Reasons to Love Senior Dogs
Let’s admit it: We have a youth bias.
Puppies and young dogs up to about three years of age are the first to be adopted in shelters up and down the country. Meanwhile dogs older than seven—or as young as five—are overlooked, which means they are often the first to be euthanized when space runs out. For many potential adopters, it’s an obvious choice. Who wouldn’t want as much of a dog’s lifetime as you could get? Nobody looks forward to the inevitable physical decline and eventual loss of a loved companion, and it makes sense to postpone that heartbreak as long as possible. But these considerations, while certainly valid, leave out a great deal of important information.
Older dogs, for example, are often easier to live with than their younger counterparts. They are usually house-trained, may have learned polite manners, rarely require daily marathon exercise sessions, and have left most youthful follies behind, which means they won’t chew up the living room rug or pull shoulders out of sockets when walked. Senior dogs are low-maintenance dogs. By contrast, puppies and teenage dogs require round-the-clock monitoring and attention—and they’re blank slates. What does “no” mean? When is it okay to plant muddy paws on clean slacks? Oh, never? They have no idea and must be patiently taught everything. What’s more, maturity in a dog equals predictability. Size, personality, grooming requirements; it’s all there in plain view. Not so for puppies.
For all these reasons, it’s odd that the bias for adopting young dogs is so pronounced. Surely many prospective dog guardians, if they thought about it, would love to live with a well-behaved dog that quickly adapts to the household routine and is content with a half-hour stroll every day. Finally, there’s the inside story shared by those who have adopted senior dogs: Older dogs are just plain grateful. They got a second chance at happiness and they seem to know it. So for every remaining day of their lives, they adore their new human family with quiet, heart-stealing intensity.