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Adopt An Older Dog

Score for Seniors:
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Weight: Pounds

This article was updated on April 8th, 2018

Are you wondering why you should adopt an older dog when there are so many cute puppies to choose from?

Senior dog awaiting adoption

There are loads of practical reasons why adopting a senior dog is a great choice, and even more reasons which will tug (okay, literally YANK!) at your heartstrings.

But of course, there are down-sides too, and not everyone (or every home) is the right fit for an elderly dog.

I’m a firm believer in dog adoption in general, and I’ve a healthy soft-spot for the ‘under-dog’…. so, over the years our family has rescued, taken in, or adopted, several senior dogs.

And I’m proud to say that my (now mostly grown) children are continuing this family tradition 🙂

I hope that this page will help you decide whether adopting an older dog is the right choice for you.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

There are just so many lonely old dogs across the country, who deserve to live out their lives safely, comfortably and surrounded by love.

If I can help even one more find their forever home, I’ll be happy.

Why Adopt An Older Dog?

Oh, my gosh there are just SO many reasons… where to start? Practical? Emotional?

Hmm… let’s just take a look at the most important ones to start with:

Senior Dogs Are ‘Lower-Maintenance’ Than Puppies

This isn’t nearly as selfish as it sounds, and is an important point!

As a life-long dog lover and the owner of several dog-themed websites, I know both how much work is involved in raising a puppy and  how totally unprepared for this many new puppy-owners are.

  • An adult, or older dog, doesn’t need the 24/7 vigilance that a pup does.
  • He’s likely to have some potty ‘skills’, or be able to control his bladder/bowels.
  • Senior dogs are usually not ‘chewers’ so your shoes, furniture etc. are safe.
  • He won’t be doing laps around the living room or bouncing off the walls.
  • Many have some obedience training, or are calm enough to learn the basics quickly.
  • Often older dogs are used to being crated and even to taking car rides.
  • Old dogs need less exercise (and less vigorous exercise) than puppies do.
  • They can be a great fit for human ‘oldies’ too as we share the same ‘issues’.
  • They’ve often got good social skills and get along with people and other dogs.

Find Your Golden Oldie Here….

Puppies are labor-intensive, expensive and demanding (but they address the balance somewhat by being irresistibly cute). They take up a LOT of your time.

If you already have a demanding schedule, a busy household, long working hours or a stressful life, adding a puppy can end up being more than you want to (or are able to) deal with.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

On the other hand, if you adopt an older dog the chances are good that he/she will fit right in quickly, and quietly.

Most are happy to spend their day napping or just lying by your feet.

Somehow they just seem to know  that you’re giving them a second chance and they’ll show you how grateful they are by being truly loyal, loving, devoted (and seriously un-demanding) companions.

There’s Less Of The ‘Surprise!’ Factor

When you pick out a puppy (even a purebred pup), there’s always an element of the unknown. Not so much with senior dogs.

When you adopt an older dog you can SEE exactly how big he is, what his personality is like, how he gets along with people and other dogs, how much grooming he needs and so on.

Most shelters and rescue organizations try really hard to get to know at least the basics about every dog who comes through their doors.

Sometimes they even have background info. from previous owners, ‘fosters’ or those who found him.

Older Dogs Really NEED You To Help Them

Shelters, pounds and private rescue organizations are bursting at the seams with puppies and dogs – all of them desperately in need of loving, permanent homes.

Sad older dog

But some of them are much more likely to get them than others.

Puppies are always in demand, and after that come adolescents or young adult dogs.

Senior dogs, certain breeds, or those with special needs are usually the last to be picked.

In many cases this can cost them their lives, and it breaks my heart.

Older dogs don’t have the ‘cuteness factor’ that puppies do, but look into the eyes of a senior dog and you’ll see love, trust, and a longing that goes soul-deep.

Some of them are so broken-hearted that they fall into a deep depression and are considered to be un-adoptable…. and that means they’re most likely to be euthanized.

Others stay their usual affectionate, friendly selves, but are consistently overlooked by potential adopters.

But these golden oldies NEED a forever home just as much as the puppies and younger dogs do. More so in fact.

That’s because pound-life is much harder on an old body – physically and mentally!

Old bones and joints get worse when they spend every day and night on a cold, concrete floor.

The stress of a busy, noisy shelter environment jangles nerves which are already frayed. Fading appetites, disappear altogether.

Most of these dogs have spent their whole lives with one person, or family, and now they’re suddenly out on their own for whatever reason (and sometimes there are viable reasons), in a very strange and scary place.

Just imagine how frightened and lonely they must be. ALL dogs NEED (and deserve) a safe, comfy home and people who love them – but senior dogs simply don’t get that opportunity as often as they should.

That’s why I think that if you have the chance to adopt an older dog, you should take it if you possibly can.

Senior Dogs Are A Shorter-Term Commitment

That sounds awful doesn’t it? But we have to be realistic, and older or senior dogs have less years ahead of them.

BUT I certainly don’t mean that you should get a dog if you’re going to be counting the years until they go to the Rainbow Bridge!

We all have hopes, plans, commitments, limitations….. and a dog is a huge commitment in terms of time, money, effort and emotion.

A small breed dog can routinely live for 15 years or more, even medium to large breeds are generally going to be around for about a decade if you take care of them well.


PLEASE – don’t follow this path if you only have a couple of years available.

Any dog can live considerably longer than the ‘average lifespan’ for his breed/size, and you don’t want to condemn him to the same fate you’re rescuing him all over again.

That wouldn’t be sensible, it would just be cruel.

For most of us, even 15 years isn’t long enough. A dog’s life is way too short and losing your best-friend is heart-breaking.

But there are situations when you can’t (or don’t want to) commit yourself to someone for 10 to 15 years.

Perhaps you’re a ‘senior’ yourself and aren’t sure that you’ll still be able to take care of a dog in a decade’s time.

Or maybe you’re planning to retire and travel in a few years, or take a job in another country. There are a bunch of possible scenarios.

You might be longing to add a dog to your life, but unsure about whether or not you can live up to your responsibilities.

Well, in this type of situation adopting an older dog, especially a senior, can be the perfect answer.

Obviously there’s still that huge commitment, but it’s going to be for a shorter time.

Senior Dog Adoption – Drawbacks

Of course, there’s always two sides to every coin, and adopting an old dog isn’t for everyone.

Young woman with adopted senior dog

My daughter and her adopted
‘Senior Of The Week’

They had 7 happy years together, and were inseparable from day one!

In the paragraph above you can see one situation where it’s not going to be the best choice, and there are some drawbacks that you need to bear in mind as well.

Older dogs have less years to spend with their new owners, but those years can sometimes be a little pricey – in more ways than one.

Many elderly dogs stay healthy their whole lives, others suffer the niggling aches and pains of old age.

Some develop more serious, or chronic, health problems.

So, if you adopt an older dog you’re going to see vet bills at some point.

Most dogs in pounds and rescue centers have had basic health-checks, have been spayed/neutered, and vaccinated. If they have health issues, they’re likely already on medication for them.

Make sure you know about any problems or conditions before you take Fido home, and ask for advice or recommendations for future treatment or observation.

The other cost is emotional…. because the reality is that the dog you’re going to love and cherish will not be in your life for as many years as you might want.

A senior dog may live for five to eight more years, sometimes more, sometimes less. A lot depends on overall health – and how accurate the rescue organization was in their estimate of his age!

This means that you’re going to have to say goodbye in the not-too-distant future, and that’s always gut-wrenching.

BUT to me, it seems selfish not  to give an older dog a chance of spending his ‘golden years’ loved, comfortable and happy (instead of scared, lonely and unloved) just because my heart is going to be hurt at some point!

Life has no guarantees, even for puppies or babies, so why not save a life, mend a heart and begin what might be one of the best relationships of your life?

Adopt an older dog – it might just be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.


  • Dr. Winnie, Veterinarian

    Dr. Winnie earned a Master in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria's Veterinary School. She is a full-time Veterinarian specializing in internal medicine for companion animals.

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