3 Tips for Successful Adoption of an Older Dog

18 Sep, 2019 by Sylvia

If you’re thinking of adopting a shelter dog who has reached maturity, we offer for your consideration the following 3 tips for successful adoption.

It’s heartbreaking to realise that there are thousands of mature dogs in Australia in need of homes. Some of them have been abandoned. In some cases, the pet owners have passed away or moved to aged care facilities where they cannot take a dog.

Many of these senior dogs are lovable, wonderful, loyal animals that would be excellent candidates for adoption. You can find them by contacting shelters and animal rescue services such as Animal Welfare League Australia, Golden Oldies, and Pet Rescue.

1. Evaluate Your Prospects

Old man resting in garden and cute dog climb on his chest and kissing him. Pet love concept
Photo: Budimir Jevtic / Adobe Stock

It is essential to make a good match between your family and the dog you adopt. You want to choose a dog that will fit as seamlessly as possible into your family’s lifestyle. This can be challenging to determine, so you don’t want to rush the dog adoption process. You’ll want to be selective. Ideally, this means you will take the time to meet and evaluate multiple dogs before you choose which one to adopt.

The organisation you work with might have some information available about each dog’s history and previous lifestyle. If that information is known, you’ll definitely want to take it into consideration as you choose which dog to bring home with you.

The shelter may also have notes made by their staff members about each dog’s habits and personality traits. However, it is ideal if you also make your own observations about each dog and its behaviour. It’s helpful to have an understanding of dog body language. When you meet each dog, this can help you to determine whether it is actually calm, or if it is so stressed out it has shut down.

Once you’ve chosen a dog that you think would be a good fit, it can be helpful to hire a dog trainer to give you a second opinion about whether the dog looks like the excellent prospect you think it is.

2. Help Your New Dog Acclimate

Old man sitting on the sofa with his lovely dog and book. Animal love
Photo: agneskantaruk / Adobe Stock

There will be many uncertainties for both you and the new dog as you bring him home with you for the first time. Mutual trust will need to be established.

Implementing a routine can help your new dog begin to trust you. Feed him and walk him daily at the same time. When you walk him, stick to travelling the same route consistently so he gets to know what to expect from the neighbourhood.

Your dog may be mourning the painful loss of his previous owner and his old routine, so proceed with empathy as you introduce his new routine. If the dog was abandoned, he may be feeling terrified. Realise that he probably will not feel safe immediately, even if you do your best to make him feel secure in his new surroundings.

Unless you have reliable confirmation that the dog has been housebroken, it is unwise to make this assumption. Proceed as if he has not already been toilet trained. It’s also unwise to assume that your mature dog can be trusted not to chew your belongings.

If your dog is exhibiting unwanted behaviours, keep in mind that they may be motivated by underlying health issues. For example, if you have a dog who is frequently urinating in the house, a trip to the veterinarian may reveal that he has a bladder stone.

If your mature dog does have some existing health issues, these are known as pre-existing conditions. They may not be immediately obvious when you first meet him. He may have experienced vision loss, hearing loss or be suffering from ailments such as arthritis or diabetes. You’ll want to know as soon as possible if you are dealing with any of these problems. So, as soon as you can after adopting your older dog, it is a good idea to schedule a vet appointment. Your vet can help to advise you on any health issues your dog may need to be treated for.

3. Understand Pet Insurance for Older Dogs

The dog sleeps sad waiting in front of the house. Straight looki
Photo: methaphum / Adobe Stock

Even if your dog is generally healthy, it is likely that health conditions may arise as he ages. Pet insurance can help you manage the ongoing costs of veterinary care for your pet in the future. However, it is important to be aware of the differences between ordinary pet insurance and pet insurance for older dogs.

Higher Pet Insurance Premiums for Older Dogs

For starters, you can expect the insurance premiums to be a bit higher for older dogs. Older pets have a much greater likelihood of needing veterinary care than puppies and young dogs do – so pet insurance providers understandably work hard to minimise the risks they’re vulnerable to when they insure older pets.

How Pet Insurance for Older Dogs Works

Most senior pet insurance plans cover your pet against accidents and injuries, but not illnesses. Insurance against accidents and injuries is the easiest type of pet insurance for older pets to qualify for.

A senior Retriever mixed breed dog sitting outdoors
Photo: Mary Swift / Adobe Stock

It is typical for some providers to refuse cover to older pets — in particular, to pets who have attained the age of 8 years or older. It is also commonplace for some insurers to provide cover with exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Many pet insurance policies guarantee to provide cover for the pet’s entire lifetime assuming you do not allow the insurance policy to lapse at any point.

Do be aware that insurance providers are likely to consider your pet’s entire veterinary history before paying out any claims. If your dog is still relatively young, it may be possible for you to avoid an extensive list of coverage exclusions by purchasing insurance immediately. For an old dog with many pre-existing conditions, an accident-only insurance policy might turn out to be the most viable insurance option.

We hope these suggestions are helpful to you as you work through the adoption process. Best wishes for finding and adopting the ideal dog.


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