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The novel idea behind adopting a senior dog can bring unlimited joy to your life if you are well aware of the pros and cons involved with it. A canine friend in his senior years will give you unique companionship but will require some tender love and care from your end. The term senior in itself may be misleading because the age of seniority differs among breeds. Not all dogs above 7 years of age are senior; a large dog like a German Shepherd will near seniority at the age of 8 – 10 years where as a medium breed Beagle will be in senior years at the age of 6 – 7 years, a Pug at the same age is medium adult. Thus be aware of the life stage of the canine you are adopting, for it will help in determining the upkeep routine and training techniques. Apart from the basic questions about breed facts and the exact bodily conditions of the selected dog, you must dwell in answering these critical 5 questions before you adopt a furry angel in his later years.
1) Are you well-equipped and informed to handle age related and medical issues?
A dog in his senior years will have health issues like any other species. As his caretaker you must be well informed and prepared to deal with the medical issues related to old age of the dog and the expenses involved to keep him healthy. Large Breed senior dogs often develop mobility issues and similar chronic issues run with medium and small breed dogs. It is most advisable for you to understand the day to day care & routine of the dog that you are going to bring into your life and be willing to spend the time and money that is needed to keep him/her healthy.
2) Will you be able to rectify undesirable behaviour with patience?
Adult dogs have already developed a personality and certain habits before meeting you. If the pooch’s previous owners or the rescue shelter it was in, neglected its undesirable habits such as garbage eating or excessive barking, you will have to alter such habits. You will need patience and perseverance to correct such habits and behaviour through corrective training. Start by making the dog feel absolutely safe at your abode and use techniques like reward reinforcement to correct the bad habits.
3) Are you emotionally ready for this joyous but short ride?
When you bring a senior buddy home, do remember that prime of his life is over. Though you both will cherish this association but is going to be a short one. A mature adult dog, say at 6 or 7 years of age can live a healthy life for another 6-7 years but will require regular care from your end. Your input will be higher if you adopt a senior dog at 10 years of age but the union is going to be even shorter. Be emotionally prepared for this but do not let this affect the bonding you both share in this short span of time.
4) Can you undo the bad training?
You can teach new tricks to an old dog but undoing an existing behaviour is a real task. An adult dog has been through a whole lot of life before you adopted him and as his new parent you must be ready to adopt his earlier life too. Adult dogs when coaxed into changing some old habits may turn into fear biters meaning that they will start biting out of their own fear, especially if it associates your corrective command with some bad experience it has had in its previous life.
5) How to deal with the authority issues when it comes to senior dogs?
Although adult dogs are used to being pets and follow their human parents, but remember that in spite of your best of intentions and abundant love you have for the dog, you are still a new person in his/her life and it may take a while before it gets accustomed to you. Especially if the dog has been to other foster homes or has had any bad experience with strangers, you will have to invest extra TLC and time before the senior canine accepts you or responds to your friendship or listens to your commands.
Age is just a number with dogs as they remain our pampered babies for their entire lives and never cease in using their puppy eyes to melt our hearts and getting their way. Being well informed and prepared before adoption will only enhance your experience and ensure that the association is a superb one filled with unconditional love.