TOP #17: Seven Reasons to Adopt Senior Dogs

We've talked a lot about adopting dogs and puppies, but it seems that senior dogs never get anywhere near as much attention. However, older dogs can make a wonderful addition to any household and family, and often have many advantages over adopting puppies. In this podcast episode, I'm going to talk about adopting senior dogs and why you should consider it.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Seven Reasons to Adopt Senior Dogs
(raw podcast transcript)

Reasons to Adopt Senior Dogs

This week I want to talk with you guys about adopting senior pets.  This is the time of year, it's winter, it's colder out, we're getting into spring time, it's a very popular time of year for people to be thinking about adopting a dog.  Maybe they have those winter blues, a little bit depressed, they're thinking about getting out, getting a new friend, maybe they lost a dog over the year last year and now the new year is beginning it's time to maybe fill that hole that's missing.

There are tons of people that think about getting animals this time of year because the weather's starting to get nicer.  If you live somewhere like me, I live in Maine, we're not into spring quite yet but we're getting there and it's time to start thinking about a great time to adopt a new pet, winter is such a hard time because it's so cold outside, there's snow.  You don't want to try and potty train a puppy when it's cold and snowy.  If you get a cat and you want it to be an outdoor cat you don't want them to have to acclimate to the winter weather so now is the time when a lot of people are thinking about adopting pets.   And adopting senior pets is such a huge huge wonderful thing to think about and to do and a lot of people overlook it.  When people think about adopting they think about puppies and kittens, they don't think about seniors and there are so many benefits to adopting senior pets that I think people just don't realize.

So as we're thinking about spring time and we hear some friends and family members talking about maybe going out to look for pets or they're currently right now they're shopping around for shelters or rescues or breeders looking for new animals, I thought this would be a great time to talk about adopting senior pets and the benefits of that.

The greatest benefit, in my opinion, is just there's no guessing when it comes to an adult dog or an adult cat, you know what size they're going to be, you know what their coat is going to look like, you know all kinds of things, their temperament you can tell that.  Sometimes with younger pets, take for example a puppy or a kitten, they have a lot of energy, are they going to keep that energy through a good portion of adulthood?  Are they going to lose a lot of that energy?  Is it something that they're just going to be a puppy for a year or two or kind of a savvy kitten for a year or two and then they're going to settle down?

You know there are adult cats in shelters, a lot of people think that adult cats are lazy, when you kind of think of an adult cat you typically think of them lounging in the sun relaxing, and certainly that's what a lot of cats do.  But some adult cats love still to play and to be very active.   We have two adult cats that are outdoor cats, they come inside to eat and to sleep, they sleep inside at night and stuff but they spend a lot of time outside during the day, and they are active, very active, they're hunters, they're senior cats, one's 10 and one's 12, and they're still very active outside.

So would they be the same if they were inside all the time?  I don't know, but if you adopted them from a shelter at that age you would be able to tell what that temperament's like.  It's really important especially with dogs, you know you can tell, are they hyper active or are they going to be more mellow?  So there's no guessing when you adopt a senior dog.

You also know that the animal is likely already trained to some degree.  It's more likely than not that they're going to be house trained;  if they're a cat it's likely that they either know how to use the bathroom outside if they were an outside cat before, or they're litter-box trained, that's very very common with cats.  And with dogs most of the time they're already house trained or they're trained at least to go in a litter box…a dog litter box or on puppy pads or something like that.  So most of the time they're already housetrained, you don't have to worry about trying to train them to do that.

And as far as just training, most animals are already… like a cat is already going to know his name, they might come over when you call them over.  Training doesn't go so much with cats but with dogs, they're already trained most of the time.  If you adopt a senior pet they already have a few basic commands, they should probably already know sit, maybe lay down, they might know their name recall if the shelter knows their name that they had previously.  So training is usually typically a lot easier.

Along with that the third reason that I would say is a huge pro for adopting senior dog, you can teach old dogs new tricks, and the same goes for cats.  You know there might be a cat in the shelter that he is lazy and he's maybe a little bit overweight and when you bring him home you can get him some toys and get active and spend some time with him and bring out those new things.  And the same way with dogs, you know if you have an older dog… if you adopt an older dog if all they know is sit or they don't maybe come to the shelter with a name, maybe they're a drop-off and nobody shared the name with them, it's a lot easier to train a calmer dog that is going to focus on the training than it is to train a hyperactive little puppy.

So even if they're not trained you know my number two reason is that they are already trained, if they're not it's going to be easier to train them.  It might take a little bit more time just because they may have already picked up a bad habit or two but they are trainable, you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks, and a lot of times they're much more focused and it's easier to train.

The fourth reason that I have is because that poppy energy or that kitten energy is gone.  A lot of people you think about playing with a puppy or waving one of those cat toys around for a little kitten and having them play, and isn't it wonderful and everything.  It is, and it's great, and nothing against that because we have also adopted puppies and kittens and we do love them and we do love to play with them, but at the same time that newness kind of wears off after the first week or two and it becomes an annoyance more than anything else.

When you come home from work or a long day and you just want to sit down, relax on the couch with your canine or feline companion, you don't want to have a puppy in your face dropping a ball, wanting to play fetch, wanting to play tug.  And the other thing is if you come home and you do relax and you do have a younger animal, a lot of times if you won't play with them they're going to find something to entertain themselves, and that's when they start chewing your belongings, chewing your furniture, cats may start scratching at things or getting into stuff, knocking things over, you know that curiosity sort of takes over.  So if you're adopting a senior pet you don't have to deal with that, you have a dog that's going to be a little bit happy to see you, they're going to have a little bit of energy when you first come home, you can take them out, go for a quick walk, let them do their business outside, and when you come in it's time to relax, it's time to enjoy some time together. They're kind of built in companions and snugglers and you don't have to deal with all that extra energy that younger pets have.

Number five goes right along with this and Number six says as well, no chewing.  So like I just said, you're past that teething phase.  Kittens they're so curious, they get into everything.  We…our littlest kitten Elsa, we got her, we rescued her about three months ago, she was about eight months old when we got her and we thought she was a little bit older so maybe she was done with things.  But for some reason she would chew on…. because kittens teeth just like dogs do, they have teeth growing in, they need to teeth, she would chew on the corner of everything, the corner of my daughter's notebooks for school, she chewed on …she ruined a couple of picture frames, she chewed the corners of picture frames and dented them with her cat teeth, she chewed on the corner of our coffee table, she climbed on to the top and kind of gnawed on the corners so you have all these little puncture holes from her teeth.

So you don't think about kittens chewing, but they do and they also you know their curiosity kind of gets the best of them, they're knocking picture frames off walls, they're climbing on things, climbing up curtains, climbing on the shelves knocking down little knick knacks and things. And puppies they're getting into stuff too, they're chewing, they're trying to occupy themselves.  You don't get that when you adopt a senior dog, and along with that my main number six reason for adopting senior dogs is the sleep.  You don't have to worry about missing out on sleep because senior pets love sleep as much as you do, at nighttime, they've had a long day, they're ready to curl up on the end of your bed or climb into their dog bed and go to sleep and they will typically sleep all night and you don't have to worry about those middle of the night bathroom breaks, you don't have to worry about a crazy nocturnal cat running through your house.

We have had kittens that, oh my goodness in the middle of the night it would jump you right out of bed, you would hear banging and crashing, they would chase each other around and it was just terrible.  You're up in the middle of the night corralling kittens or you're up in the middle of the night taking puppies outside to go to the bathroom, or you can't sleep in in the morning because at 4:00 o'clock in the morning your puppy is up, he went to the bathroom and now he's awake and ready for the day so if you don't stay up and entertain him he's going to be chewing your stuff.  You have kittens that are the same way they get up, they're crazy at 3:00 o'clock/4:00 o'clock in the morning.  So you can sleep when you have senior dogs, that is a huge benefit for me and anyone else that enjoys sleep.  I am a mother I have children, sleep is hard to come by in my house, when I do get the chance to sleep I do not want to be woken up by young animals that are rowdy or need a bathroom break.  I enjoy our older dogs that sleep, I enjoy our older cats that sleep, it's wonderful.  So that is Number six.

Number seven is …actually think I'm on to Number eight, I'm not sure I lost count now.  But anyway my final reason for adopting senior dogs is that there is a very good chance that you are saving a life when you adopt a senior pet.  Senior pets are notorious for staying in shelters for long periods of time, they are notorious for staying in shelters until they need to be euthanized because people don't look at them the same way that they look at the puppies and the kittens, they don't look at them as an exciting new family member, they look at a senior dog, oh he's old, he's not going to be around for a lot longer.  You know they look at senior cats and just think they're not going to do anything but lay around our house.

Flip those things around and look at the pros of that, you might adopt a senior dog that's seven or eight years old and he might live to be 12 or 15, you may have another seven or eight years left with this dog.  Senior cats the same way, they might be 10 or 12, those cats could live to be 20 years old so you may have another eight or ten years with these cats. And when you look at them and think, “Oh that cat's just going to be a lazy,” animals don't act the same way in shelters as they would in your house.  If you want a cat that's going to be energetic, that's going to chase toys around, if you want to maybe sprinkle a little bit catnip and watch them play it, if you want to use one of those toys on a stick that you can shake around and get your cat to play, chances are even if you adopt an older cat, once you bring them home and they have more space to move around, they have family that loves them and cares about them, they have access to toys and things like that, they're going to come out of their shell a little bit and they might be more active than they would be in a shelter.

Senior dog you might think “Well I really want a dog that's going to go walking with me every day, or that's going to go hiking with me, or that's going to go to the dog park and play,” or if you live near the water and you really want to take your dog down and let him swim every day and that's kind of your idea is to walk down to the water and let him swim and then walk back home.  There's no saying that senior dogs won't do that, they're certainly seeing dogs that won't but it's breed based and it's healthy, it has nothing to do with their age.  If you adopt a senior dog like a bulldog for example that's a lazier breed, he's probably not going to want to go for a walk; but you know what, if you adopted a two or three year old bulldog, he's probably not going to want to go for a walk either.

Same thing with health wise, if you adopt a senior dog that's in good health, absolutely, he would probably love to walk or take hikes with you, not super strenuous, I'm not talking about climbing mountains but if you walk some local hiking trails a senior dog would love to do that, they are going to be just as happy to be out there in the wilderness, being able to smell, getting exercise and it keeps them young, moving their joints, with walking that helps to keep them young, it helps to keep them strong and continue the muscle growth.  It's when senior dogs are left, or cats, are left to just lay around in a shelter where they start losing that motivation to want to do things like that, it doesn't mean that you can't bring that back out of them.

So when you think about adoption and you think about a senior pet, don't just look at them and think, “Oh they're going to be lazy, they're not going to do anything,” they most certainly will want to do things with you, and chances are you're going to be saving a life because everybody else is thinking the same thing that you are when they go into that shelter, “That dog's not going to walk with me…that cat's just going to lay around all day.”  You know a cat that lays around isn't a bad thing, a cat that lays around is going to want to lay next to you on the couch when you watch TV at night; a cat that lays around might want to sleep on your bed with you at night, might want to snuggle with you in the morning when you're sipping coffee and sitting in the rocking chair reading the paper.

Whatever the case may be, try and think about the pros to senior pets when you go into a shelter and you're looking for animals because there are so many great things about adopting senior animals, and I'm not talking senior animals that are in their last stages of life, we're talking about senior animals that still have a lot of life left to give. There's nothing wrong with adopting a senior pet that only needs a home to go to to be comfortable during those last few months or maybe year of their life.  Absolutely, if you have the place in your heart to do that, that's a wonderful thing, but that's not what every senior pet is, a lot of senior pets still have a lot of love to give and a lot of life left to live.

So when you're thinking about adopting I highly encourage thinking about adopting senior dogs.  Trust me when I tell you we're a family who has raised puppies, we've raised kittens, senior dogs are so all much easier.

So I just want to recap really quickly my eight reasons for wanting to adopt senior pets or for encouraging people to adopt senior pets:

One – There's no guessing about their size or their temperament, anything like that, you know what you're getting.

Number Two – They're probably already have a little bit of training; they're probably already housebroken.

Number Three – If they're not, you can teach an old dog new tricks. You can house train an old dog, you can still train a new dog to do new things or a new cat, so don't think that you can't.

Number Four – That puppy energy is gone and along with that are Five and Six – No chewing, no destroying your stuff, and you get to sleep.

Number Six – That's my favorite one, you get to sleep.  They love to sleep as much as you do.

Number Seven – Yes, and it is my final one, sorry thought I had eight, I actually only have seven.  You are helping to save a life.  So remember that, when you adopt a senior dog instead of them spending the next few months in a shelter where they're going to be euthanized when nobody adopts them, or spending the rest of their life in a no kill shelter and living in a kennel with not a lot of one-on-one interaction, you are saving that dog's life, you're getting them out of a kill shelter or you're getting them out of a no kill shelter you're bringing them into a home with a family that's going to love them and give them a good quality of life for the rest of their life.


Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.