A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Reasons You Should Consider Adopting an Older Dog

Make a dog's golden years truly golden when you forgo the typical puppy to give a senior dog a new home.

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Every dog should know what it feels like to be loved

Dogs aren’t objects or accessories. They crave love and comfort and family just as much as humans do—maybe more. Odds are that when most people go out looking for a new dog, new is exactly what they’re looking for. In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that dogs over the age of seven (senior dogs) make up only 25 percent of the adoption rate. It is possible that older dogs that have wound up in shelters have lived in poor or abusive conditions for most of their lives or maybe their previous owner passed away or they were separated for another reason, like this 43 amazing dogs that need adopting. An animal that has suffered so much for so long deserves to know love for once in their life, don’t you think?

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Dog at home
Dora Zett/Shutterstock

You’re not sure how long any dog will live

The standard reason for not adopting an older dog is that they won’t live as long as a puppy would. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s an old dog. They are going to die in two years and that will devastate me,'” shares Amy Sciarretto, a Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center volunteer in Blackwood, New Jersey. “Well, that requires a change in perspective…Dogs that are seven, eight, or 11-years-old can live to 15. With proper love and care, you can get plenty of good years.” Realistically, no one knows when their dog will die. One dog’s life may end unexpectedly at four-years-old while another may live for more than a decade. Life is uncertain, so don’t put a number on it! When you adopt your pup, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.

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Happy ginger mixed breed dog in luxurious bright colors scandinavian style bedroom with king-size bed. Pets friendly hotel or home room.

It’s rewarding knowing you saved a life

It’s a terrible fact that nearly 700,000 dogs in shelters are euthanized each year. And since older dogs are less likely to be adopted, it doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that a significant portion of the dogs euthanized each year are older dogs. You can get a great sense of fulfillment knowing you’ve adopted a dog whose life would have otherwise been ended simply because of their age.

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Attractive smiling girl wears retro dress posing in room decorated with vase and plant. Indoor portrait of amazing woman playing with beagle dog while it waits for food.
Look Studio/Shutterstock

They know their commands

Depending on a dog’s history and past home life, they may already be potty trained and know how to behave. Based on her years of shelter experience, Sciarretto says, “They are trained, have leash manners, and often know their commands and their names. They are quite literally move-in ready.” For this reason, shelter dogs are the best.

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Older dogs are more laidback

Part of the fun of a brand new puppy is that they are excited about basically everything. However, that constant, blazing energy can be pretty exhausting, especially if you’re a more relaxed person to begin with. With older dogs, “you don’t have to deal with all the puppy energy,” Sciaretto asserts. “They are past that. They’ve been there, done that. They are just happy to settle on the couch or a cooling dog bed and snuggle in the peace and quiet. They make strong, quiet companions.” Don’t miss these dogs with long noses that are just too adorable.

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Young asian woman lying on bed, playing with pet dog.

Older dogs truly appreciate all you do

In many ways, older dogs are like adult humans. Because they’ve lived for quite a few years already, they have had a lot of experiences (and likely, if they’re in a shelter, not very good ones). When senior dogs get adopted, they truly do understand the magnitude of your kindness and devotion. Puppies, like children, naturally assume that it is your job to take care of them, but adult dogs know how lucky they really are, and they’ll show you affection for that. Check out these dogs with pointy ears that you need to see.

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Adorable pug and cute cat lying together on plaid
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

It’s good to adopt a dog who is similar in age to your other pet(s)

If you already have other pets—especially another dog—it is a good idea to adopt a dog who is around the same age as your current one. If you already have an adult dog, the American Kennel Club asserts that adopting a puppy might make them feel threatened or like they are being replaced. Two adult dogs will better understand each other’s likes and habits, whereas an adult dog and a puppy typically won’t see eye to eye.

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A pet Boston Terrier performs a handshake dog trick with young white female owner

You can teach an old dog new tricks

Old adages aren’t always right. Yes, people and animals who are older tend to be set in their ways, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of learning new behaviors or lifestyles. Breaking in any adopted dog is a process, but over time they will adapt to their new lifestyle, schedule, and commands. When I first adopted my senior Great Pyrenees, Jill, I would have to drag her out on walks. Going around the block would take us forever; she simply refused to move. Now, she readily stands by the door to get her leash and harness on and keeps a leisurely pace!

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Freelancer using laptop for working, dog next to her
Milan Ilic Photographer/Shutterstock

Not all senior dogs are anti-social

It is true that not all shelter dogs play well with others. Depending on the life they’ve had, being around other animals (especially very outgoing ones) can be difficult. But part of the work any good shelter does is behavior modification and socialization. An older dog can be very easygoing and friendly if you give them a chance.

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Adorable african american child playing with toy cubes and dog
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

An older dog may be the type of companion you’re looking for anyway

Choosing which dog to adopt is all about how well your personalities match. If you’re athletic, a senior dog might not be the best choice to take on nature hikes. However, if you enjoy being home, or if you yourself are an older person, a senior dog can make for a very suitable partner.

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two dogs are lying on the porch. Little Jack Russell Terrier and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Your previous dog was taken from you too soon

Sometimes, you get to be with a dog for 15 years. Sometimes, luck runs out and a pet suddenly dies well before what you thought was their time. My Samoyed, Ryder, unexpectedly died when he was just seven-years-old. He was in perfect health all of his life when, within a matter of days, his health suddenly deteriorated because of a heart condition that was unknown to me. Many people seek out a new puppy after the loss of a dog, but because I didn’t get to spend the golden years with Ryder, it felt more natural to adopt a dog who was older.

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Senior Man Sitting On Sofa At Home With Pet Labrador Dog
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

It’s not just about you

Of course, you’re out to find a pet that will make you happy, but have you ever really stopped to consider what that means? Sure, you want your dog to be entertaining and exuberant, but that’s not the only kind of happiness there is. Taking in an otherwise unwanted animal and giving them a family can fill you with extreme joy. “If you adopt a dog and get two beautiful years with them and make their life better and peaceful during their golden years, then you’ve done a truly beautiful thing,” Sciarretto says.

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Young woman playing with her dog at home
New Africa/shutterstock

Uh, they’re adorable!

Young or old, dogs are beautiful creatures. Just because they have a few extra years on them and maybe a few gray hairs, doesn’t mean they’re any less cute. Even if you adopt a mangy-looking stray, with the proper care and attention they can be in tip-top condition in no time. Just look at these incredible before and after dog adoption photos!

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Old man resting in garden and cute dog climb on his chest and kissing him. Pet love concept
Budimir Jevtic/shutterstock

You need them as much as they need you

If you’re truly an animal lover, you know the bond between you and your pet is precious. You’re more than just the hand that feeds them, and they are more than just extra company. For a senior dog, you’re their last hope and the last love they will have in this world. And they can awaken something in you that you never knew was there in the first place. “There really is nothing like it,” Sciarretto concludes. “A senior dog will look at you and greet you with the kind of unconditional love you will never experience elsewhere. Give them a chance! You won’t regret it.” Find out which dog breed best suits your personality according to your zodiac sign.

Taylor Markarian
Taylor Markarian is a regular contributor to RD.com covering culture, advice, travel, pets and all things weird and haunted. She is the author of "From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society," which analyzes the evolution of punk and mental health. She holds a B.A. in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College.