November Is National Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month!
Much like fine wine, dogs age well. The bouncing out-of-control puppy, the sometimes fractious adolescent, and the highly enthusiastic (read: energetic) adult give way to a sweet and mellow kind of dignity by the time a dog turns eight years of age or so. That maturity and other pluses are probably obvious to those who have had the privilege of living with and loving dogs since puppyhood. But if you’re thinking about welcoming a senior dog into your home for the first time, here are several reasons why adopting a senior dog offers plenty of advantages over adopting his younger counterpart.
HE’S PROBABLY HOUSETRAINED
Older dogs do need to potty more often than their younger colleagues do—but at least they know that they’re supposed to do their business only at certain times and places. By adopting a senior dog, you’re bypassing the tedium of housetraining.
HE WON’T DESTROY YOUR POSSESSIONS
The mature dog has probably lived for many years in one or more human homes, so he knows that he’s not supposed to get into your stuff. In other words, you need not fear coming home to find that your dog has trashed your home in a fit of boredom, loneliness, or panic.
THERE’S NO MYSTERY
Puppies—even purebred puppies—are a little bit of a mystery. A person can’t know for sure if that little dog butterball will grow up to be undersized, oversized, light in color, or darker in color. (Coat colors can vary widely even within a litter of puppies.) A puppy’s temperament is not always predictable either; the puppy who was a shy little darling may grow up to be Mr. Hell on Wheels, especially if he doesn’t have appropriate training. A senior dog is exactly who he appears to be, which means that you don’t need to worry about unwelcome surprises.
HE’LL ALREADY KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE
Even if he hasn’t had all that much training, a senior dog isn’t likely to indulge in very many puppy antics, if any. He’s too dignified to jump up on people, and counter-surfing may be too much of an effort for him.
HE’LL LIKE BEING WITH YOU
Adolescent and young adult dogs certainly love their people, but they have additional priorities. After all, there’s a whole world out there for them to explore! Consequently, if you let a younger dog off leash in an unprotected area, that dog may decide to take off on an exploratory expedition. And youthful dogs are surprisingly speedy—they have no problem outrunning their humans. However, the older dog not only doesn’t possess such speed, but he isn’t at all unhappy about it. He’s no longer beset with wanderlust; his idea of a good time is to hang out with you.
HE’LL GIVE YOU A REST
The counter-surfing, garbage-raiding, paper-shredding, sock-stealing puppy or young adult is a total hoot—but boy, he’ll keep you busy dealing with such antics. The senior dog is way beyond such mischief; it’s beneath his dignity—and the more dignity he has, the more rest you get.
HE’LL KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE YOU ALONE
Although an older dog will tend to stick closer to you than a young dog will, that doesn’t mean that the oldster is a pest. As long as he knows where you are, he’ll be cool with whatever you’re doing. If, for example, you’re playing around on your computer, a senior dog will be perfectly happy just taking a snooze at your side—or at most, discreetly signaling you that he needs a potty break. Such discretion can be a welcome alternative to dealing with a puppy who relentlessly tries to get you to play, gets himself into trouble when you won’t play, or just can’t settle down while you update your Facebook or Twitter page.
HE’LL PAY ATTENTION
Adolescent and young adult dogs don’t always appear to hear what you’re asking them to do. They may be guilty of a kind of selective deafness: They don’t seem to hear you tell them to get off the couch or to come when called, but they magically appear before you if they hear words like “cookie” or “treat.” But with senior dogs, such hijinks are a thing of the past. They’re happy to hang onto your every word and, if possible, do what you’ve asked. If a senior dog appears not to hear what you’re saying, the reason may be real deafness, not the selective kind.
HE’LL APPRECIATE YOU
Puppies and young adult dogs are the cutest, most infectious beings to grace the planet, hands down. That said, their cuteness doesn’t always extend to being affectionate. Instead, they entertain us with their playful behavior and their unabashed joie de vivre. They’re too busy enjoying life in general to pay a whole lot of attention to you in particular (although spending time training and socializing a young dog can help change that). But a senior dog is different—especially if you’ve adopted him as a senior from a shelter or rescue group. He knows how good his life is with you. He’s grateful for cuddle time, an extra treat, and—most of all—extra attention. Many adopters of rescued or shelter dogs strongly believe that their dogs know how fortunate they are and that they greatly appreciate the second chance at happiness that their adopters have given them.
HE’LL TEACH YOU WHAT REALLY MATTERS
The writer Milan Kundera wrote that “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.” Crazy, active young dogs certainly contribute to the glory of an afternoon; there are few things more beautiful than seeing a dog run with the afternoon sun shining on his coat. But real peace and joy come from sitting down in that afternoon sun with a senior dog. The older dog is much more likely to settle down enough to enjoy that activity (or more accurately, inactivity) than his younger counterpart is.
Excerpted from Golden Retriever (DogLife: Lifelong Care for Your Dog™) © 2010 T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Used by Permission.