Adopting an Older Dog

“Oh my goodness! Puppies! They are so cute and I want one”

This is a statement I see on a regular basis whenever an animal rescue posts photos of puppies that has just been born or are available for adoption. People love puppies. How could you not? They are adorable beyond all words. Puppies always put people in a good mood and with everything going on in the world, we need things that brighten our days up a bit and puppies do that.

While puppies are adorable, they are a lot of work. I truly believe that people have no idea how much work they actually are until they are around one. It’s basically like having a toddler (except you can crate train the puppy and leave them at home without the police or child services being called on you).

My sister and brother in law recently added a puppy to their family. One morning, I was asked to watch my six year old nephew and the puppy while my sister was out. My nephew was easy and you hardly even noticed he was there because he entertained himself. The puppy on the other hand was exhausting. For 90 minutes I had to chase him down trying to get shoes he had taken to chew, hide all the pillows and blanket on the couch (as you guessed it, he wanted to chew them), make sure he went outside shortly after drinking water and had to make sure he did not jump on to the counter (he’s a Swiss Mountain Dog and is 7 months and around 80-90lbs). Then there were those razor sharp puppy teeth which you try to avoid, but he’s still learning not to bite at feet.

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As adorable as he is, all spending time with him did was made me happy that I adopted older dogs.

I will state that we were incredibly fortunate with our three that they were house trained (with the exception of Freckles and her separation anxiety) and had no major behavioural issues.

One of the things I commonly see being involved in animal rescue is puppies getting adopted right away (once they are ready) but often see older dogs in care for a much longer time (some being in care for up to and even longer than one year).

So, why are older dogs not wanted? Why do rescue organizations not get the amount of applications for a 8 year old dog as they do a 15 week old puppy?

Many people see older dogs as “less desirable” and some even see them as not as “cute” as a puppy. They want a “fresh start” with a puppy. People see older dogs in rescue as “damaged goods” and because they are older, people assume older dogs won’t “live as long” (even though you can NEVER predict any animal’s life expectancy).

Sound harsh? Sadly, these are reasons why I’ve seen people not adopt older dogs. All you need to do is follow some animal shelters on social media and you will see how many older dogs get dropped off compared to puppies. It’s heartbreaking.

But I don’t see older dogs that way. I see adopting them as giving them a second chance at life and being able to give them the life they deserve.

I will be completely honest in saying that prior to Dolly, I wanted a puppy. Around the time where I was trying to convince my husband to add another dog to our family, I saw Dolly.

When I first saw Dolly, I instantly fell in love. There was something about her sweet grey face and soulful eyes that I knew she would be a perfect addition to our family. What’s interesting is that she got barely any applications to adopt her. So when I was contacted by her foster mom, I knew she would become part of our family. And when we met her, it was love at first sight and now I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

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My beautiful girl.

Older dogs adapt to new situations just as easily as puppies do. Yes, it can take some time but you have to be patient! When we brought Dolly home, she hid under the desk in our office for two days and shook because she was so stressed. We let her come out when she was ready and after two days, she jumped up on the couch with me and now she thinks she owns the place.

The first time Dolly jumped on the couch with me. She felt safe.
They think they own the place. They kind of do.

Can older dogs be as much work as a puppy? That depends on the dog. If you have a dog with behavioural issues (such as separation anxiety) or health issues, it can definitely be a lot of work. BUT, all dogs require a lot of work. Regardless of age, you still need to feed them, walk them, clean up after them, play with them and take care of all medical needs (including regular vet visits).

But, with most older dogs, you will not need to worry about house or crate training them (not always the case but any good and reputable rescue will work on addressing that), train them (Max already knew how to sit, stay and shake a paw) and depending on the age and breed, are much lower energy and do not require as much exercise as a puppy would.

You know the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, I’m here to say that’s false. We taught both Freckles and Dolly how to sit (especially if there are treats involved) and are currently working on getting Dolly to shake a paw.

Will sit (for treats)!

The love that older dogs will show to you is something truly special. Max is affectionate when he chooses to be, Freckles is a little too affectionate but the love that Dolly has shown melts my heart. It’s like she constantly says “thank you for taking a chance on me and loving me”.

The next addition to our family will not be a puppy. I already know I want an older dog.

There’s absoluty nothing wrong with wanting a puppy (as all dogs need a good and loving home), but the next time you are looking to add to your family, take a look at some local animal rescue organizations first. You never know when it’s going to be love at first sight.

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