Much like fine wine, dogs age well. The bouncing out-of-control puppy, the sometimes restless adolescent, and the highly enthusiastic adult give way to a sweet and mellow kind of dignity by age eight 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 advantages that senior dogs have over the youngsters.
He’s Probably Housetrained
Older dogs do need to potty more often than pups 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 hard work 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 butterball will grow up to be undersized, oversized, or a different color. 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 Knows 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 it may be too much of an effort for him. He’s more likely to be content doing what you want him to do and probably knows all the basic commands.
He’ll Like Being With You
Adolescent and young adult dogs certainly love their people, but they have other priorities, too. After all, there’s a whole world out there for them to explore! If you let a younger, speedy dog off leash in an unprotected area, he may decide to take off on an exploratory expedition. 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 hanging out with you.
He’ll Let You Relax
The counter-surfing, garbage-raiding, paper-shredding, sock-stealing puppy or young adult is a total hoot—but he’ll keep you busy all day long. The senior dog is way beyond such mischief; it’s beneath his dignity and wisdom—and the more poise he has, the more rest you get.
He Knows 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. This 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’re trying to get stuff done.
He’ll Be Focused
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 hearing: 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 “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, they’re too busy enjoying life to pay a ton of attention to you (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 strongly believe that their rescues know how fortunate they are and that they greatly appreciate the second chance at happiness that their new person has given them.
He’ll Teach You What Really Matters
Writer Milan Kundera wrote: “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.” 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 knows how to settle down enough to revel in that moment with you.
Excerpted from Golden Retriever (DogLife: Lifelong Care for Your Dog™) © 2010 T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Used by Permission.