Adopting an older dog? Here's what to know.

December 16, 2023 - 5 min read
Old dog

When it’s time to choose a new canine companion, there's an option that often goes overlooked: adopting older dogs. Yes, puppies may grab most of the attention—who wouldn’t swoon over those playful antics and adorable faces? But seniors offer different kinds of friendship and affection, and they’re no less in need of loving homes.

Whether you're a first-time pet parent or looking to add to your fur family, let's explore why an older dog might be the perfect match for you.

Adopting older vs. younger dogs: key differences

Age isn’t just a number. Older dogs have distinctive traits and behaviors that set them apart from their rambunctious juniors.

The age factor

What qualifies a dog as "older"? Generally, dogs are considered seniors when they reach around 7 years of age. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all marker. Seniorhood is more about the noticeable changes in a dog’s physical abilities, energy levels, and overall health. Look for signs like a graying muzzle, slower movements, an increased need for rest, and perhaps a more gentle, contemplative demeanor.

Larger breeds tend to age faster and may qualify as seniors as early as 5 years old, while smaller breeds might not show signs of aging until they're closer to 9 or 10.

Old dog

Behavior and temperament

Compared to their youthful counterparts, older dogs tend to be more relaxed and less energetic. They're often less reactive and more content with simple pleasures like a leisurely walk or a nap in a sunny spot. This isn’t just about diminished physical energy; it also points to a mental shift toward a more laid-back approach to life!

Predictability is one of the major benefits of caring for an older dog. By this stage in their lives, their personality is well-formed. You'll get an immediate understanding of their likes, dislikes, quirks, and habits. This predictability makes it easier to find a dog that matches your lifestyle and household.

Whether you're looking for a gentle companion for quiet evenings or a sociable dog to join on leisurely walks, older dogs offer a variety of personalities to suit different preferences.

A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.

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A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.

Health and physical considerations

With age, of course, come physical changes. Older dogs may start to show some age-related health issues. Make sure you approach these changes with understanding and empathy.

Regular veterinary check-ups are always vital, but even more so as your dog ages. These visits will help you monitor and manage any health concerns, hopefully before they spiral into more serious conditions.

All this being said, many older dogs are still quite healthy and active! There’s every reason to hope you’ll enjoy several more years of cuddles and companionship.

Old dog

Settled and stable companions

Finally, older dogs often bring a sense of stability to a home. They appreciate routine and can adapt well to established household rhythms. They've typically moved beyond the destructive behaviors of puppies and young dogs, like chewing and digging.

The bottom line: Seniors offer a unique blend of maturity, predictability, and affection, making them an excellent choice for many pet parents.

Other advantages of adopting older dogs

Adopters of older dogs quickly come to appreciate their serenity. This calm presence is especially beneficial in homes that value tranquility, such as those with young children, elderly family members, or individuals who work from home and need a peaceful environment.

Oh, and there’s also a good chance you’ll be contending with fewer training requirements. While older dogs may still enjoy and benefit from training, the basic groundwork is often already in place. This can include potty training, leash manners, understanding basic commands like "sit" and "stay," and being comfortable with routine grooming practices.

With an older dog, you’ll also often bypass other challenges associated with puppies, such as teething and the need for constant supervision.

For individuals or families without the time or experience to extensively train or monitor a dog, adopting an older pup can be a dogsend. 

Old dog

Ready to adopt an older dog? Here's how to prep

It’s important to approach this change with patience and understanding. Yes, older dogs may be calmer and better trained than puppies. But you’ll still need to create a welcoming environment in your home and provide a cozy space for your new pet to feel safe and secure. This can include a comfortable bed, toys, and easy access to food and water.

Gradually introduce your dog to their new surroundings. Allow them to explore their new home at their own pace, and be mindful of their reactions to different spaces and family members. It's also crucial to establish a consistent routine for feeding, walks, and playtime, which can help your dog feel more secure and settled.

And be attentive to your dog's nutritional needs. As dogs age, their dietary requirements change. Senior dogs often need food that is easier to digest and that supports joint health and a healthy weight. A veterinarian or a pet nutritionist can help you choose the right type of food and supplements.

In general, your vet can provide valuable insights into your dog's health needs. These conversations can help you establish a tailored health plan.

Remember, nothing’s more important than patience and love. Every dog is unique, and some may take longer to adjust than others. 

The bottom line: give them a second chance

Adopting an older pooch is about more than just bringing home a new pet; it’s about giving them a new leash on life. These mature dogs often wait in shelters, overlooked in favor of younger dogs.

By choosing an older dog, you could be saving a life. Not only that, you’ll contribute to a larger movement that values the lives of all pets, regardless of their age. And as you welcome your distinguished doggo into their new forever home, don't forget to consider their future needs.

While ManyPets doesn't cover pets greater than 14 years old on the policy effective date, pets who are younger than 14 may remain on their policy as long as they're continuously covered. Keep in mind, seniors are often more susceptible to health conditions; pet insurance for older dogs can help them receive the best possible care throughout their golden years.

David Teich
Lead Editor

David oversees content strategy and development at ManyPets. As Lead Editor, he focuses on delivering accurate information related to pet care and insurance. David’s editorial background spans more than a decade, including a pivotal role at Digiday, where he wrote content and managed relationships with media and tech companies. As an Associate Editor at Cynopsis Media, David wrote the Cynopsis Digital newsletter and interviewed executives and digital marketing experts in the TV industry. His background also includes film journalism. His diverse experiences in journalism and marketing underpins his role in shaping content within the pet care industry.