Puppies are the popular choice for many pet parents. After all, who can resist that adorable fluffy bundle of energy? But senior dogs can be just as sweet, especially when they have so much love to give. Plus, many senior dogs are already potty trained, understand basic commands, and have established, predictable personalities.
Whether you’ve always had a soft spot for senior dogs or are newly considering opening up your home to a senior in need, it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared for your new pooch before you bring him home.
In honor of our elderly pups, we’ve compiled some of our top tips for adopting a senior dog.
Tip #1: Consider Your Current Household.
Even if you have the best intentions to give a senior dog a better life, not every dog and owner are the perfect match—and that’s okay. Before you bring home a new dog, you’ll first want to make sure that the dog you choose is compatible with your household and lifestyle.
For starters, consider the pets that already live in your home. If you already have a dog, does he generally get along with other animals or is he more of a lone wolf? How do you imagine that he will react to another pooch living in his space?
Learn the history of your new potential pet, too. Does he have a history of living with other animals? Does he feel comfortable around both men and women? Is he prone to separation anxiety and destructive behavior, or is will he be okay staying home alone while you’re at work all day?
Think about your lifestyle and expectations, too. If you want a dog to bring along on your outdoor adventures, you’ll need a dog with sufficient energy and stamina. If you prefer to spend your weekends lounging at home, then a nap-loving dog will fit in just fine!
Tip #2: Go Slow and Steady.
After giving your new senior a tour of his new home and yard, allow him plenty of time to rest and decompress. After all, your home is quite the drastic change from the noisy, stressful shelter he’s been used to. He may spend a lot of time sleeping while he adjusts to his new surroundings.
You may be excited to show off your new dog, but try not to expose your senior pup to too much, too fast. Inviting all of your friends and family members over at once to meet your new furry friend can be incredibly overwhelming for Fido.
Instead, focus on gradual, individual introductions. Invite one or two friends over at a time for a calm, quiet visit without forcing familiarity.
While we’re certainly not discouraging baths, training, and vet visits, it’s important to note that in most cases, these things can wait. Allow your dog to adjust and feel comfortable in his new home before introducing any potentially stressful activities. Establishing a sense of trust is a top priority!
Tip #3: Provide a Safe Space.
While you help your senior dog navigate his new environment, be sure to provide him with his own safe space, such as a crate. When used correctly, crates can be incredibly calming and comforting for a canine. Just make sure that he’s able to enter and exit at his own will so he doesn’t feel confined.
Instruct other members of the household to leave your dog alone while he’s inside the crate, as this should be a space where he can escape when he’s feeling overwhelmed and needs a break. Positive association with a crate is crucial, especially if you have put your dog inside while you leave your house for several hours at a time.
Tip #4: Keep a Consistent Diet.
If you have big plans to feed your dog a healthier diet than what he had at the shelter, that’s all well and good (as long as you have vet approval). However, as with training and vet visits, it’s best to hold off on any significant changes until your dog has fully adjusted to his new home.
As long as your dog is sufficiently healthy with his shelter diet, don’t rush the transition to new food. Keep him on his old diet for a sense of familiarity until he feels settled enough for another change. After all, no one wants to deal with tummy troubles while also navigating a new environment and lifestyle!
At some point, you may want to introduce vitamins and supplements to your senior dog’s diet. Pet Honesty’s Senior Hemp Health + Wellness Booster 3-Pack combines natural ingredients specifically formulated for senior dogs, and includes:
- Senior Hemp Mobility Joint Soft Chews
- Advanced Multivitamin Soft Chews
- Senior Allergy Support Soft Chews
Tip #5: Give Your Dog Space.
Space and time are two of the best things you can offer when you first adopt your senior dog. While he’s adjusting to his new life, he may seem scared or somewhat dull—and that’s okay! Be patient with your pooch as he gradually becomes comfortable enough to let his real personality shine through.
You’re likely excited to cuddle and play with your new dog, but be careful not to force interactions before he’s ready. Let him come to you when he’s ready. Depending on your dog’s history, he may not fully understand just how much love and comfort you have to offer him. But rest assured, he’ll figure it out soon enough and happily reciprocate!