Old dogs, Young Dogs
(We’ve adopted both)
Part 1: The old guys (and gals)
Zach was the oldest dog that we’ve adoption, and I’ll admit that I felt nervous about bringing home a dog with baggage. When we were looking on Petfinder for adoptable dogs, Mike said that he really wanted one that needed rescuing. Then, as if the cosmos had heard him, Zach’s photo popped up.
The rescue group that we had gotten Zach from put him at five or six years of age. We were his second adopters within the year that he had been at the group’s facility. The first family returned him after a week because he didn’t get along with their other dog, and would not come when they called him. Mike and I also experienced those issues with Zach, but were able to work through them. Like most of our dogs, Zach had been pulled from a kill-shelter down South – an eleventh-hour pardon. It seemed like he’d been through a lot. Mike and I were prepared for a challenge. We figured that Zach would need time. And we were in for the commitment.
On a good note:
Zach came to us completely house broken. He never destroyed our furniture, although he would try to steal a sock or two, and he knew to go outside to do his business. He also loved walks, and did great on a leash. He would become very cute and animated whenever he came upon a puddle. Often, this meant that he would later require bathing.
On the down side:
Zach needed time to learn the rules, and came to us with challenging behaviors. Our greatest concern was his inclination to growl when someone came into the room. He had snapped at a guest who had attempted to greet him on more than one occasion, before we suggested that visitors not to say “hi” to Zach until after they’d been in the house a while. We also invited them to frequently give the dog treats. Zach was treat motivated, and as this practice continued, instead to avoidance when arrived, he would become happy-excited. Eventually, after we had orchestrated many successful experiences between people and Zach, the growling and snapping to keep people away disappeared, and Zach became more tolerant and trusting. He had even begun to nudge people for affection.
Why adopt an older pet?
- They’re probably going to housebroken,
- They require a less maintenance/exercise than pups and younger dogs,
- A dog that’s older than two can be much less distracted and so much easier train than a puppy,
- You know what you’re getting.
Somethings to consider:
- The acclimation of a senior dog to their new people and environment needs to be done more carefully because of their reaction to the stress of the situation than with a puppy,
- Older dogs may have baggage, and training and rehabilitation may be necessary to counter it,
- There are health issues that come with age that may require added patience, time, and vet expenses.
Still, an older dog can be a great choice when choosing a pet
My answer to dog challenges has always been training, but Zach required more than that. He needed rehabilitation. But we knew who he was when we adopted. This, in my opinion, tips the scale in favor of older dogs, when comparing them to puppies, because puppies change; when adopting a healthy older dog, you generally know what your getting. Not all older dogs are as troubled as was Zach. I’ve had many friends who have adopted healthy, well socialized senior dogs that blended smoothly with their families. These dogs often become the most wonderful family pets.
As had Zach, he just needed a little time.
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