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What age dog is best for seniors?

6 Reasons Adopting a Senior Dog Is the Best Decision You Could Ever Make

Adopting a senior dog is one of the best decisions you could ever make, and we’re not being hyperbolic! Senior dogs are sweet souls arguably more eager for love and affection than rambunctious puppies. Sure, older canines present their fair share of challenges. Chances are vet visits will be more frequent and bills slightly higher. You may have to incorporate daily medication into your dog’s routine. It’s also not easy to see a senior dog struggle with mobility or cognitive issues. Keeping a senior dog comfortable and healthy in their final years is a time-consuming and emotional process. Yet pet lovers with the energy and heart to adopt a senior dog find it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. We couldn’t agree more.

When do dogs become seniors?

Generally speaking, a dog is considered a senior at age seven. Many large dog breeds don’t fully mature until age two or three. Laura Greaves, author of Extraordinary Old Dogs: Uplifting Tales of Remarkable Seniors, says, “Giant breeds such as Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds tend to have shorter average lifespans, so five years old would already be approaching senior territory for them.” On the other hand, toy dog breeds who live long lives actually spend most of their time in what’s called the geriatric phase. Pups like Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles may not be considered seniors until age ten or older, depending on their health.

If you are considering adopting a senior dog, we commend you and highly recommend it! The ASPCA says senior dogs have a 25 percent adoption rate compared to the 60 percent adoption rate of puppies and younger canines. It’s easy to fall in love with cute puppies—we get it! The ASPCA encourages folks considering adding a dog to their family to enter shelters with open minds. Elderly animals are charming in their own ways and deserve just as much attention. Here are six reasons why.

1. They’re active without the destructive energy of a puppy

Greaves says dogs love to stay active, regardless of age. “Dogs have an almost limitless capacity for learning and playing regardless of their age, and indeed need lots of physical and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy their entire lives,” she says. Unlike puppies, senior dogs burn energy in shorter bursts. People who have less time to exercise their dogs or can’t physically take their dogs on long walks or runs around the dog park are ideal senior dog owners. Older canines have also outgrown their biting, nipping and chewing stage.

Plus, senior dogs are always up for naptime. “I have a 14-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who spends most of his time napping these days, but still enjoys a daily play session in the garden,” Greaves says. Sounds like a good day to us!

2. They come housetrained

Ask any new puppy owner about accidents in the house and they’ll list lots of recent mishaps. With senior dogs, you are way less likely to step in a misplaced poo or catch them peeing on the rug. They’ve been around a while and get it. Of course, some very old dogs might eventually experience incontinence, but more often than not, they know where to go and can alert you if their bladders are full.

3. They can still learn new tricks

Senior dogs may be set in their ways, but they’re always able to learn and grow. ​Greaves says the thing that surprises her most about owning senior dogs is how much they’re still capable of. “That’s exactly the reason I wanted to write Extraordinary Old Dogs,” she says. “To shine a light on those senior pooches that have not only not let advancing age weary them but have done amazing things in their later years. Dogs will learn and grow for as long as we give them opportunities to do so.” Some dog breeds are definitely stubborn and may be difficult to teach new commands to, but their maturity often means a more relaxed process.

4. Their personalities are predictable

Adopting a puppy, even from a breeder with specific information on a dog’s lineage, is a big leap into the unknown. Puppies are new and very impressionable. You have no idea who they are or what their personalities will be like in five years — or even in six months! Senior dogs, on the other hand, are predictable. You’re making a calculated risk based on information from shelter staff, previous owners and foster homes, on top of what you can deduce based on breed and age. Settling into a new home is also easier for a senior dog who has lived indoors with people before.

In a blog post for Old Dog Haven, Robert Pregulman, who runs Seattle DogSpot, says senior dogs also “develop behaviors that enrich and strengthen your relationship. Aging can smooth the rough edges of a dog with a hyperactive or dominant personality.” His own dog is about 16 years old and is much calmer and less reactive than when he was a puppy. “He no longer tries to dominate or challenge other dogs when he meets them. ‘Live and let live’ is his new motto.”

5. They can teach younger dogs the ropes

If you already have a puppy or add a younger dog to your family, your senior dog can be an excellent mentor. “Senior dogs can model good behaviour for the pup and correct them when they misbehave, the way a mother dog would do with her own puppies,” says Greaves. It works both ways, too. “Puppies can also help to give older dogs a new lease on life. My 14-year-old dog is a lot more active with my Border Collie-Kelpie than he might be if he didn’t have an irritating little sister to badger him into playing with her!” As long as two dogs are introduced in a slow, steady and supervised manner, they can learn from each other over time.

6. The feel-good factor is beyond compare

Finally, adopting a senior dog is an especially rewarding experience. They deserve to live the last years of their lives in a loving home, surrounded by family members who care for them and won’t give up on them. Greaves says, “The last place a dog should spend its twilight years is a cold, frightening shelter. I can’t think of a greater cruelty to an animal that only wants to love and please a human companion. Old dogs deserve a warm bed, a full belly, and all the cuddles they can handle.”

If you’re unsure about whether or not to adopt a senior dog, it’s worth reading Greaves’ book on the adventures of some of the world’s oldest dogs, including Maggie, a cattle dog from Australia. She died in 2016 at the ripe old age of 30. Then, visit shelters to get an idea of what senior dogs available to you are like!

Senior Dog Age: At What Age Is My Dog Considered a Senior?

senior dog

Thanks to improved nutrition, knowledge and veterinary care, many dogs are living longer and healthier lives. However, it’s important to recognize that aging dogs have different health needs than younger canines.

If you know at what age your dog is considered a senior and how that impacts his health, you can better care for your furry friend during his golden years.

At What Age Is a Dog Considered a Senior?

Although most people think that one human year of age equals seven dog years, it’s not that simple. Because individual dog breeds age at a different pace than others, the age a dog is considered a senior will vary with the size and breed.

In general, large dog breeds age more quickly than small dog breeds. Below is a guide based on breed size:

  • Small breeds are considered senior dogs around 10-12 years old.
  • Medium size breeds are considered senior dogs around 8-9 years old.
  • Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs around 6-7 years old.

Signs a Dog Is Aging

The most common sign of aging that dog parents share with me is that their pup is “slowing down, so he must be getting old.” This is partly true.

While older dogs likely will be slower, slowing down is not usually a sign of aging. It can, however, be a sign of joint pain, which is common in older dogs.

Some aging signs to look for, other than the date on the calendar, include:

  • Muscle loss
  • Weight gain or loss
  • White hairs on the muzzle and face
  • Increased opacity in the eyes due to thickening of the lens over time (may be mistaken for cataracts)
  • Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in behavior associated with canine dementia, such as staring blankly at walls or corners
  • Loss of hearing
  • Gum disease

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is time to get your veterinarian involved to help you improve your companion’s quality of life. Schedule a veterinary checkup to discuss ways to help your aging dog.

How to Care for a Senior Dog

With the right care, senior dogs can have as much pep in their step as younger canines. The most important things to consider are yearly veterinary care, good nutrition and age-appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.

Veterinary Care

Older dogs are more prone to certain diseases, such as hormonal conditions, cancer and osteoarthritis. Moreover, things can change rapidly in an aging dog’s body, which is why it is important to have a good relationship with a local veterinarian and take your dog in at least once a year for a physical examination and any recommended tests.

If disease is caught early, your veterinarian has a better chance of curing or managing the condition. This helps you maintain a better quality of life for your older fur friend.


Obesity is a big problem in canines. It is estimated that over half of the U.S. dog population is too heavy, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Obesity exacerbates pain from arthritis and shortens both the quality and length of life. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do for your dog is keep him at a healthy weight.

If you are unsure about your dog’s ideal weight, ask your veterinarian to help you determine that number. The middle-age spread affects dogs as well as humans, so feeding a therapeutic weight-loss diet, like the Hill’s Metabolic and Mobility diet, might facilitate weight loss faster and more effectively than feeding an over-the-counter diet. This particular formula also can be fed as a maintenance diet. Work with your veterinarian to decide what diet is best for your senior dog.

Physically and Mentally Exercising Your Senior Dog

Your senior dog needs regular exercise to help keep his joints healthy. When choosing the type of exercise your dog needs, let him take the lead. Every dog is different. One dog might enjoy fetch, while another might love to swim. Try a few different exercises for your senior dog to see what he likes best.

It is also important to continue to challenge your dog’s mind with training. Old dogs can learn new tricks, and they tend to like doing so. Plus, it helps their brains stay healthy.

With a little TLC, an aging dog can live his best life yet!

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