K9 Corner, Jan. 31

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sometimes it’s best to adopt an older dog

By HELEN PALMER

Contributing writer

I heard that a person called a trainer about training her “very active puppy,” and conceded that it had been a long time since she had had such a young dog.

Actually, her description sounded like the pup was acting perfectly normal for its age, which brings up the choice of adopting an older dog or purchasing a pup.

Older animals are available for adoption all over the country. Animal shelters are the first places one thinks of for adopting an older dog, but there are also breed rescue centers and often breeding kennels which want to find good homes for their seven- or eight-year-old brood bitches, and occasionally their 10- or 12-year-old stud dogs.

Adopting an older dog requires some thought and consideration for the animal. First, know the breed personality. Some breeds are inclined to attach themselves to one person or one family and adjust very slowly to a new environment and a new family. If you like the breed and understand that this is a normal part of the personality, by all means try adopting one. Just remember that the dog will probably ignore you, resent you and discourage contact with you for several weeks or even two or three months. Providing food, water, shelter and cheery words each day from all members of the family while giving the animal its own place, (I use one of my dog runs) allows the dog time to grieve over the loss of its old home and accept its new home by the casual, but pleasant contacts with its new “pack” members.

Most people do not give the older animal this time for adjustment. Some dogs do not need it. Shelter dogs that have been lost a short time are often delighted to join a family without a period of adjustment, although they may be hesitant if there are other pets already in the family. Feral dogs and abused animals take the longest to adjust and require immense amounts of patience and persistence to convince them that your household is the best place in town.

It always fascinates me that people are drawn to adopt those animals that have survived the worst abuse. Even I have done it and in analyzing my feelings I find myself saying, “After enduring all this torment and fear and pain, they deserve to live and be loved and cared for.”

The second thing to remember when adopting an older animal is its age when working or playing with it. Utilize any training it has had in the past, but watch for tiring and signs of stress, such as a long recovery time after playing. The older dog may need more quiet time to itself, but again, it may want new situations and stimuli. Watch its personality.  One of my dogs developed congestive heart failure and the veterinarian recommended rest and retirement. However, she had a “go-go” personality and ran off three times during her week of rest, so I returned her to work which is what she wanted.