OLD DOG, NEW DOG


The benefits of adopting adult and older rescue dogs


Doret Weber who adopted Sid at the age of approximately 13 years. "Sid managed to rescue his forever family!"
Photo credit: Liv Stirling Photography

Written by Jenni Davies

“To see a dog flourish and bloom into a loving, trusting and trustworthy companion is life-defining. There is nothing better than knowing that you are worthy of his or her love and devotion; you have truly earned their adoration and respect.” Adopting adult or senior pets from animal shelters is a truly wonderful thing to do. It’s also easier than you may think…

Age is just a number

Dogs are adaptable by nature; adults adjust to new family situations as easily as puppies will – often more so because they have better focus and longer attention spans. There is also zero guesswork involved; their size, shape and personality are established and obvious. Most older dogs are already partially or fully house-trained – if not, they learn faster as they have good bladder control. Some are even lead-trained, sit on command, and more. They don’t need feeding three to four times daily, and only need once-yearly vaccinations.

Contrary to popular belief, adult dogs are ideal for young families. Although many people want a pup so that it can ‘grow up with their child’, they forget that having small children plus a boisterous puppy can be hard work and stressful. Much time and training need to be invested into puppies to ensure that they become the perfect companion you envisaged. It’s also a good learning experience: you will teach your children that ‘shiny and new’ are not the only things that have worth. Search shelters for dogs known to be good with children, and from family environments.

People worry that adopting a mature dog means having to say goodbye sooner. But dogs today live to 10 to 15 years or more, so your furry companion will be with you for many years. Even if you adopt a really senior ‘citizen’, isn’t it a wonderful privilege to be the one to give them a happy home in their golden years?

Welfares are winners
Welfare animals have invariably already had a physical done by a vet, are usually spayed/neutered, dewormed and vaccinated – all included in the adoption fee. Owner-surrendered dogs may come with information on their temperament and health, otherwise welfare workers try to determine this, and will advise on whether it gets on with other dogs, adores children, and/or is cat-friendly.

If you can’t face the thought of walking past cage after cage of desperate, barking dogs needing homes, most animal welfares list their animals online with pictures so that you can narrow the choices down, and then arrange to meet them.

One key thing is to do your research, and be clear on your wants and needs, but be willing to compromise on looks if the personality is perfect. If you prefer specific breeds, investigate all the pluses and minuses. At the shelter/foster, ask all the questions you want, and, if possible, take your potential new companion for a walk.

Although choosing a new furry family member can be daunting, by choosing wisely and planning ahead, and being patient, consistent and calm when they arrive, you will be rewarded with a super companion for many years to come.

Bring them home

  • Before finalising the adoption, introduce all family members to the dog. Confirm that this dog is exactly what everyone wants.
  • Decide on an ‘integration plan’; if everyone’s on the same track, things will be less stressful.
  • If possible, find out the dog’s routine and eating habits and try to replicate this.
  • Introducing the new dog to existing dog/s correctly is essential. Meet on neutral territory (e.g. a park), and remain calm and assertive.
  • Have someone walk your dogs so you can introduce them on the move, walking side by side rather than head-on. Keep moving to release tension and energy.
  • Once things relax, let them sniff each other and familiarise themselves. Be ready to separate them if there is any anxiety or aggression. Walk them onto the property together, on lead.
  • If you have cats, keep the dog on-lead initially, and ensure the cats have quick escape routes and a safe ‘hideout’. If unsure whether the dog gets along with cats, never leave them alone together until you are sure.
  • Set routines quickly ease relocation anxiety. Love is important, but don’t fuss or be permissive; be the ‘pack leader’ from the word go – it will make them feel safer and more comfortable.
  • Seek help if necessary, be it an animal behaviourist, vet or animal welfare worker.