Why Older Dogs Make Better Family Pets Than Puppies
Puppies are adorable. There’s no question about it. But when it comes to getting a family pet, are they always the best bet? As an old-dog lover myself, who adopted an adorable senior dog a few years ago, I’m here to say: Older dogs are where it’s at for family pets.
And I know I'm not the only one. Laura Coffey, a senior writer, editor and producer for “TODAY,” loves old dogs so much, she wrote a book about them entitled, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts.” She says, “Dogs in this ‘golden age’ — over the age of about six or seven — often make ideal pets for people with busy lives or for people who simply want snuggly, tranquil companionship. That said, as wonderful as senior animals are, they can be overlooked at shelters across the United States, where about 1.5 million dogs and cats are put down each year.”
No, you probably can't teach a dog new tricks, but if you’re considering getting one, here are just a few reasons why older dogs really do make the best family pets.
They’re More Relaxed
While puppies are oh-so-cute, they also have boundless energy. But most breeds of older dogs will have a more calm, laid-back demeanor. Given that they simply don’t have the same energy as younger dogs, they won’t be quite as physically demanding as puppies who never stop moving.
Laura Richards, a Boston-area mother of four, adopted a Beagle at the age of five who lived to be 10. She says, “Older animals are wonderful and a calming presence.”
They’ve Likely Outgrown Annoying Habits
Puppies are cute and all, but so are those new shoes you just ordered! Older dogs might still have some frustrating habits (they’re still animals, after all), but most likely, they will be few and far between.
Tera Bruegger, a mom of one who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, says that older dogs are typically better trained. “They aren’t out there chewing shoes, eating your couch and creating holes in your walls,” she says.
Same Goes for Being Housebroken
One of the most difficult things about puppies (and baby humans for that matter) is cleaning up after their accidents. Going for an older dog that’s already house-trained can alleviate this problem.
While it’s true that older dogs can develop issues holding their bladders late in life, as long as there are no serious health problems, there should be a sweet spot when accidents are few and far between.
They Are Low-Maintenance
Older dogs have likely settled in and simply don’t need as much as younger dogs. Of course, they appreciate nice walks, scratches behind the ears, and any love and attention you have to give.
But they also will leave you alone from time to time for those long doggy naps. “I’m too lazy to keep up with young pups,” Bruegger admits.
They’re Less of a Commitment
Getting a dog a few weeks after birth is a long commitment that requires tons of contemplation beforehand if you want to offer a dog the best life possible. In the best-case scenario, a dog’s life can be anywhere from 15 to 20 years.
While it’s devastating to lose an animal, if you aren’t looking for a commitment that spans decades, getting an older dog can be a wonderful compromise.
It Will Be a Sad but Important Lesson in Death
It is never fun to experience the death of a beloved pet. But death is a part of life and one that kids will inevitably have to learn about.
Watching a pet get old and die is difficult for kids and adults alike — they are truly like members of the family. But it can also help kids begin to learn how to process death in a natural and healthy way.
They Are Easier to Walk
While puppies can be fast, tug the leash and get away quickly, older dogs are typically much easier to walk. And you know what that means: You can make the kids do it!
Giving kids the responsibility of walking the dog is great for so many reasons, like getting exercise as well as learning how to care for their animal and sticking to a routine.
They Are Great With Old People
All dogs are pretty good at giving love, but there’s something about older dogs that make them extra affectionate.
Sarah Johnson, a mother of three from Alberta, Canada, says their 13-year-old dog, who they adopted at the age of seven, adores anyone who gives him attention because he loves people and has a strong desire to please. “You praise him, and he almost turns himself inside out he is so happy,” she says.
They Are Usually Free
While adopting a dog is more financially savvy than buying one from a pet store or a breeder, adopting an older dog is usually free.
Most adoption centers will waive the adoption fee when you chose an older dog because of the fact that it usually takes much longer to find them good homes.
They Make the Best Cuddle Buddies
Older dogs have slowed down, which means they typically won’t be up whining or barking into the night.
Instead, they will sleep soundly at the foot of your bed or even under the covers (if you allow it).
You Can Ask Questions About Their Personality
Puppies can be hard to get a read on. While most of them have tons of energy in their first years of life, it can be tough to determine what their personalities will turn out like later on. Will they be good with kids? Will they bark into the night?
With an older dog, though, you can ask questions to their owner, rescue center or wherever you are adopting them from to make sure they are a good fit for your family.
You Have an Impact on Their Later Years
While older dogs often get overlooked, it’s a wonderful thing to alter the later years of a dog’s life for the better.
Richards adds, “Forget the puppies. That stage lasts a blink, but the rest of their lives is the most important, and so many older animals deserve great homes.”
They Are Super Grateful
Grace Alexander, a mother of three who lives in Uruguay, adopted several senior dogs from a shelter and says older dogs are just so full of love.
“Nothing loves you in this world like a senior shelter dog,” she says. “They are grateful for every kind glance, pat on the head and belly rub.”
Certain Breeds Get Better With Age
Some dogs, like a good wine, get better with age. Beagles, Shih Tzus and Cockapoos tend to live long lives, and they also get calmer and more loving as time progresses.
A word to the wise: No matter the breed, don’t count out older dogs. They might just be the perfect fit for your family.