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How to make an older dog feel at home after adopting them

Adopting a rescue dog is one of the most rewarding things you can do because you know how deserving they are of a second chance. With so many animals needing homes, the sad reality is that older dogs may take longer to find their forever home. Luckily, many people choose to bring an older dog into their home, and with good reason. Older dogs have usually already been socialised, house-trained and learned basic commands. Their personalities are established, so through meeting them and talking to shelter staff, you will have a good idea of the dog you are adopting and how they will fit in with your family. They are often calmer too, being over the highly energetic puppy and adolescent stage. This makes them ideal for first-time dog owners or for someone who prefers a quieter life, including short walks rather than a run around the block!

Bringing home an older dog who has led a long life requires special planning, similar to bringing home a puppy. So what are some of the key considerations?

Making them feel secure

There are many reasons why older dogs are up for adoption – their previous owners may have passed away or moved to accommodation where dogs are not allowed. These dogs have all experienced attachment and loss, but one of the remarkable qualities of dogs is their ability to love again. Regardless of their individual personalities, older dogs bond strongly with their new family. To help them feel secure, allow them their space when they need to just curl up, but also spend time with them each day to gain their trust. You can do this by offering gentle pats, grooming and massage, and by taking them for walks and playing games. Older dogs love to have fun and can definitely learn new tricks! And remember, dogs are happiest sleeping indoors and preferably near you, particularly in their senior years! Don’t forget to keep them warm and comfortable with soft bedding and plenty of padding suited to older bones and joints.

Introducing them to other dogs in the home

Moving to a new home is stressful and may be particularly so for an older dog, as your home may be very different from their last one. Any dog you adopt will need to be gradually introduced to other dogs in your family, starting on neutral territory such as at the rescue organisation or shelter. An older dog may feel more comfortable with another adult dog rather than being faced with an energetic youngster! When bringing your older dog home, take things slowly to reduce their stress. Make sure to supervise the dogs together as they get to know each other, using lots of praise and treats when they are getting along well.  They will each need their own bed and food bowls to avoid competition or aggression.

Keeping them well and comfortable

A common assumption is that older dogs all have pre-existing health conditions. This isn’t always the case and even if a dog does have existing health issues, they are always assessed before being offered for adoption. That means when you adopt an older dog from a reputable organisation, you can be sure that you will be given all the information you need and that the dog is suitable to be rehomed as a pet.

To keep your dog well and comfortable, you must be aware of any health conditions and ongoing management they may require.  Just like bringing home a new puppy, book in with a veterinarian soon after you bring your new dog home and have regular checks as advised. You can also look into taking out pet insurance for your older dog, but check the policy age limit and be aware that pre-existing conditions may  not be covered. And remember that older dogs with health issues still make wonderful pets – they just need that extra bit of care.

Some tips for keeping your older dog happy are to provide warm comfortable bedding, seek veterinary advice about a high quality diet that maintains a healthy weight and joint health, offer regular exercise such as gentle walks or swims, and protect them from the cold. Your veterinarian will also advise you about the importance of dental care and of any special dietary requirements or supplements your dog may need.

Adopting an older dog will bring much joy to you and your family and with the right care and a loving home, you will have the privilege of their companionship throughout their senior years.

Just like humans, older dogs need extra attention to prevent or manage some of the health issues that can arise. You can’t always avoid a trip to the vet, but you can be prepared and help to protect your back pocket against potentially huge bills with a pet insurance policy.