Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog

why you should adopt a senior dog

why you should adopt a senior dog

I have a soft spot for senior dogs and my only requirement for adoption is the older the better. Why? I don’t know, I just feel so good knowing I’m giving a loving home to a dog (cats too!) at the end of his or her life. I totally understand if you need more reasons so please keep reading!  

Why I do it

It is difficult for me to find the words to adequately convey how I feel when I bring a new senior dog into my home, and into my heart. I’m proud of knowing my purpose is to care for homeless and abandoned animals. The why you should adopt a senior dogfact that my soul is nourished by being the guardian of dogs in their golden years makes me happy.

Alright enough about me. First let’s talk a little about why animals of any age end up in shelters.

It’s not because they have a problem or are a problem

Humans surrender (sometimes dump) animals for a variety of reasons, some valid, most not, but all heartbreaking. Any behaviour issues are a direct result of no/inadequate training, socialisation or enrichment.  

Excuses, and a few legitimate reasons, why animals end up in shelters

  • Owners have no time
  • Sharing life with a dog is more work than they are able or willing to put in 
  • Change in work schedule
  • Kids off to college and no one left to care for the animal
  • Change in lifestyle
  • Moving and no pets allowed
  • Not cute anymore
  • Doesn’t match the carpet (yes it is a reason)
  • Doesn’t get along with the other dog/pets
  • Wife is pregnant
  • Misbehaving
  • Guardian died and no one else is willing or able to take the animal
  • Can’t afford the vet bills
  • Leaving an abusive situation
  • Illness/lengthy hospital stay/nursing home

A bit of a rant

Of course a few of these reasons are legitimate and I can’t help but feel sadness for anyone forced to part with a much loved companion. The rest are cop outs. I may sound harsh, but that’s the way it is. Pets are seen by many as why you should adopt a senior dogdisposable, when they’ve had enough they return them much like a sweater they don’t care for anymore.

I volunteered for a long time at a local shelter, and heard the excuses. I will never forget watching a woman casually dump her cat because of “allergies” then play with cats in the cages. She probably got more emotional returning a pair of shoes.

Okay, so what’s so great about adopting an old dog?

It’s good for the souls

It’s good for your soul and good for theirs. What could be better than giving an old dog a home in his final years, months or even weeks. For me no other reason is needed. 

Old is not dead

There is something about the images words like “old” or “senior” bring to many a mind. Shrivelled up, dried up, shuffling along, sleeping all day, can barely move, not even worthy of attention. You and I may not see that, but sadly many do. Look at the way much of our society views elderly people? It stands to reason some of that attitude will extend to animals. 

I was at the beach recently and watched a beautiful 9 year old Staffy run like a lunatic, chasing a stick and having the time of her life. Because of her age she was “classed” as a senior, but there was nothing remotely old about that girl.

What you see is what you get

I have literally lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me, their dog is much bigger than they expected or wanted, they’re too energetic… When you adopt mature animals there are no mysteries about what their adult size, personality, energy level, or grooming needs will be.


A senior dog will likely have some training, and that includes housetraining. He may have forgotten some of it due to circumstances, but a few days (if that) in a home with a schedule and structure, and he’ll remember everything he knew.

Look at it like this…the chance to do a bit of training will be a great bonding opportunity while providing mental stimulation at the same time. Believe me, old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks.

Your possessions will not be mistaken for chew toys

A senior is well past the destructive chewing phase, so your favourite chair legs or pair of shoes should remain intact.

Find your match

One thing that isn’t taken into consideration often enough is a dog’s energy level. I’ve been meeting all kinds of super high energy seniors lately, so if active is what you want you’ll find a senior to suit. If you’re more of a quiet stroll in the park type, you’ll also find your perfect match. 

They fit right in

Mature animals often have an easier time fitting into a home that includes other animals, because they learn and respect boundaries more quickly and are eager to bond with their new families. I must add this brief thought – it’s so many reasons why you should adopt a senior dognatural for any rescued animal to need some time to adjust, so please give them that time.

You’ll save a life

Older dogs are often overlooked in shelters and believe me, it’s sad to watch. With puppies and kittens killed every day in shelters across the country, what chance do you think an older dog has of making it out alive? How wonderful to have the opportunity to, literally, save a life.  

You’ll enjoy uninterrupted sleep

Unlike the puppy that has to go out during the night for pee breaks and cries because he misses his litter mates, your old dog will get himself settled into his new bed and sleep.

They make excellent therapy dogs

The boisterous and wild times of their youth are mostly behind them (some of course are still as rowdy as ever!!), so the calmer senior dogs make excellent therapy dogs. One of the shelters where I used to volunteer had a room just for old dogs, and a couple of them were regularly taken to visit seniors in nursing homes. The dogs loved getting out and about, and needless to say the residents were overjoyed at the chance to spend some quality time with a fur baby. 

Unending gratitude

In my experience they know when they’re being given a chance at happiness, and they’re grateful for it.

A perfect companion for the more mature humans among us

Many shelters offer a “senior for senior” program where they encourage the adoption of senior dogs by senior humans. A win-win for everyone I’d say!

A loving friend for life

No explanation needed.

I may be a cheerleader for senior dog adoption, but I know there are concerns.

Handling behaviour issues

As I just mentioned, shelters kill healthy and adoptable puppies and kittens without batting an eyelid, how long do you think a badly behaved dog would last? Because of that, it is unlikely you will adopt a dog with serious issues. Adopting from a foster based rescue means their dogs are living in homes, training and behaviour issues are being addressed, and you’ll know their likes, dislikes, and anything they may need brushing up on.


Your dog may have a few housetraining issues at the beginning. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trained, it just might mean the shelter was short on volunteers, so he had to pee and poop in his kennel.

The day I brought Red home, she peed in her brand new bed. How was she supposed to know she was going to be taken out often enough? It didn’t take her long to figure that out though!

Surely they’ll have health problems!

Old does not mean sick, old means they’ve reached the number that says “senior.” Many old dogs are in great health, and many young dogs are not. It’s true the older we all get the greater the chance of developing health Gizmo is a very high energy nine year old dogissues. Red, my 16 1/2 year old has her share, but our younger dog Jack became paralysed at around 4ish (don’t know his exact age) and had to have very expensive spinal surgery. 

See, no guarantees!


I’m not in a position to comment on anyone’s financial situation, so whether or not you can afford vet bills is for you to decide. I can say as a general observation the average person will find money for what matters, but even that might not be enough funds in some cases. 

Health insurance for a senior dog may not be an option due to monthly cost or lack of sufficient coverage, so here is an idea that may help. Choose a denomination of coin or bill, and at the end of each day take all of them out of your pocket or wallet and put them in a jar to be used strictly for vet bills. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up.  

If you can’t adopt can you foster?

If taking on the responsibility of a dog full time is not something you can do at the moment, or you can’t afford to shoulder all the potential expenses, would you consider fostering? Shelters and rescue groups are in desperate need of foster homes, and you can choose the length of time you’re available, even becoming a permanent foster carer. What’s great is how many shelters and groups help with the bills. This article on Why You Should Foster an Old Dog has all the information you need.

Why you should adopt a senior dog – conclusion

I guess you can see how much I love old dogs, and why I encourage everyone to consider welcoming one into their home. If it’s not for you, and I understand it may not be, why not consider donating to a senior dog rescue group. They could always use financial donations or supplies to help them with the lifelong care of their residents.  


Have you adopted a senior dog? Drop by my Facebook page and like and share your stories, photos, advice and questions.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.



Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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36 thoughts on “Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog

  1. All of these pups are so delightfully beautiful! We love senior adoptions and have had quite a few ourselves. We’ve learned a few things from seniors: they are always so happy to be loved (again), love easily comes to seniors and they will show you this in spades, already trained or easily trained, and easily get into your rhythm of the day. Nutrition is often key with seniors – we’ve helped get many off of medications just through good, quality nutrition (and lots of love)! Great post – we love it!

    1. Thanks Rebecca. I love hearing you’ve adopted seniors, how wonderful! I also found they fit right into the schedule I had in place. It’s amazing how proper nutrition can even reduce or get rid of the need for medication. That’s really something. Is there a specific food you tend to feed them?

  2. Old is not dead, that just brakes my heart. Seniors have so much to give. They are wise, dedicated and so sweet. Thanks for this post.

    1. It is heartbreaking. I’ve been seeing these amazingly energetic senior dogs at the beach recently, yet the word “senior” evokes images of constantly sleeping, can’t move well and old. While energy levels vary, each one is deserving of a home.

  3. I agree with this article so much! And the only REAL excuse in my book is if an elderly person dies and leaves behind a pet and the person literally has NO family to care for it BUT I would rather a dog be adopted by a LOVING home than taken in by a family member who won’t properly care for it.
    So sad and yes there is potentially more of an expense but I always tell my friends and family never to take on a pet if they can’t afford emergency care, or be willing to sacrifice their own needs for that of their pet. Which we have had to do.
    Such a great article and I agree older pets are so loving, devoted, and wonderful.
    Great post!

    1. Hi Joely, I agree with you about what qualifies as a real excuse, and you’re right to express the importance of being able to afford emergencies for pets of any age. There are plenty of older dogs that aren’t wracking up medical expenses, and young ones that are. Our 4ish year old dog just cost us several thousands due to spinal surgery. Not something you would expect.

      1. Very true! Our Lyla has always had health concerns since she was little. Just like with people – when it comes to health age does not always matter.

  4. All pets deserve a loving, caring home but adopting or fostering an older pet can mean so much to all involved. Just because a dog is older, does not mean it has less love to give.

  5. I love older dogs and think it’s a huge shame they are often overlooked at rescues or shelters in favour of a puppy. They have nothing to offer you but unconditional love. Great post highlighting this.

    1. It’s so tragic we have this attitude of something old being disposable and not worth much. Sadly that extends to animals and people. We just have to keep trying to change that.

  6. I think senior dogs are a great option for many people as long as they can handle the vet bills.

    1. The thing is, just because a dog is older does not mean vet bills will be high. Plenty of senior dogs are in great health, while being young is no guarantee they won’t cost a lot. We have a dog that’s around 4 (my first ever young dog), and he became paralysed in a matter of a few hours in August. After an MRI and spinal surgery our bill was about $6,000. No senior dog ever cost us that much.

  7. I took my dog when he was about 7 or 8 – I didn’t think about him being an ‘old dog’ That was four and a half years ago and he still runs like mad. Had him out walking today – yes, off leash, along a trail and people who passed me said, “hey, you have to walk faster.” “No,” I said, ‘I have to run.” – which is what I usually do.

  8. All the dogs you featured are just the cutest things! My husband and I want to start adopting older dogs once we have more space and money to care for them. More importantly I want to dedicate a portion of my shelter’s opperations to hospice care. You a wonderful person to give these dogs such loving last years.

    1. Hi Amber, Your goal of opening a shelter is amazing, and I love you’ll be dedicating a part to hospice care. My dream is to have a retirement home for animals, including hospice care. Good luck I’m sure your dream will become a reality. If you’re looking to hire staff one day….

  9. Had to stop part way through reading this post to go hug on my 13.5 year old girl, Zora. 😉 In her older years, Zora has cost me much less than my younger two. She has reached this special place of calm and I can’t imagine not having her elder energy to balance the crew.

  10. There is something really special about the seniors and although I have not yet Layla was 5 more or less when I rescued her and we are still enjoying life and getting old together

  11. This is a great post! The last dog we adopted was an adult and he has been much easier than puppies! I will consider adopting a senior dog in the future. My Maltese is considered a senior (she’s only 9) but she is not anything close to being an old dog. However, old dogs are some of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known and they bring a lot of joy to anyone who gets to spend time with them.

    1. Thank you Beth. The problem is the images many people form in their heads when they hear the word “senior” and that applies to people as well. It’s purely a random number that was chosen to depict something of a certain age, but has no bearing, or should have no bearing on one’s ability to live, give and receive love.

  12. Wonderful post, Hindy! I totally think senior dogs ROCK!! Both my dogs are 7+ yrs old & have always been super healthy, amazing dogs! I love them both SO much. Bless you for rescuing senior dogs.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  13. Senior dogs can certainly be a good option. I just wish dogs lived longer as their time with us is already too short.

  14. I am pro adoption and love the idea of adopting a senior dogs they come with their own set of perks most are toilet trained, not hyperactive and make the perfect companion for most families

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