When the folks at my local shelter told me that there was an error on the paperwork of the dog I was interested in adopting -- instead of seven months old, he was seven years old -- it really gave me pause. Did I really want the responsibility of an older dog? What kind of health problems due to aging might he soon develop? What if he had bad habits he was too old to unlearn? But then he hopped up onto my lap and whatever reservations I had were pushed aside: this was the dog for me.
Over the past few months since I adopted Spock, I've never had a moment's regret. In fact, I've learned there are some distinct advantages to adopting an older dog. Here are just a few:
1. No housebreaking required. Unless you adopt the rare dog that never lived in a home, you probably won't need to break out the newspaper and worry for the state of your floor. You get a free pass on the often frustrating process of housebreaking. An older dog may also have been taught obedience to commands, not to chew your shoes, and other helpful habits that it takes time and patience to teach a puppy.
2. A good night's sleep. Older dogs are likely to be accustomed to the rhythms of a family: walks in the morning, walks in the evening after school or work, and most importantly, sleeping at night. Unlike a puppy, they don't generally decide 2 a.m. is a good time to play.
3. It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. And in fact, they learn more easily. When Spock came home with me, he did actually have a bad habit -- he would not wait for permission before walking out the front door. In just a short time, we corrected this behavior, and much more easily than when we trained our puppy the same way.
4. Old enough for healthcare. Most shelters make sure that an animal's shots are up-to-date and offer spaying/neutering. However, when adopting a puppy, sometimes the animal is not old enough to complete this basic medical care, meaning more visits and more nursing a cranky pup for you. Older dogs are certain to be able to receive all their basic healthcare before leaving the shelter, saving you time and/or money later on.
5. Saving a life. Let's face it: adorable puppies are more likely to find homes. Shelter staff will tell you that older dogs are harder to place and therefore more likely to be put down. So by giving a home to an older dog, you can be confident of having helped him beat the odds.
To sum it up, older dogs have just as much love to give, only in calmer, better-trained packages!
Photo credit: Kasey