Over the years I have been owned by dogs of all ages from puppies to seniors, so I feel that I have a good perspective on all stages of a dog's life. And while the energy of a puppy or young dog can be infectious, I am drawn now to the sweet nature of a senior dog, which makes adopting an older dog in my mind the obvious choice. There are so many dogs in shelters and rescues, but sadly seniors are often the ones that are left behind. I would like to ask that people take a moment to consider the many rewards that bringing an older dog into your home can bring before you immediately decide on a younger dog.
Here are 5 of what I consider to be the best reasons to adopt a senior dog:
- Truly grateful - it has been my experience and that of so many other wonderful parents that when you rescue a senior dog you genuinely feel how thankful they are. Older dogs are more interested in having someone who loves them than in chasing a ball and when they are freed from a shelter or adopted from a rescue they let you know what their new life means to them. You will know instantly that you did the right thing. Not only are they grateful for their new family, but they show this gratitude by showering you with love. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do and your heart will truly thank you.
- True sense of self - one of the traits that amazes me the most about older dogs is how well they know who they are. They are past the trial and error stage and have become so comfortable in their own skin that they know what they like and what they don't like. I find this refreshing to be honest. This is not to say that you cannot take them outside of their comfort zone; like all beings they still need to be stimulated, but they will definitely let you know what they think about it when you do. I like to try new things with my dogs to see if I can get them hooked on new activities which happens quite often, but when I ask them to do something they have decided they are not fond of they make no secret of their preference to be excluded. For example, Milo my oldest has made it very clear that he would prefer to not be my first mate on our row boat, but he loves car rides and adventures in the forest :)
- Satisfied with the simple things - senior dogs have an impressive ability to appreciate the simple things in life. They live life at a slightly slower pace which allows them the time to stop and smell the roses. In our family we used to be in awe as we would watch Mackenzie my senior pug at the time drink his water and eat his food. He would take his time and savor every moment. It was pure joy! I now watch my current seniors who sniff every blade of grass when we are outside, who sit on the couch and watch the birds for hours and exude utter contentment when participating in lap time - they find peace in so many moments. I often take time to stop and appreciate their perspective because there is no stress, no worry, just being. I try every day to be a little more like them.
- Real pro's - while a puppy can certainly be fun, most people are unaware of the challenges they bring when it comes to house training. It can take years with some young dogs for them to truly grasp the concept that bathroom breaks are meant to take place outside. In addition to the potty phase you also have to contend with the chewing phase and what feels like endless energy. With a senior dog you typically have seasoned veterans who know perfectly well where their 'business' should be done and that shoes are for wearing. Many senior dogs still have tons of energy, but it's more paced and I find more fun because they aren't always 'on' so when they are playful it becomes even more exciting! This is not to say that senior dogs are not without their challenges; many do struggle with incontinence but speaking from experience I find incontinence a lot easier to manage than a puppy that isn't house trained. Incontinence is more predictable making it easier to cope with especially with the help of products such as dog diapers and pads. And not all seniors deal with incontinence - I have had seniors that had bladders of steel, but ALL puppies need to be house trained!
- You are saving a life - thinking about someone other than yourself can work wonders for your heart, mind and spirit. Sadly many senior dogs are abandoned at a time in their life when they needed their families the most. It makes me tear up thinking of how sad they must feel when all of a sudden their family is gone. When you adopt a senior dog you could very well be saving his/her life because quite often the older dogs are the ones that have the hardest time getting adopted. Just think of the impact you could make on a senor dog's life by opening your heart and your home.
I promise that if you adopt a senior dog it will be the best thing you ever did. There is something so sweet and so special about dogs in this stage of life that will make your heart swell and leave you feeling overwhelmingly fulfilled. They are hilarious, honest and loyal - you will feel needed, appreciated and above all so loved. What more can you ask for?
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.