It is highly likely when you visit an adoption centre that you will meet dogs that are considered ‘old’. There are a number of reasons for this: often owners are old and can’t care for their dog as well as they want to; a dog has been passed from owner to owner over the last few years; a dog wasn’t suited to a new family dynamic (such as the arrival of a new baby). More often than not the reasons stem from a change of circumstances of the owner.
How old is old?
If we call the human 50-year-old ‘senior’, these dogs would be considered old at the following ages:
• Great Dane 5 years
• Rottweiler 6.5 years
• Labrador 8 years
• Shih Tzu 9 years
• Collie 9.5 years
• Yorkshire terrier 10 years
Old dogs have a great deal to offer and often require less training and support than puppies or juveniles. Here are just a few of the pros and cons of adopting an old dog:
Pros: Older dogs are often house trained. They may also understand some basic commands and exhibit a level of obedience. Their walkability on the lead and recall obedience outdoors is determined by their upbringing.
Cons: The old adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks is not true. However, old dogs can be stubborn and may not be as keen to learn new tricks.
Pros: An old dog’s temperament and demeanour won’t change like those of a puppy. You may even find that once your old dog is settled she is calmer and less fidgety than a younger dog.
Cons: For an old dog to be set in its way is not always a good thing. Old dogs can be rigid in their routines and protest when their pattern of doing things is changed.
Pros: If you do not enjoy exercise or haven’t the time to take your dog on long walks it may just help that she is in her senior years. Old dogs just don’t have the energy of the young dog.
Cons: If you do enjoy exercise then the old dog may not be right for you because of the reasons highlighted above! The old dog is also less likely to want to play, which is not ideal for young children who want to play with the dog.
An old dog (especially one from a shelter) will be properly vaccinated. Her body is also much stronger than a puppy. However, old dogs (just like people) are more prone to illnesses and depending on the breed of dog some can be life-threatening. One of the major diseases to attack an older dog is arthritis. However, the shelter will tell you if an old dog is showing early signs. A correct diet is vitally important for the old dog.
Discussions with the shelter reveal problems of health or behaviour before you make your choice. The shelter staff will also tell you whether an old dog has been maltreated, because sometimes maltreatment can skew behaviour: she may hate being left alone or she may be terrified of confined spaces. Armed with this information you can make your adopted older dog’s life far better than it was.