All posts by Shelley Labrecque

Shelley is a Technical and Freelance Writer. Originally from Canada, she now lives in North Carolina.
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5 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Dog

When thinking of adopting a dog, the immediate picture that comes to mind is a cute little puppy. We all seem to forget how much work it takes to care for a puppy – housetraining, chewing, sleepless nights and constant cleaning. Senior dogs can be an immediate joyful addition to a household – without all the work.

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Although there are many reasons that senior dogs are given up, common ones include owner illness or no longer being able to financially afford a dog. Not all mature dogs have problems and many times you can find an instant family friend.

1. Save a Life

Let’s face it, senior dogs are often overlooked and left to live out the rest of their lives in shelters (or much worse in some cases). You can only feel good about rescuing an older dog and helping him live out his final days in love and comfort. Yes, you may not have as much time together as you would with a puppy, but the joy of seeing a mature dog enjoy his last years is a reward in itself.

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2. Established Personality

When you meet your new senior dog, you can see what you are going to get. His size and personality have become stable as he matured. The dog will probably relax over time as he settles into your home, but there shouldn’t be any big surprises like having a sweet puppy that grows into a barking maniac within a year.

3. The Puppy Phase is Over

Older dogs have grown out of the chewing, nipping, and jumping phase. This can be a real advantage for families that have young children. Older dogs are often calmer and more patient with other pets and children.

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4. Built-in Training

More often than not, senior dogs have been trained by their previous owner. They may not have perfect manners, but old dogs CAN learn new tricks. You can always teach your new dog how you want him to behave, but it is a definite bonus if he comes housebroken, knows basic commands, and even a few tricks of his own.

5. Less Exercise Required

Not everyone is capable of addressing the needs of an energetic dog. Most older dogs require less exercise than younger dogs, which may be ideal for busy families or older people who don’t mind walking a dog but are not up for a run every day to get the young dog craziness out. If you like to cuddle on the couch rather than constantly throw a ball, a senior dog might be the perfect companion.

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Puppies are not for everyone, and for practical reasons just won’t work with a lot of lifestyles. A senior dog comes with a lot of benefits and can be the perfect solution for anyone looking for a loyal companion.

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Goodbye to Sabre

Sabre was an 11-year-old Rottweiler who was rescued from an abusive situation. Despite the bad things that had happened to Sabre, she had a very sweet personality and found a loving forever home to spend the last days of her life.

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Saber was living with a family that abused her and let other dogs abuse her as well. She was messy when she drank her water so her owners often took it away and she was severely dehydrated when rescued. She had ear and eye infections, mammary gland tumors, and her coat was dull and thin.

When Sabre first arrived in the BCFS foster care program she was given veterinarian care to treat her physical issues. Most importantly she was given a safe place to sleep and a loving foster family to teach her that not all people would treat her badly.

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Although Sabre was still afraid in new situations and showed fear aggression with other dogs and cats, her sweet nature began to show. She would follow her foster Mom around and place a little plush toy in her lap like a prize. As Sabre became more comfortable and less afraid, she showed what a great family dog she was going to be. Her trust level increased and she was good with children, completely housetrained, and wagged her tail when meeting new people. As her infections cleared up and she relaxed it was easy to see what a beautiful dog she really was.

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Sabers’ forever family found her to be the perfect addition to their family. Her Dad Chris wrote that “Sabre is doing awesome a very playful dog for her age she seems to be very happy”. Although Sabre was hearing impaired it did not hamper her ability to enjoy life – she would often happily sit on the floor while the two kids hugged and petted her. With caring and patience from the new people in her life, Sabre became a wonderful family dog. She died peacefully at home with her real family.

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Adopting a Dog – Tips For Success

Adopting a dog is a wonderful way to help a dog find a new home. All kinds of dogs are surrendered to shelters, sanctuaries, and rescue groups for many reasons. For example, many places have laws in place to help protect pets in rental situations or to help renters find a place that welcomes dogs, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Also, if an owner has not made arrangements for their dog, either in a will or through discussion with family and friends, then a death can leave a great family dog with nowhere to live. Senior dogs can be a great new addition to a family as they are through the puppy stage, have often been trained, and are generally calmer.

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There are of course exceptions, but there are frequently a large number of issue-free dogs up for adoption at any shelter. Another advantage to adopting a rescue dog is that they often have staff and foster parents that get to know them well and can help you find a good match with your family.

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Do Your Research

Before visiting an adoption site, or a specific dog, do your research. You want to find a dog that fits into your lifestyle so both you and the dog will be happy.

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Determine the Needs of Your Family

Family characteristics such as energy level, small children, other pets, and allergies are important. Matching the activity level of your new dog to the activity level of your family is particularly important. If your family enjoys a lot of TV time and prefers hanging out at home, as opposed to frequent walks and high energy activity, then a dog that doesn’t need a lot of activity will fit better than a dog that always wants to run and be outside. If you won’t be home most of the day, a wise choice may be a dog that is both comfortable being alone and who doesn’t need a lot of exercise, instead of a dog that needs constant companionship.

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Many websites exist that can help you discover the main characteristics of different breeds and the type of dog that will adapt well to kids and other pets. For example, the Animal Planet website includes a breed selector questionnaire that can help you to decide on the important traits a dog should possess to suit your family.

Find a Shelter, Sanctuary, or Rescue Group

Search for reputable shelters, sanctuaries, or rescue groups. Visit websites, read reviews, look for news articles, and talk to other people who have adopted dogs. Talk to the staff and volunteers at several different places about both your family lifestyle and the kind of dog you would like. The staff and volunteers usually have spent time with all of the dogs in their care, know how the dogs act at different times of the day and when hungry or tired, and if the dog has any type of training or particular issues. Often, by discussing your needs, the shelter staff may know of several dogs that could work with your family.

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When you find an organization that you feel confident working with, fill out an adoption application and submit all paperwork. Good organizations may ask for a veterinarian reference, several personal references, and perform a home visit. Remember the organization is not only trying to establish that you can provide a good home for a dog but also getting to know your family to ensure a good match when the time comes.

Observe and Get to Know the Dog

When deciding on a specific dog, take the time to observe and get to know the dog a little. Everyone in the family should meet the dog. Watch how the dog acts while away from other animals, walking on a leash, and interacting with different members of your family. When you meet your possible new dog, teach it how you want it to act from the beginning. Do not accept bad behavior. If you are not going to allow jumping up, correct the behavior the first time it happens. Remember to praise the good behavior that you want to encourage for the future. Keep in mind your list of needs and wants in a dog. It may be fun to cuddle with a low-energy dog for a while; but, if you want to run and hike with your dog, make sure the dog is capable of that kind of activity as well.

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Taking Your New Dog Home

After you choose your new dog and have gone through the adoption process, it is time to take your new friend home. Remember that the dog may act differently when moved from the shelter and it may take some time for its true personality to emerge. The dog may have been moved around frequently and it may be confused and overwhelmed at first. It is best to introduce your dog to its new home in a controlled and calm manner to give it time to learn that it is safe and can relax. The following general tips can help with a smooth transition:

  • Take your dog for a long walk through his new neighborhood before you enter the house. A long walk gives the dog a chance to go to the bathroom (to avoid accidents later) and to get rid of any nervous energy and anxiety. If your dog is a little tired and calm when he enters his new space, his behavior will be much easier to correct.

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  • Show the dog how to get to his bathroom area and let him out often until he learns where to go. Occasionally, even reliably house-trained dogs have accidents in a new environment. Accidents are a result of the stress of new people, smells, and sounds and are usually temporary.
  • During the first few days, set the structure and expectations for his behavior. The dog may be confused and not know what behaviors are acceptable, so be consistent and show him how you want him to act.
  • Set up a dog-friendly area where your dog will be comfortable, can explore his new environment, and make sure to give him a place to be alone and relax.
  • Find out what the dog was fed at the shelter and what the feeding and exercising schedule was like. Try to keep the same schedule and brand of food for at least a few days. If you want to change his food and schedule to something that better fits your lifestyle, begin making small changes by adding some new food to the old food and adjusting the feeding times to your routine. Gradually add more and more new food until the dog has adjusted. A slow transition is key – gastric distress is no fun for anyone.
  • Try to keep the excitement level down for a while to give the dog time to adjust. Let him get used to your family and the routine. Try to keep visitors to a minimum until the dog has a chance to settle in. By keeping to a schedule and being consistent, your dog will know what to expect and it will allow him to become more comfortable.
  • Keep a close eye on your dog. Watch his body language around other dogs, pets, and people. Spend lots of time together as your dog will also be observing you. Use this time to discover the quirks and individual behaviors that make your dog special.

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  • You may be surprised to learn that your dog knows commands and different manners taught by a previous owner. You can accept and enjoy these things or decide to change the behaviors. Your dog will learn, it just takes repetition, consistency, and patience.
  • If you encounter behaviors in your dog that you don’t like, you can talk to your veterinarian and look into professional training. Call the shelter where you got the dog and see if any of these things have happened before and how the staff handled it. Any type of behavior can be changed and you can settle into a happy relationship with your new friend.

Allowing your dog the chance to get to know its new environment and family in a calm manner will help to make a smooth transition. Taking the time to get to know the habits of your new dog, establish rules from the beginning, and using patience and compassion should help your new family member settle in quickly.

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