Reviewed for accuracy on May 1, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
It’s true—there’s no greater companion than a wizened pup with a little gray in his whiskers and a twinkle in his eye. But not everyone, unfortunately, is eager to adopt senior dogs.
“People are afraid to adopt seniors,” says Donna Culbert, canine training coordinator at The Scituate Animal Shelter in Massachusetts. “While it’s true that senior dogs may have more medical needs, and adopters should be prepared for some of those expenses, there are some real benefits to seniors.”
Here, the experts dispel some of the most common myths about adopting a senior dog.
Myth #1: Senior dogs are too much work.
Many prospective pet parents think a “fresh start” with a puppy is the best route because they fear that a senior dog will require too much training to break bad habits.
On the contrary, if you’re worried about bad habits and extensive training, a younger dog likely isn’t for you, says Dr. Amanda Nascimento, the in-house veterinarian at NHV Natural Pet.
"Puppies are super cute, but they need a lot of care and attention,” says Dr. Nascimento. “They need to be trained to develop healthy habits. For many first-time pet parents, the time and effort needed to train, socialize and exercise a puppy can be overwhelming.”
When you adopt an older dog, you can more easily find a pet whose personality fits your lifestyle. “When you choose a senior dog, you can know more about their personality, as well as their physical and behavioral traits,” says Dr. Nascimento.
Myth #2: They’re not good with kids.
When it comes to kids, most people assume that a senior dog would prefer peace and quiet. However, that’s not the case, says Dr. Nascimento. Many senior shelter dogs have previously lived with children and are seasoned experts when it comes to little ones.
“Many older dogs are very good with kids,” she says. “They’ve learned their manners; they are no longer rambunctious adolescents. As long as children are taught how to behave around dogs, age will not limit whether a dog can be best buddies with a child.”
Myth #3: Seniors won’t bond with new people.
After living with another family for so many years, how could a senior shelter dog accept new people? Wouldn’t a puppy be more likely to trust and create lifelong bonds? Not so fast, says Dr. Nascimento.
“For pet parents who are worried that a senior dog may not bond as strongly as a puppy, well, nothing could be further from the truth,” she says. “Dogs are marvelous creatures with beautiful and open hearts.”
Some shelter senior dogs will make themselves right at home, while others will require some time to warm up and settle in. It’s important, says Dr. Nascimento, to allow a new pet time to adjust.
Once by your side, senior dogs make one-of-a-kind companions.
“I have found that senior dogs are wise—they have calm confidence that only comes with experiencing life,” says Culbert. “They can be more affectionate than young dogs and are more apt to stay by your side rather than run off with the pack.”
Myth #4: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
In reality, senior dogs remain curious, trainable and fun-loving, says Culbert.
“Old dogs can learn new tricks,” she says. “Just like humans, it may take a little longer to learn new tasks, but it can be accomplished with the right motivator. I recently had three 9-year-old dogs who took my agility and nose-work classes and flourished.”
Myth #5: Senior dogs are too expensive.
This “myth” has a bit of truth to it. Some older dogs may have age-related health issues, says Culbert, and adopters must be prepared for the veterinary bills and prescription pet medications associated with caring for a senior dog.
However, Dr. Nascimento notes, the training and veterinary costs associated with puppies is also high. And while each pet is an individual, she says, age in itself is not a disease—many senior dogs are perfectly healthy.
Even when care for senior dogs is more significant, the rewards are plentiful.
“One of the most amazing joys any pet parent can have is watching a rescue enjoy and thrive in their new life,” says Dr. Nascimento.
By: Monica Weymouth
Featured Image: iStock.com/Bigandt_Photography