Most dog owners will tell you that dogs tend to develop their personalities as they age. A 2020 study published in Scientific Reports even posits that dogs—like many humans—tend to become less active and less curious as they grow older.
While that doesn’t seem like good news on the surface, it does mean that senior dogs don’t require as steep a learning curve in terms of their care and are thus an excellent choice for first-time dog parents and shelter animal adopters. Here are PrideBites’ insights on why it may be good to choose a senior pup as your first rescue:
1) Senior Dogs Can Be Less Demanding
Most older shelter dogs will already have been socialized, and those that once had owners may have already received obedience training. Chances are, they’ve already developed an understanding of what humans expect, which means there’s no need for you to be so on edge during the housebreaking stage.
A senior dog may have also already grown out all their teeth, so you probably won’t need to worry about them nibbling on electrical cables or tearing into your sofa. Potty training is also much easier with healthy senior dogs; even as they age and their potty behaviors become less predictable, you won’t have to be as frantic about keeping your house clean as you would be with a puppy.
2) They’re Calmer Than Younger Pups
Senior dogs also generally have a much more even temperament, since they’re more aware of how humans and other animals behave in different situations. Most will also have shed their youthful pup vigor and therefore have less interest in chewing up or aggressively marking your possessions. And while they can still be a handful, many senior dogs will spend their days being chill and happy to lounge around in their personalized dog beds.
3) Senior Dogs are a Great Match for Many Lifestyles
Senior humans and people with mobility issues can find raising a younger dog to be a stressful experience, particularly if they’re a breed that doesn’t do well indoors. Younger pups also demand a lot of exercise and playtime that even younger humans can struggle to provide. In contrast, older dogs’ calmer demeanors and lower energy levels make them an especially good match for anyone who has a hard time staying on top of a younger pup’s needs.
To be clear, senior dogs can still be as rambunctious and eager to please as younger pups, but due to their age and physical constraints, they’re sure to take things slower. You’ll still need to take them out for walks, but they probably wouldn’t want to be frolicking all day like a younger dog would. If you’re just starting on a fitness plan, a senior dog will be a great companion and won't overwhelm you with the high-energy demands of a younger dog.
4) Senior Dogs Cost Less to Adopt
Most people looking for dogs want to adopt puppies, which means there’s now a surplus of senior dogs at shelters and animal rescue centers across North America. In many cases, this has driven down adoption fees for senior dogs, with many shelters even waiving fees entirely for senior citizens, veterans, and other people who most need the kind of love and companionship that only a dog could bring.
The cost savings don’t stop at adoption fees, either. First-year vet expenses are considerably lower for senior dogs than they are for puppies. And since they aren’t getting any bigger, you won’t have to keep ordering new collars and pet crates for them every few months. All things considered, you’ll find that senior dogs are usually the most affordable choice for adoption.
5) You’ll Instantly Feel Your Dog’s Love and Gratitude
You won’t find a shortage of animal behaviorists who will tell you that dogs can’t feel human emotions. You’ll also find plenty of other researchers who will offer evidence to counter that unpopular assertion. Of course, anyone who’s ever adopted a dog will tell you that their canine companions seem to express a range of emotions to them, often mirroring their own.
Anecdotal evidence from shelters tends to support the idea that dogs—particularly senior dogs—feel gratitude to their adopters. There are stories of once snippy senior dogs instantly turning into cuddle-bugs almost from the moment they are finally given a loving home. Once you bring a senior dog into your life, they’re almost certainly going to reflect the love and trust you give to them.
6) Senior Dogs Have Fully-Formed Personalities
The first two years of a dog’s life are typically the most challenging and hair-raising. But older dogs will have already gone through their “terrible two” and will likely have developed preferences and personalities, making them a far more forgiving option for new dog owners.
Most shelters will be able to give you information about senior dogs before you make a decision. That means that you’ll get a good idea of how well you and senior dogs with certain personalities will get along.
7) Senior Dogs Need Families Too!
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) puts the adoption rate for senior dogs at 25 percent—much lower than the 60 percent adoption rate typical for younger dogs. Choosing an older dog isn’t just about helping that one dog out, either. Shelters are constantly short of space, and adopting an older dog means that other dogs can be properly cared for. In a world full of unwanted animals, adopting a senior dog will be a means to do something meaningful for the shelter community.
Exploring the World of Pet Rescue Through Senior Dog Adoption
Ultimately, the act of adopting a senior dog will give you a real chance to do some good in the world. If you’re new to pet rescues, the more forgiving experience of raising a senior dog may be just what you need before you move on to adopting puppies and other younger furry friends.
You’ll never forget your first adoption experience—and you’ll learn quite a lot from the company of a senior dog who loves and is thankful for you!