National Pet Month is running from 1st April to 4th May, and this year's theme is ‘Pets and the elderly: enjoying later years together'.
It aims to illustrate how providing a home for a senior pet gives them a new lease of life, whilst making a difference to the lives of their owners.
Often judged before they have had a chance to prove themselves, senior dogs are sometimes overlooked in favour of attention-grabbing, energetic puppies, without much consideration as to why they would make a fantastic addition to any family. A bouncing puppy, eager to please, can take the shine off the quiet senior dog sitting patiently in the enclosure next door. Sadly, many spend a long time in shelters when they should be experiencing the loving, happy home they deserve during their twilight years.
A common misconception is that senior dogs are taken to shelters because they are problem pets. This couldn't be further from the truth as it is often due to a change in their owners' circumstances, meaning they are no longer able to provide them with the care they require. A new baby in the family, a new job, less time to devote to the dog, moving away and suffering from long term illness are all reasons people provide for giving up a senior dog. It is usually no fault of the dog's that they have been taken to a shelter.
Advantages of adopting a senior dog include the fact they will have probably been toilet trained and may already know simple commands such as ‘stay' and ‘sit'. Teething and all of the other problems that accompany puppies will have already happened a long time ago, so they are unlikely to get the urge to chew on the leg of your favourite piece of furniture. They don't need to be watched constantly to make sure they aren't going somewhere or doing something they shouldn't be, whereas a puppy does. Training them can also prove easier because they often have longer attention spans, as puppies can quickly become bored.
Senior dogs have distinct personalities because of their age and experience, as opposed to a puppy that is still developing theirs. A well-established personality enables a prospective owner to gauge whether they will fit in with their family and lifestyle, without any surprises. An older dog will still enjoy walking, playing and affection, minus the demands of a puppy. Despite having lower energy levels than a younger dog, they will still love greeting their owner at the door and enjoy spending as much time with them as possible.
Older dogs can make ideal pets for senior people. Their decreased energy levels and likelihood to have been trained make them easier to handle, compared with a puppy needing constant attention and stimulation. Senior pets are content with a quiet life, whilst still enjoying all the attention a loving owner can give them. Furthermore, their older age means they can make great companions for the very elderly, who may be unable to make a long term commitment.
Providing a senior dog with a second chance creates a unique bond between them and their new owner, with some claiming their dog understands they have been rescued. Saving a senior dog from living the rest of their life without a loving home is a tremendous achievement. Their older age doesn't mean they deserve a home less than any other pet. Animal Friends are supporting Senior Pet Month coming November 2015.