Rescue an Old Pug
"Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable.
They might be a bit out of shape
and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well."
-- Bonnie Wilcox 'Old Dogs, Old Friends'
"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."
- Sydney Jeanne Seward
Questions about Adopting an "Older" Dog...
|Question:||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 surrendering the dog. Many folks think dogs who end up at
shelters or in rescues 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 an impulse and no
longer want to take responsibility for them.
Other reasons older dogs become homeless: death of a guardian, not
enough time to properly care for the dog, change in work schedule, a new
baby, a need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed, kids going off
to college, allergies, change in "lifestyle", or even a prospective spouse
doesn't like dogs.
|Question:||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.
|Question:||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 younger). 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
|Question:||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.
|Question:||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.
|Question:||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.
All dogs strive to be loyal and make their owners happy. They
will even learn new tricks to achieve this
|Question:||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. 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 comfortable over the course of several
|Question:||Is there anything special I will need to do during the dog's "adjustment" period?|
Again, this will depend on the individual dog. In general, with a dog of any age, it is a good idea to set aside a period of several weeks during which you can spend more time than usual in reassuring the dog, establishing good communication with the dog, and creating the special bond that will ensure a good future together.
|Question:||I just lost my old dog. What if I lose another soon after I adopt him?|
Grief is a very personal matter. Some people feel that giving a home to an older dog in need is a tribute to their former dog and actually eases their pain. Also, knowing that adoption has saved a dog from euthanasia and will allow her quality time for whatever period she has left, often enables people to focus on the positives and to deal better with loss.
Consider also that there are never any guarantees about length of life with any dog. Quality of time together can matter a great deal more than quantity.
"The caring person who can see past a gray muzzle could reap the benefits of years of love and companionship."
|Question:||Why are older dogs good for senior citizens?|
"Both the human and the dog need someone in their lives."
Senior dogs in many ways are the same as their human counterparts. Many
of the same ailments and general problems are faced by both man and dog.
One devastating problem is losing the person closest to them.
For the human senior, the loss of that lifetime mate is a tragic
experience. The loss of a lifetime owner can be equally difficult for the
canine senior. It's hard to make the adjustment to living without a
lifetime companion. Both the human and the dog need someone in their lives
and often the best decision is to put these two seniors together.
Puppies are darling and so much fun to watch at play, but they are also
a lot of work. Much like grandchildren they are best when you can choose
when to have them around and then when to send them home with their
parents. And they can be dangerous around someone who does not move
quickly any more. A senior can trip over a fast moving puppy and both can
be seriously hurt.
Housebreaking takes a lot of time and patience. Puppies are active and
into everything and they can do a lot of damage to a well cared for home.
Any puppy requires a lot of time and training. Their lives are moving at a
different speed from a senior.
The senior dog is at the same place in his life that the human senior
is in his. If given love and caring, they can make the change to a new
home with few problems. Their needs are usually simple and they are happy
with a quiet and uncomplicated life. Remember, they are often set in their
ways and not interested in learning a lot of new things. That doesn't mean
they can't learn, just that they can be more set in their ways.
They also need a reason to get up in the morning and things to do to
put the fun back in their world, but their lives also need to be kept
simple. Many senior dogs have been loving, well-behaved dogs all their
lives and now, through no fault of their own, they are alone. They may
still have several healthy years ahead of them and no one to share this
time with. There are no guarantees on their health of longevity, but we
can't offer any guarantees either: just love, loyalty, companionship
and a reason to live.
Many of us love our pets so deeply that we think that if we get an
older dog it will die soon and we will just have to grieve again. While
there is some truth in this, remember the old saying that "it is better to
have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." If you turn your
back on the senior dog he may not get another chance.
Imagine you just moved to a new area in your senior years and your
neighbors said, "She's just going to die in a few years, I don't want to
be friends with her." What a terrible loss for both of you at a time in
your lives when both have the most to give. Quality of time together and
companionship can be wonderful for both the senior dog and the senior
citizen. Give it a chance!
If you are thinking of taking in a senior dog, try to get as much
information as possible about the dog and its prior owner. Always be sure
to get a health check by a veterinarian. It gives you a baseline to work
with and will let you know if the dog needs any special medication or
care. Sometimes the news is better than you think.
Old does not have to mean sick, weak or infirm. Many older dogs are
very healthy well into their teens. Important things to check are eyes,
ears and teeth. Most dogs over ten years of age do not see as well as they
did when they were younger. If they were humans, they would need reading
glasses. Your veterinarian can tell you if your dog is getting cataracts
serious enough to strongly limit his vision.
Dogs do quite well with very limited sight, but you must be aware of
dangers that they cannot see. Older dogs sometimes do not hear well
either. If both hearing and sight are diminished, the senior dog cannot
protect itself from many things that could be a danger to it. Being aware
of this can help the senior dog stay safe.Ear infections are more common
in older dogs and this should be watched for so they can receive prompt
Teeth are another important thing to watch. Many older dogs have dirty
teeth that need to be cleaned by the veterinarian. In some cases, bad
teeth need to be pulled. Uncared-for teeth can lead to general infections
in dogs that can affect their overall health.
Older dogs need to be kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
They need to be loved by someone who understands the simple problems of
life and realizes that your senior years can be some of your best. If you
are considering a canine senior, plan ahead before bringing the dog home.
Look around your home and make it as dog-proof as possible. As most older
dogs don't see as well as they did when they were younger, it is important
to remove anything that might be a danger.
Take off your glasses and look around. That's probably how it will look
to your dog. Put water and food dishes where they will be easy to find.
Until the dog is used to your home, barricade off the back part of your
house. Even a dog that has always been well housebroken can have an
accident. This happens most often with the older dog when they can't find
their way to the door.
If they are confined to one or two rooms where you are, it is much
easier to get them started out correctly. Be sure to continue with the
same food that the dog has been eating. It would also be a good idea to
put your dog on bottled water until it has settled in its new home. Any
change in food or water can cause diarrhea.
If possible, find out what hour your dog got up and when it went out
for the last time at night. You want to make changes slowly. Like
yourself, your senior dog has a set pattern to his life and can be upset
if too much is changed all at once.When a couple of weeks have passed it
will seem as though you have always been together. Both lives will be
Remember that your dog is used to someone else's life patterns and must
adjust to yours as you must adjust to his. The work and patience you put
into it will be well worth it.
Try to get any of your dog's things from his old home: dog bed,
water or food dishes or toys. This will help make the transition
easier. If it is wintertime, be sure to keep your dog dry and warm. If he
is short-coated, have him sleep with a sweater.
In the summer be sure to keep him cool and see that he has lots of
fresh water. Senior dogs need to be kept indoors at night for both their
comfort and protection. Be sure this is acceptable to you before getting
your dog. Older dogs still need regular grooming. Toenails must be kept
short as well as ears cleaned. Many are prone to dry skin and need
medicated baths on a weekly basis.
All dogs must be kept free from fleas, ticks and internal
parasites. These can be especially hard on the older dog. For flea
protection it is safer to use organic flea shampoos rather than the
harsher chemical based ones. Regular grooming will also help you find any
new growths or other skin problems. These are common on older dogs and are
usually not a problem, but should be watched to see if they grow or change
in appearance. Should this happen, it should be checked by a veterinarian
to see if treatment is necessary.
Some older dogs have thyroid problems and need to take medication for
it. Some older spayed females can have bladder control problems. This can
usually be treated by your veterinarian. Just as the human senior has a
few aches and pains and inconveniences, so does the senior dog. Most of us
just learn to live with it and so do they.The senior dog should not be
pushed aside just because of its age.
Most still have several years to give the caring person who can see
past the gray muzzle. If you are a senior citizen, consider a senior dog
as your next "best friend.""The caring person who can see past a gray
muzzle could reap the benefits of years of love and
|Question:||Why don't older dogs get adopted?|
"The most sought after of all rescue pugs is the 'two-year-old fawn
female.' As a result, there are very few of these in rescue for very long.
And the wait for one can be substantial, often discouraging people from
adopting a rescue at all. But why a 'two year old? Why not three years
old, or one year old, or some other age?
"This seems to be a psychological thing, more than anything else. At two years old, it can be assumed that a dog will have a good, long time ahead of it. At one year of age it is 'still a puppy' with all of the problems and difficulties that description brings to mind. At three years old, most people assume that the animal has fewer than 10 years left and don't want to think of the heartbreak of losing it so quickly.
"The ultimate barrier is at
age five. Once an animal turns five, it is nearly impossible to place
quickly. And, if turned into a shelter, is almost certainly guaranteed a
quick euthanization. Most shelters are so overcrowded, the only practical
solution for them is to destroy the 'unadoptable' animals. How many
animals were destroyed last year for the crime of being over five years
old? Last month? Last week? Today? When was the last time you saw an
animal in a shelter over three years old, for that matter?"
Training an Older Dog
We don't know of any phrase in the English language that has done more harm than that old, worn-out, inaccurate adage: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." An older dog may actually be easier to train than a puppy. One of the reasons is that just about any dog who has reached the age of five or more has learned what "No" means. In order to be acceptable in human company, he has also learned generally what is expected of him. He is calmer and quieter than a puppy, and so he is able to focus better on what you are trying to teach him. He has learned about dominance and has a firm grasp of the concept of "alpha" dog. As an older dog, he is not trying to prove his dominance over humans, and, in general, he is ready to fit himself into his human family "pack," and to do whatever is necessary to make that fit as comfortable as possible.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to dog training. Some trainers believe in the use of verbal praise and other types of non-food rewards for training. The most current thinking, however, is that the use of a food-based reward system lends itself better to the concept of "positive reinforcement" and avoids the negative "correction" or "punishment" that is a component of some systems of training.
Some systems of training employ a choke collar. Please be aware that your dog can strangle himself on his choke collar. We have had reports of dogs left in their crates overnight whose choke collars got caught in the bars of the crate and would not release. The dogs slowly choked to death. Decide whether a choke collar really is necessary for your dog. Expert advice is to eliminate it, if at all possible.
In the past, dogs who were meant for high-level, competitive "obedience" work were trained using very harsh, punitive methods. Although these methods are not widely practiced today, there may still be a few stragglers around who believe in them. The Senior Dogs Project strongly advises against those training methods for any dog, but we particularly recommend against it in the case of an older dog. It is too stressful and totally inappropriate. It is far preferable to be as gentle as possible, while using positive rewards and being fair, understanding, and, above all, consistent.
Every dog is an individual. Some dogs are more highly motivated than others to please their human companions. Some will be much more sensitive than others to tone of voice or to the cues you use in giving praise. Dog owners are individuals, too, so you need to be aware of your own tendencies and preferences when it comes to training. The references listed below will help you decide what system suits you best.
Obedience training with your senior dog can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together. Your senior will thrive on the attention and extra time you'll spend together. Even if your older dog can't run as well or see as well as a younger dog, he can still make progress in obedience training. It's not necessary to "show" in competition. The experience, in and of itself, will be enjoyable and enriching for both of you.
One By One
One by one, they pass by my cage,
Too old, too worn, too broken, no way.
Way past his time, he can't run and play.
Then they shake their heads slowly and go on their way.
A little old man, arthritic and sore,
It seems I am not wanted anymore.
I once had a home, I once had a bed,
A place that was warm, and where I was fed.
Now my muzzle is grey, and my eyes slowly fail.
Who wants a dog so old and so frail?
My family decided I didn't belong,
I got in their way, my attitude was wrong.
Whatever excuse they made in their head,
Can't justify how they left me for dead.
Now I sit in this cage, where day after day,
The younger dogs get adopted away.
When I had almost come to the end of my rope,
You saw my face, and I finally had hope.
You saw thru the grey, and the legs bent with age,
And felt I still had life beyond this cage.
You took me home, gave me food and a bed,
And shared your own pillow with my poor tired head.
We snuggle and play, and you talk to me low,
You love me so dearly, you want me to know.
I may have lived most of my life with another,
But you outshine them with a love so much stronger.
And I promise to return all the love I can give,
To you, my dear person, as long as I live.
I may be with you for a week, or for years,
We will share many smiles, you will no doubt shed tears.
And when the time comes that God deems I must leave,
I know you will cry and your heart, it will grieve.
And when I arrive at the Bridge, all brand new,
My thoughts and my heart will still be with you.
And I will brag to all who will hear,
Of the person who made my last days so dear.