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Adopting a Senior Dog


November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month. If you are considering adding another four-legged family member to your household, please consider adopting a senior canine. In addition to giving a wonderful animal a new lease on life, you may be surprised at how many benefits there are to choosing an older dog over a young pup.

Exactly when a dog is considered a senior depends on his size and his related life span. Smaller dogs, which tend to live longer than larger breeds, can often live well into their teens. Larger breeds and breed mixes typically have shorter lives but can still live more than a decade. In general, a dog is classified as a senior when he enters the final third of his projected life span.

Experienced Pets
Puppies, while undeniably cute, require a lot of training. Housetraining in particular is among the most dreaded tasks that new owners of young dogs must tackle. In most cases, older dogs already have a firm grasp of where they should—and shouldn’t—eliminate. As a new adoptive owner, you must simply familiarize your pet to his new potty spot. Even if your older pet was previously housetrained, don’t skimp on the praise. Always offer an enthusiastic “Good boy!” when he does what he should.

Older dogs have typically learned at least a few basic commands. Even better, these seasoned pets are wide open to learning new cues. An older dog who already knows how to come when called, sit, and stay can easily be taught additional commands of your choosing such as down and heel. Not only can an old dog indeed be taught new tricks, but he may even learn them more quickly than a younger pet because he has a longer attention span than those young pups do. Because many cues (like heeling) involve putting two or more commands together, an older dog actually has an advantage in this way.

Older dogs also already have an understanding of many of the things that it takes time to teach puppies. For example, you won’t have to introduce an older dog to walking on a leash. Older dogs who have been socialized properly will greet new people without fear or aggression. Senior pets are also more tolerant of children than younger ones may be.

Some people wrongly assume that adult dogs have been surrendered to rescue groups or shelters because of problem behaviors, but the truth is that many of these animals simply encountered some bad luck. Previous owners’ divorces, relocations, and financial problems are among the most common reasons that good animals end up needing new homes through no fault of their own. By taking the time to select the best dog for you, you can be confident that your senior pet is a friendly and well-mannered companion.

Making Those Remaining Years Count
An older dog may not have as many years ahead of him as a puppy might, but the love a senior pet brings to your life is just as special. Sometimes all an older dog needs is someone willing to give him a second chance. Because so many people want puppies, many older dogs get overlooked at shelters and rescue organizations. If a dog goes too long without getting adopted, some shelters are forced to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize the older pet. By choosing a senior dog, you just might be saving his life.

It’s important to remember that older dogs enjoy many of the same things that other dogs do. You can take your senior dog to the park or pet supply store with you. Socializing a puppy is about getting him used to spending time with people and other dogs, but for a senior animal, it’s about enjoying some time with friends, old or new. Just going for a quick ride to your bank’s drive-thru is fun for your four-legged friend. These are the things that keep life interesting for older pets, who are never too old to enjoy spending time with their family. You just may find that life with a senior dog is much more enjoyable for you as well!

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