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Adopting A Senior Dog

Updated on May 12, 2015

Senior Dogs

Are you considering getting a new addition to the family? Have you considered this statistic: thirty-three percent of rescued animals will be held at the shelter for up to two years, and mostly because they are over two years old? Many canine lives are spent waiting for their happily-ever-after only because they are misunderstood. Elder dogs are just like puppies, but more mature, easier to train (if they’re not trained already), and require less attention than credit is given.

The first thought that comes to mind when the words ‘elder dog’ is mentioned is, medical problems, potty accidents, twenty-four hour babysitting, etc…. I would like to break this line of thinking by pointing out how easy it is to adjust an elder dog into your home. Many shelters will be willing to cooperate with you in making the transfer easy for the pet. Much of the dog’s history and past and needs will be conferred to you by the staff at the shelter, but there are a few extra steps that can be taken to ensure a steady, successful adoption. All you need do is ask. These tips are acceptable for all dogs being adopted out of shelters, but are more recommended for dogs aged 7 and up.

The first worry for adopting an older dog is that he will be pining for home. Isn’t he already? The best thing to accommodate your new family member into a new home: Ask for a blanket or a toy that the dog has found comforting in his time at the shelter. The scent will reassure the dog as he transitions between homes.

The second tip for your new pet: Find out the brand name of the food the dog has been eating. The less change you make, the more comfortable the animal will be, especially for his digestive system.

Ask the staff how often the dog was fed, was it strictly dry food, or was there wet mixed? The staff at the shelter will be more than happy to offer all information for your new pet.

The third piece of advice: Routine. Any sudden change to any animal’s routine can result in shock, reserved behavior (appearing to lack interest in surroundings). Ask the shelter about the routine: when the walks took place, how long were the walks, bowel movements, any medications to be administered. Like any other senior citizen, routine is key in happy living.

The fourth note: Grooming. Before adopting any new pet, make sure you have time to give attention to the pet. Grooming is important for all pets, and especially the elderly. As they age, as with all mammals, blood circulation will slow down considerably. This can result in a dull coat, shedding, and any number of attitude changing behaviors. Regular grooming will help increase circulation and prevent some of these issues. Choosing the right brush is easy: Whether a short hair or a long hair, three tools will complete any grooming tool kit. The de-shedding brush is used to get the fine hairs under the top coat and is the best for increasing blood flow to the skin. The soft brush is recommended for spreading any oils the coat may have, allowing for a shinier coat and a gentle massage to soothe any aching muscles and joints. And finally, the nail clippers are a must for every pet.

The fifth note to keep in mind: It could take up to six weeks for an animal to adapt to his new home. If you are not satisfied after the first week or two, remember to give him a little more time to really get to know you, as all of this is new to him too. Make sure the new family member is comfortable by providing a large enough, soft enough bed in a corner of the room where he can see all the goings-on of the household quietly.

The last tip: Ask for a vet referral, perhaps the dog has seen a vet for some time and is fond of one in particular. This vet will know the pet best, have the most recent medical history, and can more easily recommend vitamins, supplements, and prescriptions without stressing the dog for a preliminary exam.

Training is important and doesn’t change from puppy to senior. A firm, guiding hand is what keeps them ‘pack oriented’. However, it shouldn’t be enforced heavily until the animal’s mood is stable and he understands that discipline is not punishment.

Children are great for elder dogs, as they have more patience than a young pup. But until the dog is secure in his new environment, and knows the scent of each person, children should be kept slightly distant. As long as the dog has a place to go to be quiet (a corner in a room, a crate, etc…) he should be fine to meet the whole family slowly.

It’s really as easy as keeping company and offering personal comforts of home. Keeping that in mind, the new addition to your family will love his new home.

My nine year old German Shepherd, Bonjo
My nine year old German Shepherd, Bonjo

Between pet store and animal shelter, where are you most likely to search for your new pet?

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