When it comes to welcoming a new furry member into our lives, the spotlight often shines on puppies and young dogs. Puppies are usually the more commonly sought-after pets, but for some potential pet parents, older dogs may actually be a better fit. Not to mention that seniors are often overlooked in shelters but they still have so much love to give and deserve a chance at finding their forever home too. As with any new pet, there are both pros and cons to adopting a senior dog. Let’s explore the realities of adopting a senior - the reasons, joys and challenges of opening your heart and home to a senior dog.
The joys of adopting a senior dog
Maturity and calm demeanour
Unlike energetic puppies, senior dogs have passed the boisterous phase of life and settled into a more serene and balanced temperament. Their maturity brings a sense of calmness to your home, making them excellent companions for individuals or families seeking a peaceful environment.
Established training and socialisation
Puppies usually require a lot more work than older dogs. Most senior dogs come with valuable life experiences, including basic training and socialisation. Many have lived in homes, making them familiar with household routines and commands, which reduces the effort required in training compared to puppies. They don’t require the constant monitoring and training that puppies do. It’s nice to adopt a dog who likely knows what ‘no’ means and who can comfortably be left alone at home.
Lower energy levels
While young dogs require frequent exercise and playtime, senior dogs have more manageable energy levels. They still enjoy short walks and play sessions but don't demand the same level of physical activity as their younger counterparts. For people with a more relaxed lifestyle, a senior dog can be a perfect match.
Less destructive behaviour
Senior dogs are past their teething stage and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviours such as chewing furniture or shoes. Those that have lived in homes before are likely to have learned what is appropriate to chew on and what isn't, saving you from potential household damage.
Clear personality and temperament
When you adopt a senior dog, what you see is what you get. Unlike puppies who may grow into a different personality, the temperament of a senior dog is already evident. This allows you to find a dog that perfectly matches your lifestyle and personality.
Health needs are known
One of the advantages of adopting a senior dog is that their health needs are generally known. Shelters and rescue organisations conduct thorough health assessments and provide information about any existing medical conditions. This transparency allows you to make an informed decision and adequately prepare for any potential medical costs.
Support for animal shelters and rescue groups
By adopting a senior dog, you're not only giving a loving home to a deserving pet, but you're also supporting animal shelters and rescue groups. Older dogs are often the most challenging to find homes for, and by adopting one, you free up space and resources for other dogs in need.
The gift of unconditional love
Finally, the most compelling reason to adopt a senior dog is the gift of unconditional love they offer. Having experienced life's highs and lows, these gentle souls often display immense gratitude for the newfound opportunity to experience love and comfort. Most senior dogs have an incredible ability to bond with their new human companions, providing immeasurable joy, loyalty, and affection. The connection you'll establish with your senior companion is unique and heartwarming, providing a sense of fulfilment that only comes from rescuing a dog in its golden years.
The challenges of adopting a senior dog
While adopting a senior dog can be a deeply rewarding experience, it's important to be aware of the potential challenges that may arise. Understanding and preparing for these challenges will help ensure a successful transition and a happy life for both you and your senior companion. Here are some potential challenges when adopting a senior dog.
Senior dogs are more likely to have age-related health problems, such as arthritis, dental issues, vision or hearing impairment. Caring for a senior dog may involve regular vet visits, medication administration, and potentially higher medical expenses.
Unlike adopting a younger dog, adopting a senior dog means you will likely have a shorter time together. This can be emotionally challenging for some people, knowing they may have fewer years with their beloved pet.
Dietary and nutritional needs
Older dogs may have specific dietary requirements to support their ageing bodies. Providing them with appropriate nutrition and adjusting their diet based on their health conditions is crucial to their well-being.
Adjusting to a new home
Senior dogs may take longer to adapt to a new environment and routine compared to younger dogs. They may have been through various life changes already, and it might take time for them to feel secure and comfortable in their new home.
Some senior dogs might come with behavioural issues acquired from previous experiences. While many of these issues can be addressed with patience and training, it's essential to be prepared to work through any challenges that may arise.
Grief and loss
Adopting a senior dog often means providing a home for a pet who has already lost their previous family or caregiver. This can lead to feelings of grief and confusion for the dog, which requires patience and understanding to help them heal emotionally.
Attachment and separation anxiety
Senior dogs may have a stronger attachment to their previous owners, especially if they've been surrendered or lost their previous home due to unforeseen circumstances. This could lead to separation anxiety when you leave the house, making it important to introduce them to alone time gradually.
Pet supplies to prepare for your senior dog
When adopting a senior dog, it's essential to gather the necessary pet supplies to ensure their comfort and well-being. While some of the supplies may overlap with those needed for younger dogs, there are specific items that cater to the unique needs of older canines. Here's a selected list of pet supplies that we would recommend for your senior dog.
Provide a soft and supportive bed that accommodates their ageing joints and provides them a cosy place to rest. An Orthopaedic bed is highly recommended for ageing dogs with joint issues, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal conditions. Orthopaedic beds like the Big Borky Orthopedic Dog Bed are constructed with memory foam or specialised foam that conforms to the dog's body shape, offering optimal support to their joints and reducing pressure points. This helps alleviate pain and discomfort associated with joint conditions. A huge plus point is Big Borky beds’ removable covers. They are water resistant and 100% machine washable which can be a big save from potty accidents!
Dog diapers and pee pads
Some senior dogs may have issues with bladder control, so having doggy diapers can be helpful for accidents. It may be necessary to set up several potty stations that are easily accessible and best to use high-absorbency dog pee pads like the Absorb Plus Antibacterial Dog Pee Pad. This is one of our top sellers. It has 6 layers of protection to prevent leakage and can control odour effectively for 72 hours. If you are unsure of which potty supplies to pick for your senior, do check out the Try & Buy section. Pick a few trial products from Try & Buy before buying the full-size pack.
Age-appropriate dog food
Choose high-quality dog food specially formulated for senior dogs. The goal of proper senior nutrition is to help minimise the effects of ageing. Many senior dog food products have functional ingredients added to support your senior’s joint health, digestion, and overall vitality. Discuss with your veterinarian on which is best for your furry companion. One high-quality fresh dog food that we like is the PetCubes Cooked Dog Food for Seniors. It’s a gently cooked diet prepared at 80˚C optimally balanced for dogs older than 7 years of age.
Some senior dogs may benefit from nutritional supplementation. Joint support formulas are one of the most popular nutritional supplements given to senior dogs. A premium joint supplement to consider is this Zesty Paws Mobility Bites Hip & Joint Supplements for Dogs. This product contains all the necessary joint-support nutrients - MSM, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin - for hip and joint support. Another popular nutritional supplement for senior dogs is Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is great for older dogs with arthritis or cognition problems. It helps to reduce joint inflammation and slows down the risk of cognitive decline.
Another potentially beneficial oil for cognitive health is the medium-chain triglyceride oils (MCT oils). Recent studies have shown that MCT oil may benefit dogs with signs of cognitive dysfunction. Coconut oil is the richest natural source of MCT containing about 54% MCT oil. You can consider adding ½ to 1 teaspoon of this premium-grade Sunrise Natural Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil to your dog’s food, once or twice daily for better cognitive function. We would recommend that you consult with your veterinarian about adding supplements to your senior dog's diet.
Mobility assistance aids
Depending on your dog’s condition, you might need ramps or stairs to help your senior dog access elevated areas like beds or sofas. If your senior suffers from hind-limb weakness and is slipping on your floors, you may want to invest in some non-slip rugs or mats. Your pup might benefit from a few well-placed area rugs in his favourite hangout spots.
Perhaps the best reason to adopt an older dog is knowing you are doing something wonderful—providing an overlooked, forgotten animal with a comfortable, caring home in their last years of life. It’s a decision that brings immense joy, gratitude, and fulfilment to both you and the senior dog. While there may be challenges, the love and devotion a senior dog brings into your life will make the journey well worth undertaking. So, if you are planning to bring a new furry friend into your life, consider visiting the local shelter to meet these loving senior dogs who are waiting for their forever homes. You may just find a loving soul waiting to be your forever friend.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.