When someone is thinking about adopting a dog, most people tend to look for a puppy. It’s easy to see why, since puppies are undeniably cute with their little round tummies and tiny paws. Raising a dog from puppy to adulthood can be a very rewarding experience!
However, some people, including myself, have a soft spot for the senior dogs. After volunteering at an animal rescue for 6 years, I’ve seen many dogs who just happened to miss their “golden age” for adoption as a puppy, and end up spending their whole lives waiting for their family.
Here’s why choosing a senior dog means that you can truly find a perfect match for your family and lifestyle.
Seniors’ looks and sizes are established, and they also have fully developed personalities.
This gives you a good idea of what kind of a dog they are before you bring them home. You can find out whether they’re good with other dogs, other pets, or children, and what their energy level is like. One of my favourite sayings is, “No perfect people. No perfect dogs. Just perfect fits.”
Felix and Squirt, 10 years old, both available for adoption from Hong Kong Dog Rescue.
Photo credit: Rebecca Wong
Older dogs wait longer to be adopted.
For many of these dogs, their age may be the only factor that holds them back from finding a home. If you’re considering adding a dog to your family, perhaps a senior dog will be a good match for you!
In general, a dog over 7 years old is considered a senior, but life expectancy varies with the size and breed of the dog. Smaller dogs can live 13-16 years, perhaps even 18 years, so a 7 year old small dog can still have more than half their life ahead of them!
Being a senior also doesn’t mean a dog is old and frail.
Many senior dogs are still healthy and active, and enjoy playing, hiking, and all the same things that the younger dogs do. At the same time, adopting a senior dog does usually mean your dog will be calmer and lower energy than a puppy. Like human children, puppies can seem to have an endless supply of energy for playing and mischief, and require constant attention. Senior dogs have already outgrown this stage, and are generally more calm.
Viva, adopted from Hong Kong Dog Rescue at 8 years old.
Photo credit: Xanthe Lam
Senior dogs usually require less basic training than puppies, since they already have years of experience living in a human world.
However this definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Dogs of any age are capable of learning, and having your senior dog participate in fun and rewarding training sessions can help you build a strong bond with them.
Truthfully, adopting a senior dog is not all sunshine and rainbows. You may have to pay extra attention to their health, and they may have baggage from their past experiences. They may be used to their old routines, and can take longer to adjust to new environments and situations.
Yet I would say that it shouldn’t just be about how much a dog can give you, but rather how much you can give a dog. As a volunteer, seeing photos of senior dogs in their forever homes is extra heartwarming, and you can truly see how happy they are.
I think the best reason for adopting a senior dog is that you are making sure that their final days are spent in a nice warm home, with a soft bed and a loving family. Long or short, your time spent together will be precious, and that is the most rewarding thing of all!
Diana, 11 years old, available for adoption from Hong Kong Dog Rescue.
Photo credit: Stephanie Wan
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