, it might take a little longer. Remember, he could be missing a family he's lived with for many years, or if he was mistreated in the past, he might take longer to form that bond. But once a dog learns to trust you, that bond will be close. Some of the things you can do to help your older dog adjust include:
- Use your scent. Give him an article of clothing that you've been wearing (don't wash it), and let him sleep with it. Put it somewhere that he associates with comfort, like his doggy bed. He'll learn to associate comfort with you, too.
- Spend time with him. Just sit with him and pet him; gently groom him; or take him for a walk or play-time at the lake. Let him learn that being with you is a fun and positive thing to look forward to.
- Let him sleep near you. Okay, not everyone likes to have a dog hogging the whole bed (and some dogs don't like sleeping on the bed since it's so hot and crowded) . but make up a big, comfy sleeping area/doggy bed in the bedroom with you.
More Resources for Adopting Senior Dogs
- SAINTS - Senior Animals In Need Today Society - A senior animal sanctuary
SAINTS is an end-of-life sanctuary for senior and special needs animals that have nowhere else to go. We provide a loving environment and proper medical care for all residents.
- The Senior Dogs Project
Photos and descriptions of older dogs available for adoption across North America.
- Petfinder.com: Adopt a pet and help an animal shelter rescue a puppy or kitten.
Adopt a homeless pet dog or cat from animal welfare organizations across the country.
- Pet Links: Humane Societies in Canada
Links to many humane societies throughout Canada. Pay a visit to your local shelter to see if there are older dogs looking for loving homes.
20-Year-Old "Lucky" Finds a Happy Retirement Home!
barbara on August 28, 2018:
senior bonded dogs
Streetdogsint on July 09, 2012:
A week ago Gary was rescued in the 11th hour from a Brooklyn shelter. He's an older gent (about 8 years old), super sweet, a real goofball, looking for a place to retire. He's very docile and mellow around the house, and understands basic commands. He's a bit picky with his food (but aren't we all?). We are urgently looking for someone willing to foster or adopt Gary as he can no longer stay with his current foster. Check our his video to see how cute he is, and email [email protected] if interested in helping. Gary is presently in DC, but if someone else can take him, we can arrange for transportation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbhx9uDq0V0&fea...
Anna McCoy on January 24, 2012:
I would like to sign up to adopt an older dog. How do you do this?
Lori Colbo from United States on August 28, 2011:
I adopted a 4 year old collie and she has been the joy of my life.
getgoingcanada on December 11, 2010:
I like old dogs too. They require more patience though.
Amanda on November 19, 2010:
eXCELLENT article and I'm glad you put forward all the plus points, as they do far outweigh the negatives. I recently read that black dogs are less likely to be adopted than any other colour dog - so give senior black dogs a chance.
sandifaist on September 09, 2010:
Just wanted to let everyone know about http://www.muttville.org a great organization that specializes in senior dog adoption. They're in the San Francisco area. If you can't adopt, you can foster, if you can't foster, you can donate!
Petsit Lady from Spring, Texas on August 30, 2009:
Great hub about an important subject. So many pets need homes and are waiting for someone to give them another chance. I beg people not to buy pets from pet shops and breeders - PLEASE rescue! And please consider an older pet-they are so loving and loyal and appreciative.
Angela (author) on March 09, 2009:
Hi Robin, Perhaps these people can help your girl to find a new home: http://www.srdogs.com . I know it is tough to post ads, but maybe you could do a few and interview potential new homes. Make sure you charge an adoption fee... see reasons why on this hub:/pet-ownership/Adoption-Fees...
Best of luck to you and to Angie.
Robin on March 01, 2009:
Hello,I am located in Hamilton, ON.I have been researching Beagle Rescue sites on the internet as I, myself, am a proud Beagle mom who sadly has to find a home for my 14 year old, 35lb female beagle named Angie. She has been with me as my baby for her whole life, and now I am faced with having to let her go and I cannot bring myself to idly post ads in hopes a 'good' person will come along. We are relocating to Nunavut for work and the expense to bring her along is astronomical, and the cost of caring for a pet in this area is more than 5x the cost in Ontario and the climate is not ideal for an old dog. She is very healthy and full of life, housebroken and good with other dogs and cats. She lives with and respects 8 and 11 year old girls. She can sit, stay, high-five, come, heel etc. and you normally don't have to tell her to lie down as she is usually already doing so! She has been a loyal patient of our local vet office and has always been in good health.Please let me know if you can be of any assistance in finding a foster or permanent home with a fellow beagle lover.
janiesdogs on February 25, 2009:
This is an excellent topic. We have been adopting older dogs for many years. Our last little girl was named "Lady" and she was the ripe old age of ten when we brought her home. She was a beautiful red rough collie mix and the sweetest old girl around. Unfortunately, she was only with us for four years due to a brain tumor, but I would do it all again.
Older dogs are excellent companions. Their calm, "been there and done that" nature is what makes them so wonderful. Anytime we adopt a dog from the local shelter, it is and has been atleast two years old.
For anyone considering adopting a dog, please consider the older dogs; you won't regret it.
We love all dogs, but old dogs are our favorites:
Angela (author) on February 14, 2008:
Thanks erinlis! I've fallen in love with so many older dogs. They just seem to really enjoy life and it's great fun to watch them (even if they're just snoring on the bed).
erinlis from Portland, Oregon on February 13, 2008:
Great hub! Great topic. Older dogs can provide so much joy to your life.
Spend some time snuggling with a senior mutt at Muttville’s Cuddle Club.
Come cuddle with a Muttville mutt! Muttville’s Cuddle Club is an opportunity for senior citizens to visit our new facility and spend time with our wonderful senior dogs in a home-like community space.
We know not everyone may be able to adopt a dog, and we don’t want that to get in the way of receiving the special love that one of our gentle, loving rescued senior dogs can give! Cuddle Club, separate from our adoption events, is an opportunity for seniors to spend a lovely afternoon with some of our adorable mutts.
Our dogs cherish the chance to score some extra cuddle time, and you’ll love the wags, kisses and contented sighs that they give in return. You’ll also be helping our doggies feel comfortable in their new environment as they make the transition to their new forever homes.
If you are a senior citizen living in the Bay Area and would like to spend some time snuggling up with our older mutts on the sofa, please let us know!
Contact Muttville at [email protected] to set up a Cuddle Club event for your organization or to find out when we have our next one scheduled.
There will be plenty of socializing, petting, walking, and, of course, cuddling. Join us!
Ages 6 and up – Old enough not to chew your shoes young enough to be great companions.
Grateful for a second chance and experienced in life's lessons – Dogs that know how to be part of a family
Homeless – All dogs are displaced from their homes due to a traumatic event: an owner's illness, death, a move, a foreclosure, etc.
WE DON'T HAVE A SHELTER – All dogs live in foster homes. At adoption time, you receive a full report on your dog.
All dogs go through a 2-week trial adoption in your home – Not the right dog after all? The dog comes back to us – no harm, no foul. A perfect match means that much to us!
"SDRO has twice found the perfect companions for my father-in-law who has out lived all of his friends. The dogs have given him so much joy and friendship. Thank you." -->
Setting up your home for a senior dog
When you get your rescue dog home for the first time, there are a few things you should do to make sure your home is suitable.
- Give them the best dog bed or best orthopedic dog bed – their old joints will thank you
- Remove or block off dangers, such as the garden and charging cables, until you better understand your dog’s temperament
- If you have hard flooring rather than carpets, consider buying rubber-backed rugs to give them some grip – slips can be devastating on older joints
- Buy a bag of whatever food they were on at the rescue center – you can change it later, but for now it’s a good idea to keep it the same to ward off stomach troubles.
- Consider investing in ramps for the car or any stairs in the garden, especially if you are adopting a large-breed dog that you can’t lift. Not all old dogs are arthritic, but most are, so prepare accordingly.
Why senior dogs, often the last to be adopted, make great pets
Alice Mayn only knew a golden retriever named Lily for about four months, but the time they spent together was life-changing — for the dog, the woman and countless other senior dogs.
Back in 2007 when Lily was 12 years old, she landed in an animal shelter in Sonoma County, California. Mayn volunteered to pick her up and foster her for a golden retriever rescue organization.
“She came out of the kennel and gave me a kiss,” Mayn, now 74, told TODAY.
Lily charmed Mayn and everyone who met her. She had a zest for life despite a host of health issues, including a nasal infection, tumor on one eyelid, seizures and a blood disorder. She even survived a case of bloat. A photo of Lily rolling on her back sums up the dog’s personality, Mayn said.
“That’s the epitome of who she was: just constant joy,” she said. “You know, 'Life is good. I may be really sick and I may be really old, but this is great. I love this.’”
Lily died in her sleep one night in 2008 with Mayn lying next to her, hand over the dog’s heart. The next day — just six weeks shy of retirement — she had the idea to create a nonprofit to help rescue and re-home senior dogs like Lily.
It’s quite a legacy. The nonprofit sanctuary spreads across five acres in Petaluma, California. The barn resembles a living room, with sofas, carpets and tables. Volunteers are on-site 24 hours a day to supervise the dogs, most of whom roam freely, and dedicated “cuddlers” spend time doing just that with the animals.
“We think these dogs should be treated like family pets and we get as close to that as we possibly can,” she said. “It’s a happy place.”
To spread awareness about the “joys and rewards” that senior dogs can offer, Mayn launched this year’s inaugural Saving Senior Dogs Week, which runs Nov. 4-10, in partnership with 10 other senior dog rescue groups across the U.S.
The nonprofits working together on the initiative include Albert's Dog Lounge in Whitewater, Wisconsin Grand-Paws Senior Sanctuary in Acton, California Homer J's Senior Dog Sanctuary in Reno, Nevada Izzy's Place Senior Dog Rescue in Fort Collins, Colorado Lionel's Legacy in El Cajon, California Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco Old Dog Home in Conyers, Georgia Peace of Mind Dog Rescue in Pacific Grove, California Senior Dog Haven & Hospice in Wilmington, Delaware The Roland Senior Dog Rescue Gang in Melrose, Florida Vintage Pet Rescue in Foster, Rhode Island and Vintage Paws Sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida.
Mayn hopes Saving Senior Dogs Week also draws attention to the fact that senior dogs are often the last to be adopted from shelters, though dogs aged 7 and older offer distinct benefits to adopters, she said.
“For the most part, they’re very easy to bring into a household because they’re settled. A lot of them are well-trained,” she said. “They’ve been through their puppy stages — they’re not chewing anymore they’re not running.”
Some dogs wind up needing new homes because their owners can no longer care for them, like the 15 1/2-year-old pooch (“She acts like she’s about 10!”) whose elderly caregiver broke a hip and moved into an assisted living facility. Others are dumped on the streets. But no matter their backstories, the dogs tend to exude gratitude, Mayn said.
“You look in their eyes and you can see their behavior and you just know how grateful they are,” she said.
They’re also resilient optimists. One dog named Stella has advanced heart disease because her former owners neglected her for several years, but she still wags her tail constantly. In fact, many Lily's Legacy dogs have had short life expectancies due to health issues but defied the odds and lived much longer thanks to medical care and love, she said.
Pets & Animals ‘Cuddle Club’ unites senior people and senior dogs in the sweetest way
“That’s the thing you learn from these dogs: No matter how bad things are, there’s something good out there. Relax and you’ll feel better,” she said. “What we get from these dogs, it’s just amazing. … They deserve love and good care and happiness.”
Mayn hopes Saving Senior Dogs Week leads to increased collaboration among senior dog rescue organizations so that more people consider adopting them as pets.
“None of us can do it by ourselves. None of us can save all the dogs,” she said. “There are a lot of dogs out there that need to get saved and we just need to help each other and get more people involved. That’s the only way it’s going to work.”
Benefits of adopting a senior dog
It's only natural that everyone loves puppies. They're cute, cuddly, lots of fun and particularly popular with young children. They are usually the default choice when people are looking for a new, four-legged, furry family member.
However, don't dismiss older dogs, as they can be the perfect companion for someone new to pet-owning, who's unfamiliar with training a young puppy, or for a dog-lover who wants a quieter life.
If you relish the thought of forming a special bond with an older dog, who's happy to sit by your side, without playing and running around all the time, it's well worth looking on the websites of the many dog rescue charities to see if there's a senior canine seeking a loving new home.
When you adopt an older dog from a rescue, you're saving their life and giving them a second chance. Senior dogs - especially large ones - are traditionally difficult to rehome and are often overlooked in rescue centres. Yet an older adopted dog can fit perfectly into your lifestyle, bringing plenty of pleasure and no disruption.
Most older dogs are already fully house-trained, so if you don't feel like training a puppy and spending hours trying to coax them to go outdoors, a senior dog can come into your life without any of the stress.
You're also likely to find an older dog will bond with you right away. They will be so happy to be in a loving, comfy home - sitting alongside the wonderful person who saved them from the shelter - that they will love you unconditionally from the outset.
Senior dogs tend to be extremely loving and will be quite happy to sit in any room you're in, without doing anything much. If you don't have the energy or time to take a puppy or young dog for constant walks, a senior dog who enjoys shorter walks and lots of cuddles at home can be the ideal companion.
You may also find an older dog is already trained, at least in the basics, such as sitting and staying. They are likely to be more receptive to additional training, as they know the ropes and will remember what to do. They are also likely to be leash-trained as well.
When you leave the rescue centre with an older dog, you will probably feel like you'll burst with pride at having changed his or her life. Before automatically choosing a puppy, do yourself a favour and consider the joys of adopting a senior dog, who will enrich both your lives with loyalty, warmth and happiness.