Monday, April 16, 2012

Adopting an Older Dog

Last weekend I did an evaluation on a fantastic dog.  He is sweet, snuggly, well mannered and loves people.  It made me sad to think that he was very clearly a loved dog who for whatever reason no longer had a home.  The only "catch" on this dog, was that he was somewhere between the age range of 5-7, and for whatever reason, once dogs hit the ripe "old" age of five, people don't seem to want to adopt them anymore.  As I sit here, with quite possibly the worlds greatest foster, and my own wonderful seven year old shiba I struggle to see the logic in why someone wouldn't want an older dog.

To a certain point, I get it - as dogs age there comes the potential for more problems.  As dogs age, there comes the potential for us to have less time with them.  As dogs age...etc, etc.  True, many of our rescue dogs have some quirks to work through. But many of them do regardless of their age. With adult dogs, more often than not, we are able to identify what those quirks are. There are other things that come about with an adult dog- and these other things are too often forgotten.

As dogs age, they quit chewing on things, as dogs age they are less likely to destroy your house, as dogs age they are more likely to be potty trained, as dogs age they become more peaceful companions, as dogs age you know what you are getting personality wise, as dogs age they are still perfect and loveable pets. 

I get it, puppies are cute.  But having just come out of fostering a puppy I tell you that I will take this 6 year old gem of a shiba over the cutest of puppies, any day.  That cute and sweet adorable puppy did more damage in three days than any of the adult fosters I've had have done ever - combined.  And as much as I love paying to get my carpets cleaned...well, you get the point, lol.

I have no doubt that people shy away from adult dogs because they think that by getting a younger dog they may be able to postpone the inevitable.  I have a wonderful friend who opted to get new puppy (non-shiba) over a rescue dog she was looking at because the rescue dog was "old"...and by "old", I mean three.  Unfortunately, her puppy passed away of cancer at the age of four.  The rescue dog she was considering is still alive and doing well, we know this because her mother ended up adopting it a few months later.  My shiba is seven, I love him tremendously and hope to be able to have the privilege of enjoying another seven years with him.  Seven years is a long time, but when the time comes I know it won't seem like it was enough.  But it wouldn't if that time was today - or twenty years from now.  The fact of the matter is, that no matter what age of dog we get we will never have enough time with them. We will always have to say goodbye sooner than we are ready, and we are going to be sad. 


However, these adult dogs have an amazing amount of love to give and they deserve to have a home and a family of their own to share it with.  Some of these "adult dogs" we take in are just learning how to live life.  My very first foster was a six year old mill release who had never even gone for a walk.  Watching him play with a toy for the first time and experience that glorious "squeak" each time he killed it remains to be one of the highlights of my rescue experience.  At that moment, he was not an "adult dog", he was a ten week old puppy who was just learning to play and he was loving it.  Four years later dog is still going for 2-3 long walks/day, he is healthy, happy, and still ripping squeakers out of toys.  He gets to sit on the couch and snuggle with his sister shiba.  He is loved, and he gives great love in return.

As a foster home, and an MSIR adopter, I encourage people to consider giving these older dogs a shot.  We love our own adult dogs, but I also look at Kenji and think that he is everything we want in a dog.  In all honesty, if we could have a third dog he may not be up for grabs.  He is healthy, he is sweet, he is kind, and most importantly, he'll happily snuggle on the couch with my toddler.  He'll "play" trains with her (ie lay on the floor with her while she plays trains and not chew up Thomas when she puts it in front of him), he'll sleep with her, he'll be her friend - her dog. Something she wants so badly from our other dogs.  But, we got them as young dogs and we didn't know that they would tolerate, but not necessarily love our future kids.  We wouldn't trade them in for anything, but it gives us something to think about for the future. 

Adult dogs are not necessarily set in their ways, but their temparments are more predicatable and they become more reliable. This is not a bad thing especially when considering adding a new dog to an existing household.  Of course adding a dog to your family is a personal decision, and it is not up to me or anyone else to decide which dog is right for you.  But I just ask you to think about this, and consider them.

Alison N.


  1. Kenji is not listed on the MSIR site under any category. :(

  2. Well said, Alison.
    After adopting a 6 month old and a 2.5 year old from MSIR, I will go for the older dogs from now on. Puppies take so much more energy—and for those of us who work outside the home, it's a challenge to keep up with them. An older dog is more likely to be content to relax with you after you've had a long day... while the puppy is ready to GO GO GO!!!
    I think people may assume that an older dog won't bond as closely with them as a dog they raise from puppyhood, and this certainly isn't the case. Every dog has the capacity to be a treasured member of the family, regardless of the age at which you acquire them.
    The rescued adults just seem to know that you've given them a second chance by taking them in—and they repay you in spades with love and devotion. It breaks my heart when people buy puppies from pet stores or breeders, when there are dozens of awesome dogs in rescue at a fraction of the cost—with the same capacity for love.

  3. Alison is right on the spot with her insight.

    We love to foster the older dogs and if given the choice of a puppy or a dog that is 6 yrs old or older we would take the oldest dog. They are more mellow…well ok as mellow as a Shiba gets… lol The older dogs are just as lovable and trainable as the puppies..but you don’t get the Tasmanian Devil option with them as you do a puppy to 3 yrs old. Got to love that option….and your furniture will thank you if you get the older dog…they don’t chew on things other than a bone. 

    Adopting an OLDER Shiba is the way to go hands down!

    Phil, Brenda, Meeka, Pixel and Shin-Ryu

  4. Beautifully written Alison, I couldn't have said it better myself! It seems everyone I talk to wants puppies but I try painstakingly to educate them on the advantages of adopting older pets but it just seems like so many people refuse to listen.

    However, I always try to remind myself that just as there are those who refuse to adopt older dogs, there are also those who refuse to adopt puppies and though it doesn't "even out" so-to-speak, it brings a bit of peace to my heart and I pray daily that more people will learn and hopefully have a change of heart.

    Thank you Alison!

    Deb, Earl and Bailey Boo

  5. I have had my Aiko since she was 6 weeks. I thought the first 2 months were going to kill me and destroy my house. She's now a fat and sleek and lazy 5 year old. Last year we adopted a 6 year old male. He was housebroken. He was sweet. He snuggled us and just wanted to be loved. He is a comfort and a joy. He didn't chew up our woodwork and furniture. We think he's great.