Puppy and Older dog adoptions are an increasingly popular option for people looking for a new companion. Yes, older dog adoptions might be more suitable for your lifestyle, so be sure to consider both options.
Challenges in raising puppies include training such as house breaking, keeping up with their energy, health costs such as spaying and neutering. There are many advantages to adopting a dog over age 5 to 7 (usually older or senior dogs are defined as those that are age 7 or older).
If you are thinking of adopting a puppy or older dog from a shelter, whether it is government run or independently run, there are few things you should know.
In this podcast Dr. René Carlson, president of the AVMA, explains why older dogs make such great pets.
Most dogs are not given up due to bad behavior, but due to an owners situation. Adult dogs already have their personality in place and are amazingly grateful for a home. Older dogs can be trained. The key is using the right method. Most are already well trained, but are in the shelter due to a death in the family or as the result of a divorce. Most older dogs can be trained easily with positive reward.
The only difference with an older dog is the diet, since they require good quality nutrition. Older dogs also need to go to the Vet 2x a year vs. 1x per year for a younger dog.
Ask For a Trial Run
If you are considering an older dog, many are left not chosen because of their age, which is not fair. Often an older dog may be the best animal to adopt.
A lot of older dogs have already been a part of a family and have been around other dogs, but the owners just could not keep them. The shelter should have information about the older dog.
For example, if he’s friendly and good with kids, babies, and people, they should know this from the previous owner. A good shelter will know where the dog came from and if they don’t, they can tell you it’s was a stray wandering about with no apparent home.
In either case, stray or not, good shelters should let you take the older dog home to see if it gets along with you, other pets, and your kids. Avoid shelters offering dog adoptions that won’t let you do this.
We adopted a four year-old Border Collie mix who had sat at our government run shelter over Christmas one year. We did our trial run with our other three dogs and she got along great with them. We are now proud to have Pumpkin in our home and her previous owner who could not keep her, visits her often.
Shelters for dog adoptions can be independently run by charities or animal welfare organisations, and sometimes by local authorities.
It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, but government run shelters are usually funded by local governments and are ensured funds to keep the kennels up to par.
Independent shelters simply depend on the owner of the shelter. If you visit a shelter and it’s not clean, there are pet faeces around, and the animals have no water or food, look for another place for your new companion.
Ask questions of the shelter owner or manager on how dogs are treated and if they are looked at by a veterinarian when they first come in.
Always go to a reputable dog shelter. They are there to help match a dog to a home. Sites like PetFinder can also be of help. Others include the Senior Pet Project that has the mission of matching senior dogs to owners. A veterinarian may also know about available dogs.
Always take an adopted dog to a vet immediately to check its health and to discuss the best preventive dog care routine. At the same time you can get ID tags for your dog. Some shelters will plant a microchip in the dog, so ask before you leave.
Dogs should be checked for parasites (worms, fleas ticks), particularly since some of these can transmit infection to people. Puppies usually see a Veterinarian 1x a year while Senior dogs go 2x a year.
Also consider getting a quality pet insurance policy such as those available from Pets Best. There are multiple options, but the best covers chronic illness, where costs for conditions such as cancer can approach the human medicine.
For more information download this brochure on adopting a dog and health (PDF) from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This is a personal commitment question for dog lovers.
If the dog has Parvo, which is almost always fatal unless a lot of money is invested in intravenous treatments, look for another dog. Parvo dogs will usually be separated from the others and if you see such a dog, ask if it does have Parvo.
Almost every other illness an older dog suffers from can be handled and managed—even cancer.
We adopted a black German Sheppard mix, Chloe and she had cancer. Yes, we did invest some money on her treatments, but she led a healthy life from age six when we got her to age ten when she left us.
We miss Chloe but our whole family and are dog family enjoyed her running and we still have patches of bare ground where she ran that we call “Chloe’s Trail.”
Essentially, older dog adoptions can bring much joy, even if they are sick, so take the time to ask the shelter questions about the dog, if it’s healthy or if it has a condition you and your budget can live with.
Before you consider older dog adoptions, discuss with your family if
you are ready to adopt an older dog, or any dog for that matter. Many shelters will interview owners to make sure that they are prepared for a puppy or older dog adoption.
Even abused older dogs just need a little extra care—not unlike the famous football player in the US who is now in jail for torturing his dogs—most of those dogs were adoptable.
Dogs take some care, including bathing, feeding, grooming, and the all important exercise routine to keep them healthy.
Ask yourself some tough questions about whether you are ready to make the commitment to care for a dog. Many breeds of older dogs, including Labradors can be friendly, fun, and offer up the best affection around anywhere.
But make sure you are willing to put forth the commitment a dog takes before you decide on a dog adoption, especially older dog adoptions.