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How to Encourage Senior Dog Adoption

Many dog rescue shelters find it difficult to adopt senior dogs. This is usually because potential dog owners are primarily interested in adopting a puppy. In order to find a home for senior dogs, shelters need to make an extra effort to match these animals with new owners. For instance, shelters should spend time educating the public on the benefits of senior dog adoption. You can also come up with creative ways to advertise senior dogs to potential owners. For instance, you could try sharing photos on social media, providing testimony from previous adopters, and targeting specific populations, such as senior citizens and first time dog owners.

Teaching the Benefits of Senior Dog Adoption

1. Explain that senior dogs are already trained. One of the benefits of adopting a senior dog instead of a puppy, is that most senior dogs are already trained. When adopting a senior dog, you will not need to worry about the dog going to the bathroom in the house. They have likely already developed this skill. Similarly, senior dogs will already be able to follow a number of basic commands such as sit, stay, and come. Essentially adopting a young dog is a lot of work and they will require constant attention and lots of training.

  • Senior dogs can also easily learn new commands and tricks, contrary to popular belief.

2. Reveal that older dogs are calmer and less energetic. Senior dogs will require some form of daily exercise. Typically this can be achieved in the form of a short walk or game of fetch in the backyard. Puppies, however, have a lot of energy and will require ample amounts of daily exercise. Explain that before adopting a dog, you should consider the amount of time you can devote to providing your dog with exercise. A senior dog is likely the better choice if you are looking for a calmer and less energetic companion.

  • Senior dogs are also less likely to cause destruction in the home. For instance, a puppy is more apt to chew on your rug or couch as a way to burn off energy.

3. Inform customers that senior dogs are not always problem dogs. Many people believe that rescue dogs, especially senior rescue dogs, have behavioural issues as a result of their previous living conditions. Although this is true in some instances, it is not a general rule for senior dog adoption. Senior dogs are put up for adoption for a variety of reasons. As a result, many senior dogs that are available for adoption have no real behaviour issues and make great companions and family pets.

  • For example, sometimes people are forced to give up their pet because they are moving, the dog’s owner died, the novelty of owning a dog wore off, loss of a job, or the family circumstances changed.

Advertising Senior Dog Adoption

1. Provide testimonials of successful senior dog adoptions. One way to encourage senior dog adoption, is to provide potential adopters with testimonials describing successful adoptions. These stories can be shared on the shelter website and included in brochures. Some people may be more likely to adopt a senior dog if they can learn about the positive experiences of previous adoptions. This will also help remove the stigma that senior dogs have behaviour issues.

  • Testimonials can also explain that senior dogs can actually live for years once they are adopted.

2. Post photos on social media sites of senior dogs looking to be adopted. Another way to advertise senior dog adoption, is by posting photos on social media of dogs that are currently looking to be adopted. You can provide a few details about the dog including their age and temperament. These photos can be shared on a variety of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is a great way to advertise the rescue agency as well as individual dogs seeking a home.

  • You can also share the background stories of senior dogs to help motivate potential adopters. Some individuals will find these stories heartwarming and will look into adopting a specific dog as a result of its history.
  • For instance, you could write "Fido is a Wheaton Terrier who is approximately 8 years old and was found in an abandoned building with no food or water. After receiving a thorough vet exam, Fido is doing great. This dog loves to cuddle and is looking for a forever home."

3. Create special programs to adopt out senior dogs. Many shelters will create special programs to help with adopting senior dogs. For instance, some shelters focus exclusively on senior dog adoptions and all of their promotional material is dedicated to senior dog adoption. Alternatively you could try providing extra incentives and programs for senior dog adoption.

  • November, for example, is senior dog adoption month. Throughout the month of November your shelter could provide discounts and added incentives for senior dog adoption.
  • You could also try reaching out to local media sources such as television, newspapers, and radio programs to help advertise senior dog adoption.

Matching Senior Dogs with Potential Owners

1. Promote senior dog adoption to first time dog owners. Older dogs are a great choice for first time dog owners because they do not require the same amount of attention or training as a young puppy. For first time dog owners, training can be a very difficult and time consuming task. As a result, adopting a senior dog, that is already trained, may help to ease the transition into life with a dog.

  • Tell potential adoptees to talk with an individual who is currently raising a puppy in order to get a realistic idea of the amount of work and time involved.
  • If they are not interested in constantly cleaning up after the puppy, a senior dog may be the right choice for them.

2. Target senior citizens to adopt senior dogs. Senior dogs make excellent companions for senior humans. Companion animals, such as dogs, provide many benefits for the owner. For instance, they provide physical activity, increased social engagement, love and affection, and some believe they even contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. As a result, senior dog adoption is a fantastic way to provide senior humans with companionship and purpose during the latter stages of life.

  • Provide senior citizens with added incentives to adopt a senior dog. For example, some shelters provide senior citizens with a discount on adopting senior dogs. This could be as much as 50% off in order to help encourage senior dog adoption.
  • Senior dogs can also come with a starter kit and food to help in the transition.

3. Find foster homes for senior dogs. At times it may be difficult to find an individual to adopt a senior dog from your shelter. An alternative to adoption is fostering. This means that an individual will provide a temporary home for the dog as it awaits permanent adoption. Fostering is an excellent option for people who are unable to commit to full time dog ownership, but want to help out dogs in need. Fostering a senior dog will help remove them from the stressful environment of the shelter.

  • Advertise your foster program in the local media.


  • When matching a senior dog to a new home make sure that you provide potential adopters with plenty of information and literature about dog ownership. This may help reduce the number of senior dogs that get returned to shelters because the adoption was unsuccessful.
  • Conduct a home visit before adopting senior dogs.
  • Ensure that senior dogs are up to date on all of their shots prior to adoption.