As we embark on another dog adoption process, I’ve begun to think a bit more about why adopting a senior dog could be even better than adopting a younger dog. There are some common things, we as dog owners know inherently about the differences but I decided to dig into this further. 

The top 4 Reasons to ONLY adopt a senior dog. Besides doing a really good thing, here’s other reasons adopting a senior dog would make sense. 

  1. They are already housebroken 
  2. The teething stage is way behind you
  3. They are often the last to be adopted at shelters and first to be euthanized
  4. Lower energy levels, making exercise requirements lower 

The age of a senior dog varies and depends very much on the breed and health of the dog. Smaller dogs tend to mature faster and, after reaching maturity, begin to age more slowly. A little dog such as a toy poodle, terrier or Chihuahua isn’t considered senior until much later than a larger breed, (maybe 10 or 12 years old), and the giant breeds are considered “senior citizens” at 5 or 6. 

Most vets, though, consider a dog of 7 or 8 years and older to be a senior.

Why You Should Adopt an Older Dog

Adoption of any kind is always a positive thing. You will no doubt feel a sense of pride saving a life no matter how old or young. These older dogs do seem to have a sixth sense and realize they’ve been given a second chance to live out the “retirement” years with you. 

If you are considering a dog adoption, you should seriously consider adopting an older dog. There are cases where the senior dog has been in the same shelter for years in some cases. Making them so ready to go home with you. They’ve largely been overlooked by those cute adorable puppies, but aren’t getting the chance to show you why they’re really special. 

Every dog needs companionship from his owner, but senior dogs need just a little more time spent playing and being with you. Just because you adopt a dog much older in years, does not mean you can’t have a good and meaningful life with them for whatever amount of time they have left on earth with you. 

That senior dog you adopt could be in really great health, have great energy, very sociable or have no unforeseen health issues. That is the ideal senior dog and there’s many like those in shelters all over the country. 

Can Older Dogs Adjust to New Owners?

The older dog may need some additional time to adjust to new people and newer surroundings then say a younger puppy. They can and do adjust well to their new owners, but they’ve been used to a routine or schedule with other owners previously, most likely for years, so having them immediately adjust is a lot to ask for these dogs. 

Assume the amount of time to adjust could be up to a few weeks or months to develop that trust and bond with her new owner. As you spend time caring for him, playing with him and allowing him the necessary space to become acclimated to your home - the sooner he will adjust to living with you as his new owner. 

The most important questions to ask before adopting a senior dog 

There’s loads of questions to ask the shelter about your potential new senior dog, but I think the focus should be on you, the new owner. So see if any of these questions help you determine a little better about what you should be thinking about and considering before you head out to adopt your senior dog. 

  1. Are you prepared for the responsibility that comes with adopting a senior dog? - Any dog requires you to be responsible, but the older dog does require just a little more. Think about the amount of time you’ll have to spend with your dog on a daily and regular basis. How often are you able to take good long walks, or play each day? 
  2. Can you afford a senior dog? I came across a senior dog owner who adopted a 10 year old dog that required a significant amount of health care and medications. The dog was not likely going to live for very much longer, but this kind soul, adopted him anyway and had to spend $1,000 the first week he was home on special care the dog desperately needed. I’m not suggesting that every senior dog will require the same amount of financial care, but be prepared to have to support some of the dog’s aging lifestyle.
  3. Is your home accommodating? How difficult is it to get around your home? Are there a lot of stairs or is there any issue in accessing the yard? Not only would you generally dog proof any home, but think a bit further about the potential for the senior dog to have a problem getting around easily. 
  4. Are you emotionally prepared? This is something I think a lot of people get stopped on. You realize dogs live to about 12 - 14 years of age depending on the size of the dog of course, and current health overall, but are you able to be OK emotionally knowing that you might only have a couple years with this dog? Some people really are just in knowing that they are doing a good and noble thing when no one else can or will. They too could be in a fragile place emotionally. They may have been given up for adoption because their previous owner may have passed away or the vet bills were not something they could afford any longer - no matter the case, that senior dog has had a lot to process as well and so trusting a new owner can take some effort on his part. 

The plan facts about the fate of the senior dog exist and having a firm understanding that while open access shelters do provide a safe place for them while awaiting adoption, when faced with limited space, the ones that are on the list to be euthanized first are older dogs and cats. 

If you are considering adopting a senior dog, congratulations! You are really doing a very good thing and your newly adopted senior dog will certainly show you his appreciation the remaining days of his life. 

Related Resources: 

Should a Senior Citizen Adopt a dog?

Assuming the senior citizen is mobile, and capable of taking care of the dog, yes 100% they should adopt! Elderly individuals, who otherwise would be socially isolated, are less than one quarter as likely to develop clinical levels of depression if they are living with a pet. There are so many positives to elderly people adopting a dog. Companionship is a very big reason for this. Particularly, if the older person lives alone and no longer has their companion with them. Adopting an older dog might actually also be a positive for the elderly person. They may just want to avoid the nippy behavior of a puppy and all the house training that you would have to undergo, but also there’s a unique situation you both need a great companion, who has the time and love to devote to caring for that elderly dog where others looking for a much younger dog do not. 

I found a number of benefits in an article by Psychology Today where it states: “The benefits of pets for seniors are not just psychological, but also physical. Seniors who are living with a pet use medical services less frequently, follow recommended health suggestions more closely, and seem to suffer from physical ailments associated with or aggravated by stress to a lesser degree. “

There’s a number of great resources for senior adoptions. 

Senior Dog Rescue Groups

Looking for a senior dog rescue group? Start by Googling “senior dog rescue groups” you’ll likely come up with a list of a few locally in your area. If that’s not enough, here’s a few more I’ve found:

The Senior Dogs Project: Groups Specializing in Senior Dog Rescue and Offering Sanctuary. That site also has some really great information for keeping your senior dog healthy, condition and diseases to be familiar with, and financial assistance for pet guardians. has adopt a senior pet month section of its site all about adopting senior dogs and caring for them. 

Susie’s Senior Dogs - Facebook page - these aren’t in just one region of the country, you can find senior dogs from all over from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between. 

About the Author Janet

I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home

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