Thursday, November 4, 2010

Feature of the Week - Senior Dogs - Kansas City Dog Photography

One of my supporters suggested I feature Senior Dogs this week versus a "Breed of the Week." I thought this was a fabulous idea, as there is an abundance of senior dogs in shelters who usually are overlooked because of their age. I found a great website with some very informative Q&A about adopting a senior dog. All below information from

Won't I be adopting someone else's problems? If the dog were so wonderful, why wouldn't they have kept him?

Older dogs lose their homes for many different reasons....most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with those of the person or family surrendering the dog. Many folks think dogs who end up at shelters or in rescue are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for very expensive, well-bred dogs to outlive their usefulness or novelty with folks who bought them on impulse and no longer want to take responsibility for them. Other reasons older dogs become homeless: death of a guardian....not enough time for the dog...... change in work schedule..... new baby.....need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed.... kids going off to college.... allergies.... change in "lifestyle".... prospective spouse doesn't like dogs.

What advantages do older dogs have over puppies or young dogs?

Older dogs who are offered for adoption by shelters or rescue agencies generally have had some training, both in obedience and house manners. (Some dogs, due to the confusion and upset of being uprooted and finding themselves in a chaotic shelter environment, may temporarily forget their housetraining. Inevitably, once established in their new home, they remember.) Older dogs have learned what "no" means and how to leave the furniture, carpets, shoes, and other "chewables" alone. (If they hadn't learned that, they wouldn't have gotten to be "older" dogs.) They have been "socialized" and learned what it takes to be part of a "pack" and to get along with humans and, in most cases, other dogs, and in some other cases, cats, as well. Older dogs, especially those who have once known it, appreciate love and attention and quickly learn what's expected of them to gain and keep that love and attention. Older dogs know how to let you finish the newspaper, sitting calmly next to you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers. They are also instant companions, ready for hiking, riding in the car, walking on leash, fetching, etc. Finally, older dogs are a "known commodity." They are easy to assess for behavior and temperament, and you also don't have to guess how big they'll grow.

Aside from any advantages an older dog has, is there any good reason to adopt an older dog instead of a puppy, who has his whole life ahead of him?

Just about everyone who enters a shelter is looking for a puppy or a young dog (three years or under). There are also many people who go to breeders to buy puppies. By adopting an older dog, we can make a statement about compassion and the value of all life at all ages, as well as register a protest against the indiscriminate and inhumane breeding of dogs, whether it is for profit or to "teach the children about birth." And, of course, just as a puppy has his whole life ahead of him, so does an older dog have the rest of his life in front of him. You can give that older dog the best years of his life while at the same time bringing a wonderful addition into your family. Another consideration is the larger goal of making the U.S. a "no-kill" nation. By setting the example of adopting a dog who would be otherwise euthanized just because of his age, you can help create the climate that will enable the U.S. to attain that goal.

Don't older dogs cost more in vet bills?

Veterinary attention and medication are needed at all ages and may or may not be more costly for an older dog. Before you adopt a senior, be sure you get a health report from a veterinarian. That way, if you discover that the dog has a health problem, you can decide if you are able to make the needed financial commitment.

Do older dogs have any "special needs"?

: With a health assessment of the dog, you will know whether any age-related conditions are present and you can take appropriate measures to address them. Otherwise, older dogs need all the things younger dogs do -- good nutrition, exercise (although less intensive, usually, than for a younger dog), and regular visits to the vet.

Isn't it true that you can't train an older dog the way you can train a puppy?

Dogs can be trained at any age. The old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," just isn't true. Read the case study of "Autumn," who was called "Stupid" by her family for the first ten years of her life. She was adopted at ten years by a caring person and now, at age 14, she is winning awards for being first in her obedience class.

How long will it take for an older dog to settle into a routine with me?

Each dog is an individual and comes with a unique set of experiences and from varying circumstances, so it is hard to predict how long a specific dog will require to make an adjustment. If a dog has been in a shelter or kennel, the stresses of such an experience may cause him to be confused and disoriented for quite some time. Some dogs forget or are confused about their housetraining. With care, patience, and a kind, understanding, loving attitude, just about any dog will come around after a while. It may be a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. For a case in point, please read the history of "Blackberry." In our own experience, we've had dogs who are right "at home" as soon as they walk in the door and others who have needed a couple of weeks to make a basic adjustment, and then became more and more "at home" over the course of several months.

The below dogs are just a few of the amazing seniors I have met and photographed.


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