Wagging Seniors: Why adopting a Senior dog may be a better fit for you!

Are you dying to have a dog but are not sure you have enough time to take care of him? Do you live in a small apartment that does not have a yard? Or are you still living with your parents and you know your mom will yell at you if there is suddenly dog pee and poop all over the house?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions let me tell you that owning a dog is still definitely possible! Trust me, I learned this the hard way by getting a puppy and then having to give him back with tears down my cheeks. Later I volunteered at an animal rescue and fell in love with an older dog and adopted him. Best decision of my life! I had always gotten puppies when I was younger so I believed that was the way to go, however, I clearly was oblivious to the responsibility of having a puppy in an apartment or in general. My older dog was easier to potty-train, he did not chew my furniture, and I also did not feel as bad leaving him alone while I went to work. In addition, he was not a heavy monetary investment since his adoption price came with all his shots included as well as microchip.

Furthermore, after working three years at BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions in Houston, Texas, I sadly saw so many senior dogs being abandoned by their owners. The age of seniors is classified differently among shelters, however, two of the largest shelters in Houston unfortunately deal with the abandonment of older dogs on a daily basis. Similarly, Harris County Animal Shelter has taken in 58 senior animals (age 8 years old and up) and held a total of 447 elders in 2018. Yes, these numbers are real and just heartbreaking. Danielle Macicek, Shelter Operations Administrator from Harris County Animal Shelter explained to me that very young animals as well as the very old are the most vulnerable at a Shelter. Ms. Macicek says that older pets are overlooked but that they can still make wonderful and loyal pets, deserving a loving home. Many shelters actually reduce the adoption fee of elderly pets in order to increase their chance of getting a new home. Thus, Harris County Animal Shelter offers a lower price on all dogs and cats over 5 years of age throughout the year.

From experience, it was challenging to find rescue for older animals but many rescue organizations did step up, however, due to these staggering numbers their help is not enough. YOU, adopters, are the silver lining in this lamentable reality that shelters are facing every day. So, in my continuing attempts to save more lives, here are some reasons why I want you to consider adopting an older or senior dog before getting a puppy:

  1. Require less attention and time: seniors are not as annoying and time consuming as puppies can be at times. They are less likely to cry when you leave them alone and they enjoy their quiet time when you are at work. You won’t have to wonder if you will come home to a mess and a short walk every day is enough for them to get rid of their energy and stay healthy. They also are the best companion to Netflix and chill with on the couch.
  2. They will bond with you: adopters at BARC would some times prefer a puppy because they really wanted to form that special long lasting bond with their new pet. However, a bond just as strong is possible with an older dog. Not only did I experience it myself, but other adopters would send us updates saying they could not imagine their life without their new aged best friend. Nancy Kelly, owner of The Mannerly Dog Professional Training and Behavior Consultation says that bonding can happen because “how to interact with another species is a learned skill, and an older dog may have more experience in that area than a puppy, and therefore may be more skilled in helping you learn to communicate with them, if you pay attention…” Thus, the bond you create with your older pet may depend more on you than on them!
  3. Still Trainable: a myth that disfavors senior dogs is that they cannot learn. People want puppies to train them as they want and think they learn faster than older dogs. However, dog Trainer Nancy once again disputes this common belief by saying: “All species keep learning throughout their lives, it is a biological drive. Behavior is never stagnant, a dog learns who brings their food, what happens when a leash is put on, etc. What you have to consider is that an older dog has been learning things for a longer time, and their previous history may get in the way of what you are trying to teach them now. However, that can be changed with positive reinforcement (treat giving) and repetition. It is not about how much time you spend, but how you use that time and find what motivates the dog to do things you want them to do that may not make sense to them.” You see, an older dog can still learn new tricks!  
  4. You save their life: Literally…senior animals are the ones closest on the list to being euthanized at shelters. Why? Well, everyone wants a puppy and a shelter can only hold a dog or cat specific number of days due to the hundreds of animals that are dropped off every week or found on the street. A lot of elderly dogs and cats get easily stressed in a shelter environment even if the shelter staff takes them outside during the day, gives them toys and treats, and tries their best to keep them calm. By adopting them, you will be their hero!

And most importantly, senior pets still have a lot of love to give, tail wagging time, and a unique lust for life! It may take these sweeties a week or more to settle in with you because they have been with another family for so long, but I promise your patience and love will be rewarded as they will be so grateful for the second chance at life you just gave them.

By Alejandra Peimbert|Thu, Feb 28, 2019