Senior Dog Adoption: Giving a Second Chance to Older Pets What You Need to Know Before Making a Commitment to an Old Dog

Senior Dog Adoption: Giving a Second Chance to Older Pets

Adopting and caring for a senior dog brings several implications, including training, healthcare, diet, and creating a suitable environment. Failing to adequately prepare for the responsibility that comes with a senior dog can mean an unpleasant experience for both you and the dog. This article will look at four key aspects in that regard.

Puppies are true rays of sunshine. There’s no arguing against that. However, for Sara and Paul, adopting a senior dog was one of the best decisions they made. 


Yes, Buddy, a Labrador and border collie cross, wasn’t in the best of health. He would develop arthritis, a common condition for older dogs, but that didn’t stop him from bringing Sara and Paul a lot of joy. 


Even with his limp and behavior quirks, Buddy was a dog that could light up a room as good as any young puppy. It was with a heavy heart that he had to be put to sleep because his struggle with arthritic pain was too much.


This is a common story with older dogs, but should that prevent us from adopting and caring for them? Today, let us seek to understand how best to care for older dogs who may have spent years in a shelter. 


There are several challenges to overcome when compared to adopting a puppy, which is why caretaker education is extremely important here. Let’s dive in. 

1. Trainability and Socialization Challenges

One of the reasons that vets emphasize the importance of socialization is that it drastically helps reduce behavioral problems in adulthood. Aggression and fearfulness can be avoided if dogs are socialized early. 


Ideally, this socialization process happens in two phases. The first is between 3 and 7 weeks, where the focus is on canine socialization through the mother-puppy-litter environment. The second period focuses on human socialization and early training. This occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of the puppy’s life. 


If a dog has not had the opportunity to experience this important socialization process, they can be a handful to manage. Sara and Paul’s dog, while a sweetheart at home, would often try to charge and bark at other dogs. 


Other dogs might also show such behavior to humans, which can be a huge problem. Is it possible to socialize and train older dogs? Despite the number of articles claiming that age doesn’t matter, you will likely face some difficulty with older dogs. The classic old dog behavior can seem impossible to change, but can you?


Yes, it is possible to train and socialize them, but it will require a lot of time, effort, and patience on your part. Dog owners often give up because they don’t want to put in the effort, which is where the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes from. 


According to Victoria Shade, an author and dog trainer with over seventeen years of experience, the trick is to turn the training process into a game.


Shade recommends clicker toys as a key training tool. If you haven’t used clickers before, these are devices that make a distinct sound, usually a “click!” that is made when the dog performs a desirable behavior. Of course, a treat is also given as a reward. 


If you want some variety, Shade recommends substituting treats with a favorite toy that you give your dog to play with when it obeys a command. Something like a KONG Squeezz Ball is always a hit among dogs. 


Patience is obviously going to be important, though. Senior dogs aren’t going to have the infinite energy that puppies show. Thus, take it slow and give your dog time to learn new behaviors. 

2. Healthcare Implications of Adopting Senior Dogs

Just like humans, the older a dog gets, the more they become prone to health issues. As much as we wish this wasn’t the case, it is an unavoidable reality that all dog parents must face. 


When you adopt a senior dog, you really don’t have a lot of information to go on. If you are adopting it from a shelter, the manager might not have extensive background knowledge of each dog's health. 


Some problems might come as a surprise, and you will need to be prepared. These issues could be anything from rashes, dermal infections, arthritis, cancers, and more that suddenly appear.


While these can be treated by a good vet, pet parents might feel like they didn’t get a chance to spend happy time with the dog.


You might also be excited to bring home a senior dog as a companion for your child. However, senior dogs may lack the energy to vibe with young children. They might even turn a little aggressive when a child tries to force playful behavior. 


Taking care of a senior dog means you need to be mindful of these health implications. It can and will affect the experience that you might have been looking forward to. So, if you thought that you could enjoy long games of fetch or tug of war, you should adjust your expectations. 

3. Importance of Proper Diet and Regular Vet Trips

In a similar vein as the previous point, the older dogs get, the more important a good diet becomes. Senior dogs are prone to losing muscle mass, which is something you want to be watchful of. Similarly, aspects like changes in weight require proper monitoring and diet adjustments. 


Your vet may recommend diets that target your dog’s nutritional needs, as well as supplements like the Zesty Paws Mobility Bites Hip & Joint Support Soft Chews for added effect. 


Gaston, a dog parent who gave this product to his older dog, noted that it helped improve her range of motion, and she didn’t refuse it as she did with other medicines.


Such supplements may focus on aspects like joint health, skin and coat care, immune system boosters, and antioxidants. 


Just as a good diet is important for older dogs, vet trips become equally important. This can be a little stressful for some dogs because travel brings its own challenges. 


Thus, try to find ways to make the process easier. Check to see if your vet offers telehealth services so that minor trips can be avoided. 


Regular vet trips help ensure that any health issues get detected and treated early. The last thing you want is to not be aware that your dog needs medication like Rimadyl for joint pain. 


If you skip a vet visit for a few months, it gives certain diseases the opportunity and time to spread. Likewise, for certain chronic conditions like kidney disease and thyroid disorders, monitoring the symptoms at regular intervals is critical. 


It ensures that your vet can adjust medication as required and recommend changes in diet and other care aspects. Thus, do your best to ensure a proper diet and regular vet trips aren’t neglected for your senior dog. 

4. Creating a Comfortable Environment For Their Final Years

If you are adopting a senior dog, it means you already understand the lifespan implications. If its breed lives an average of 12 - 14 years and you adopt it at nine or ten years old, then each day is precious. 


Try to make these final years with your dog as good as you can. Walk at your dog’s pace and not your own. If he wants to pause and smell the bushes, let him. If he wants to sleep on your bed, don’t yell. He only wants to spend time with you. 


Senior dogs love lying down and watching the world go by. So, get your dog a comfortable mat or dog bed to make those moments even better. If you have kids, teach them how to behave around your senior dog. They want to avoid stressing out the dog through loud noises or constant touching. 


Remember, senior dogs often have difficulty getting up with aches and pains in their joints. If they feel stressed out and want to move, they may not have the energy and will have to silently endure discomfort. 


As their caretaker and guardian, you need to ensure you are watching for any potential troublesome triggers and signs of pain before they even happen.


To sum it up, adopting and caring for a senior dog is not a responsibility to take lightly. If you are thinking about getting one, please make the effort to do some research and understand the implications. 


It would be particularly cruel to adopt a senior dog, get its hopes up of having a loving owner, but then return it to the shelter because you felt overwhelmed by the care requirements. They will only be with you for a few short years. Try to make each moment of theirs comfortable and perfect to make up for the years they spent in a shelter. 

Was this article helpful?