The Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog


Older dogs have a lot to offer.
Photo by Jane Sobel Klonsky, Project Unconditional

Adopting a senior or adult dog delivers as many joys as adopting a puppy—along with some unique benefits. But senior dogs are frequently bypassed for younger dogs in rescue shelters because of common misconceptions about them, according to the ASPCA. If you’re considering adopting a dog with some miles under his paws, read on for a closer look at older dog adoptions, the special considerations to keep in mind, and the steps to adopting an adult or senior dog.

Adult Dog Adoption vs. Puppy Adoption

All dogs require attention and hard work—whether you bring home an eight-week-old puppy from a breeder or an eight-year-old mutt from a rescue. But there are some fundamental differences between the experience of adopting an adult or senior dog and bringing home a puppy. Spend some time pondering your family’s and your own expectations for life with a new dog, so you understand what’s in store, and can make the best choice for everyone.

Denise Gainey adopted Marley, an adult Husky mix.

Here’s what you need to know about adopting an older dog:

1. You often get a housetrained dog.

Housetraining is a stressful, exhausting time for the new parents of puppies. But an adult or senior dog often knows how to wait until walk time, and has the bladder control to avoid accidents.

2. You get a more mature dog.

Adult and senior dogs have been around the block a few times. While older dogs can have some quirks and behavior issues, you’ll probably know what they are in advance. And, they should be well past the naturally destructive, boundary-pushing developmental phases of a puppy.

3. You get a fully grown dog.

Puppies from the rescue can grow up into larger adult dogs than expected. If you know the size dog that works for your home and lifestyle, you can choose an adult or senior dog who’s already a perfect fit.

4. You might get a fully trained dog.

Many adult dogs in shelters already know basic, or even advanced commands. This can make older dogs a great choice for first-time dog owners. If you don’t have time to train your new dog, talk with rescue volunteers so they pair you with only well-trained dogs.

5. You skip past the puppy medical expenses.

Owning a dog is expensive, but the first year in a new puppy’s life requires repeat visits to the vet, for spaying or neutering surgery, and for vaccinations. With an older dog, many routine medical issues are already managed.

6. You miss the cute puppy phase.

There are endless rewards to adopting an adult or senior dog, but you do skip past the cute, frolicking, roly-poly, world-discovering phase of puppyhood. For some people, this period is a can’t-miss.

Misconceptions About Adopting a Senior Dog

Mistaken beliefs about adopting senior and older dogs are pervasive, so let’s take a closer at those and learn why they are (mostly) untrue:

1. You won’t have the dog for long.

Some people think they are setting themselves up for grief when they adopt an older dog. But there are no guarantees in life with a dog of any age, and most older and senior dogs in shelters have many healthy years ahead of them. There are, however, VERY old dogs in shelters who need adopting too. In these cases, you are choosing to give a loving home to a geriatric dog who assuredly won’t be in your life for a decade, but who will deliver oodles of joy in the relatively short time they spend with you.

2. You’ll have more medical expenses.

As mentioned above, adopted adult and senior dogs are often healthy for years. You can adopt a puppy who develops a chronic illness at an early age, or an adult dog who is well for the long haul. In some cases, people choose to adopt senior dogs with health issues and knowingly take on their care and the associated expenses.

3. You’ll love an older dog less, or they’ll love you less.

This is simply not true. Search “senior dogs” on Facebook or Instagram and you’ll find endless stories of people and older pooches whose lives changed for the better when they made the choice to adopt each other.

How to Adopt an Older Dog

To adopt an older dog, you simply have to keep that intention in mind throughout your search. When you visit rescue shelters in your area, or reach out to shelters online, let them know you are committed to adopting a senior dog. Be specific. Do you prefer an older dog between seven and ten years old, older than age ten?

While the number of people willing to adopt older dogs with serious health issues is increasing, they are still a rare breed. Clarify your intentions if you want to give a forever home to an ailing senior dog, because many rescue workers will assume otherwise.

Some helpful resources for adopting older dogs include:

There are many other organizations, likely including rescues in your area that focus on finding homes for senior dogs. You can also reach out to breed-specific rescues for older dogs of a favorite breed.

Should You Adopt a Senior Dog?

Yes! If you’ve read through this post and the thought of adopting a sweet older dog is beginning to seem like a good idea—then, by all means, you should adopt a senior dog.

What dog supplies will you need when you bring home your new adult or senior dog? The supplies are the same as those you need when bringing home a dog of any age. Talk with your veterinarian, however, about the need for senior dog food and an orthopedic dog bed, which offers extra support for aging joints. You’ll find a handy list of supplies for new dog owners in our post on the cost of owning a dog—another good thing to read up on as you contemplate this major (and exciting!) decision.

When you adopt a dog of any age from a shelter, you’re saving a life. But there’s something especially beautiful about adopting an adult or senior dog, who has been at the shelter as younger dogs come and go. If you have the room in your budget, your heart, and your house—bring home an older dog during Adopt a Senior Dog Month this coming November, or jump right in to give a senior dog his forever home today.

Have you adopted a senior dog? We’d love to hear all about your experience and your older best friend in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “The Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog”

  1. I would be interested in adopting an older trained hunting dog and providing a permanent home if the former owner agreed to pay for its medical expenses until death. I would pay for the dog’s regular care and maintenance.
    I imagine providing a loving, safe and secure ongoing second home to a dog who needs to be retired from hunting, from a serious hunter-owner who needs to continue to work with active hunting dogs at their peak. This way, the loved animal will have continued stability, security and care in its retirement and its former owner can have the peace of mind knowing that his or her hardworking and loyal dog will be well taken care of as the hunter continues to hone and practice his/her skills.

    Does this sound realistic and/or practical?

  2. It’s likely the owner dumped the dog and needs a big-hearted individual to give him or her a loving home. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the adopter. You can insure older dogs, though, check pet insurance plans, it’s worth it.

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