December 7, 2017

Adopting Older Dogs – Things To Consider

Adopting an older dog from a shelter can be a rewarding experience for you and the dog involved. You may actually be saving the animal's life in many cases - older dogs are rarely adopted, in comparison to puppies.


Most people go out looking for puppies. When you get a dog from a shelter in most states, the dog will be neutered or spayed and the animal's vaccinations will be updated as part of the adoption fee. The fees can range from $30 to $150, depending on location and the animal in question.

Many times, this will also include the RFID chip that will be registered to you, to help you get reunited with your dog if you should become separated.

What Breeds You Want To Have?

What Breeds You Want To Have?

Dogs have spent many millennia at our sides and most are happy to have a family, but you should think carefully about the animal you decide to adopt. Think carefully about what breeds the dog might be, and look them all up, checking temperament, thinking about size if the dog is immature, exercise or attention requirements, etc.

If you live in a high rise apartment you probably don't want to take home a Malamute - they're working dogs that require a lot of exercise for health and happiness, and too big to get much inside an apartment - and a bored Malamute is a force of nature similar to a tornado.

If You Have Other Animals?

If You Have Other Animals?

If you have other animals, the situation becomes even more complex. Is the breed of dog or cat good with other animals? Is the dog breed known for attacking smaller animals (like cats)? Does the particular animal seem calm?

If you can, try 'protected' introductions - with the cat inside a cat carrier, not in your arms. If the dog seems oblivious or uninterested, but not conclusive. Many dogs will ignore walking cats, but take off after running ones immediately and with single-minded determination. No matter what, you'll have to be on high alert if you're introducing an adult dog into a home with multiple pets.

How About Dog’s Care?

Does the breed have special health requirements? Make sure you're taking the animal's care into account - dogs like Malamutes, Huskies, and Chows need a lot of coat care, or they will end up matted and unhappy, followed by "shaved"and unhappy.

Some breeds of dog are more prone to congenital degenerative diseases like hip dysplasia - is the animal you're considering adopting a member of such a breed? You should also make certain that you're prepared to housebreak an older dog, in case the animal was kept primarily outside.

If You Have Children?

If You Have Children?

If you have children, make sure the animal's breed is known for being tolerant of children. Test the animal's food response, if possible.

With two adults present, one holding the dog's leash, give the animal a treat or bone and bring the child close - not close enough to get bit, though. See if the animal reacts by growling or snapping.

It's not uncommon for an otherwise docile animal to bite when they think their food is in danger. If the reaction is mild or nonexistent, you might want to test some more. Remember, you should always be alert and have two adults present, and you should always check this response before letting your new dog and your young child free in the house.

Many small children have gotten bit because they played in the dog's food while mom and dad were watching the big game. Even though these bites are usually not very dangerous (being defensive bites, not attacks), it's a sad result for everyone, leading to unpleasant shots for the child and either euthanasia or a return to the shelter for the dog. Otherwise uninterested dogs have been known to attack cats that approached their food bowls too closely, as well.

Pay Attention To The Dog Food Requirements

Pay Attention To The Dog Food Requirements

Make sure you understand the food requirements of your would-be dog, as well. Many people have adopted big dogs only to discover that dog food is expensive when you go through a big bag every two days feeding your Newfoundland.

Will your dog need special food to control skin conditions? See if you can take the animal to your veterinarian for a quick checkup, and solicit his or her advice on the animal. Ask the vet what breed he thinks the animal is, and if there is anything you should know about the breed of cat or dog, such as aggression towards other dogs, people, or small animals.

Make The Dog Become “Part Of The Pack”

Dogs are pack animals, and the best results will come from integration into the family. New dogs in the home need a lot of attention to learn that they're 'part of the pack'. If you're inclined to use treats for training (depending on your training philosophy), make sure you reward the dog for good behavior.

Punishment for misbehavior should be limited to scolding or other non-violent means, and pay close attention to the animal's response - you don't want to make the dog afraid, just penitent. A dog that's scared in a strange place represents a high bite risk.

Once the dog is accepted and has accepted its 'new pack', these risks are dramatically reduced, and it will take a lot more stimulus to excite the dog enough to bite. Remember that dogs are social animals, and most present almost no risk when comfortable and accepted.


Temperament varies with breed and individual dogs. We've bred dogs into the most diverse species of mammal in the world, and they've paid the price in many ways. Adopting shelter animals can be a fun and rewarding experience for all concerned if you are careful and do your research properly prior to choosing a "new best friend". If you aren't, it can become extremely frustrating and tragic.

So please, adopt a shelter animal, but make sure you're adopting the right one for you and your family.

Read more: The Loyal Dog Stories

Lucy Sheppard

Hi, I’m Lucy Sheppard. I love pets, especially dogs. My love for these true friends of humans turned into a passion. This passion led me to start this pets website so that people like me can benefit from my study and research.

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