The privilege of loving a senior dog makes every single day special, as you and your companion share love, friendship, and a special relationship that grows stronger with the knowledge that you have given this fine old dog a second chance at life.

Veterinarians say that dogs start to fall into the category of "senior" around the age of 7. However, it depends on size. The smaller the dog, the later in life the dog becomes a senior. Nonetheless, a dog in a shelter can be as young as 5 and still have trouble finding a new home. To many prospective families they are already "over the hill." Of course, that isn't true. Dogs, when well cared for and given appropriate exercise, remain happy, active, playful and puppy-like well into their senior years.

What is considered a "Senior Dog"?


Older dogs lose their homes for many different reasons - most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with those of the person or family surrendering the dog. Many folks think dogs who end up at shelters or in rescues are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for very expensive, well-bred, well-trained dogs to outlive their usefulness or novelty with folks who bought them on impulse and no longer want to take responsibility for them.

Other reasons older dogs become homeless: death of a guardian, not enough time for the dog, change in work schedule, new baby, need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed, allergies, change in lifestyle, etc.

Won't i be adopting someone else's problems?

  • Older dogs who are offered for adoption by shelters or rescue agencies generally have had some training, both in obedience and house manners. (Some dogs, due to the confusion and upset of being uprooted and finding themselves in a chaotic shelter environment, may temporarily forget their housetraining. Inevitably, once established in their new home, they remember.)
  • Older dogs have learned what "no" means and how to leave the furniture, carpets, shoes, and other "chewables" alone. (If they hadn't learned that, they wouldn't have gotten to be "older" dogs.)
  • They have been "socialized" and learned what it takes to be part of a "pack" and to get along with humans and, in most cases, other dogs, and in some other cases, cats, as well.
  • Older dogs, especially those who have once known it, appreciate love and attention and quickly learn what's expected of them to gain and keep that love and attention.
  • Older dogs know how to let you finish the newspaper, sitting calmly next to you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers. They are also instant companions, ready for hiking, riding in the car, walking on leash, fetching, etc.
  • You don't have to guess how big they'll grow.
  • Older dogs are a "known commodity." They are easy to assess for size and temperament/behavioral patterns.

What advantages do older dogs have over puppies or young dogs?

"Should everyone jump in to get a senior dog? No, unless everyone in the family is willing to invest time in the care of an older dog, allow that dog to exhibit his/her eccentricities, habits and weaknesses. They must be willing to tend to any medical needs and have the strength and the heart to let their dog go when it’s time. The reward is the time in between. The end-of-life love from these dear dogs is indescribable and unforgettable.” --Karen K.

 Just about everyone who enters a shelter is looking for a puppy or a young dog (generally a year old or under). There are also many people who buy puppies from breeders or puppy mills (especially online).

By adopting an older dog, we can make a statement about compassion and the value of all life at all ages, as well as register a protest against the indiscriminate and inhumane breeding of dogs, whether it is for profit or to "teach the children about birth."

Of course, just as a puppy has his whole life ahead of him, so does an older dog have the rest of his life in front of him. You can give that older dog the best years of his life while at the same time bringing a wonderful addition into your family.

Another consideration is the larger goal of making the U.S. a "no-kill" nation. By setting the example of adopting a dog who would be otherwise euthanized just because of his age, you can help create the climate that will enable the U.S. to attain that goal.

Aside from any advantages an older dog has, is there any good reason to adopt an older dog instead of a puppy (who has his whole life ahead of him)?


Veterinary attention and medication are needed at all ages and may or may not be more costly for an older dog. Before you adopt a senior, be sure you get a health report from a veterinarian. That way, if you discover that the dog has a health problem, you can decide if you are able to make the needed financial commitment before making an emotional commitment.

Don't older dogs cost more in vet bills?


With a health assessment of the dog, you will know whether any age-related conditions are present and you can take appropriate measures to address them.

Otherwise, older dogs need all the things younger dogs do -- good nutrition, exercise (although less intensive, usually, than for a younger dog), and regular visits to the vet. 

Do older dogs have any "special needs"?


Information provided on this page is thanks to The Senior Dogs Project - click through to read more!