Senior Dog Adoption Process

There's a big emotional return for making the investment to help save a senior. At shelters and rescues, older dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first on the list to be euthanized. You may also discover that a senior dog suits your lifestyle perfectly.

The Benefits

Most senior dogs are past the chewing, digging, and destructive periods and are only interested in having a warm bed to sleep in along with some human companionship. And while some people are hesitant to adopt a senior dog because they think he will have a lot of health concerns to deal with, the fact is that dogs can suffer from illnesses at any age. Adopting a dog in his golden years teaches you and your family the basic values of compassion, caring, and respect for the elderly, especially if you need to provide special care and nurturing. Many older dogs no longer have the intense energy of a puppy, so they're wonderful companions for children who aren't accustomed to dogs.

What to Know Before Adopting

If you decide to adopt a senior dog, know which qualities you're looking for and those that you can't accept. Also carefully consider what the dog's needs will be. For example, a home with many stairs may not be a good match for a blind or arthritic dog. A dog who requires special medical treatments that you can't afford may not be the best match for you either. While you may want to help a dog in need, there's no sense in adopting a dog if things don't work out later.

Know Your Limits

When you're interviewed by shelter or breed rescue coordinators, be honest with what you can handle and what you can't. Ask questions about the dogs you are considering. The coordinators assess the dogs' personalities and have some idea of what they're like. If you don't find a dog who matches your lifestyle, wait for the one who does.

Manage Your Expectations

Chances are that your prospective senior has had more than one home already or has possibly even been abandoned, so it's normal for him to be wary of strangers and forming new friendships. Some older dogs are slightly depressed from the abrupt changes in their surroundings and need to feel comfortable with their new home and family on their own terms.

Consider Fostering

If you're unsure whether you want to bring a dog who's in the autumn of his life into your home, consider fostering him first. Many shelters and rescue groups appreciate placing their wards into foster care because this not only provides a newly abandoned pet with a comfortable temporary home environment, but also offers adoption coordinators an opportunity to evaluate the dog.

Although every organization sets different requirements for foster families, you'll be responsible for providing basic needs, including feeding, grooming, housing, and medical care. Some groups cover expenses; some do not. Depending on the dog's needs and the availability of new adoptive homes, the length of time he remains with you will vary.

By caring for an elderly dog until he finds permanent placement, you'll have some idea about whether a senior is a good fit for your family.

When You're Ready to Adopt

When you are ready to adopt, set aside several weeks so that you can spend more time to establish a bond with your senior dog. If he's physically able, take him out for regular walks and car rides to visit friends and see new sights. Introduce him to the neighbors so that he has a chance to socialize and be familiar with them. All of these activities will add to his self-esteem and help build his confidence.

Give your dog at least a month to settle in. An older pet deserves happiness and love in a good home as much as a younger one does, and this takes time. Your devotion and affection will be returned tenfold. Know that he will be forever grateful to you for rescuing him!

Excerpted from Boston Terrier (DogLife: Lifelong Care for Your Dog™). © 2011 T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Used by Permission.


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