Let’s get one thing straight: We love puppies.
And seeing tons of adorable puppy photos all day Wednesday — National Puppy Day — was awesome. But as cute as puppies are, and as wonderful as adopting a puppy can be, giving a home to an older dog in need can be just as rewarding — sometimes, even more so.
And though it may seem counterintuitive, National Puppy Day is actually the perfect day to honor senior canines. That’s because the real purpose behind National Puppy Day, which was founded by author Colleen Paige in 2006, is to “help save orphaned puppies across the globe and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills.” And while adopting a puppy from an animal shelter is a great way to save a life and not support puppy mills, there are also millions of adult dogs who need homes, and finding families for elderly pets is notoriously difficult.
Here are a few reasons why a senior dog might be the best companion for you.
1. They’re more mellow
With the high-energy years of their youth behind them, elderly dogs are more likely to be content spending more of the day snoozing by your side and getting their head scratched.
“Older dogs are more mellow, loving and appreciative than rambunctious pups that need to be trained, nurtured and given constant attention,” Animal Fair Magazine publisher Wendy Diamond told The New York Post.
That’s not to say that senior dogs don’t need exercise or playtime (they do!), but they’re a wiser option for someone who doesn’t have the energy to spend every waking second chasing a puppy around the house.
2. An older pet does not mean a “problem pet”
Some people mistakenly assume that an older dog in a shelter must have ended up there due to serious behavioral issues, but pets are in shelters for all sorts of reasons. Owners die and leave their pets behind, people find themselves financially unable to care for their pets, and some pets simply get lost and wind up in a shelter.
The reality is that older pets are often already trained and housebroken, making them less likely to get in trouble than a young pup who’s still learning.
3. Those gray and white muzzles are pretty irresistible
Seriously, just look at that face and try not to melt.
4. They can be great for senior humans
Rescue groups are increasingly recommending older pets as companions for seniors. Because senior pets are typically calmer and already trained, they’re a good fit for the quiet lifestyles of senior citizens. Pets can provide friendship and support to help alleviate the social isolation that many people encounter as they age, and the acts of playing with or walking a pet can keep seniors active.
5. You may be their last chance
Senior pets take an average of four times longer than younger pets to get adopted, according to a 2013 survey from Petfinder, the largest online pet adoption database in North America. For some dogs, that simply means a longer time spent in a foster home, but for others it means a longer time spent in a cage — or worse: About 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in United States animal shelters every year.
And by the way — though we’ve focused on senior dogs here, feline lovers should take note — adopting a senior cat can be an excellent idea as well.