Many old dogs have the potential for making wonderful companions. It’s unfortunate that these elderly fellows are often ignored though as many potential adopters prefer puppies over older dogs because they’re cute and cuddly and they get to live much longer lives. Yet, older dogs shouldn’t be underestimated as they also have so much to offer.
Many older dogs have many good years to share, and the fact they are older, makes them more on the mellow side and more reliable. With puppies, you may not know how they turn out temperament-wise at least until they mature; whereas with older dogs, what you see is mostly what you get. If you have young kids in the household, you may be wondering if an elderly dog can make a good match. The answer varies based on several factors. Following are some important considerations to keep in mind.
A Glimpse into the Past
It’s important to find out more about the history of the older dog. Many dogs cannot tolerate children either because they weren’t properly socialized as puppies or they simply have never been around children. Some dogs may not tolerate kids because they had negative experiences such as being teased or handled roughly. If the previous owners can attest that the dog lived in a household with kids and lived happily around them, this can be a good sign; however, consider that dogs may not react the same way to different children.
A Matter of Temperament
If you do not have a history of the dog’s past, you will have to rely on the dog’s temperament. Shelter workers may be able to provide you with some of this information; however, there is no way to know for sure how a dog behaves with children until the dog is welcomed to the household and exposed to them in different situations. A dog may appear to be accepting of children at first, but then can become nervous when he see them running through the house, waving their arms and screaming at the top of their lungs. Some dogs may also be fine with children, but may not appreciate them coming close when they are eating or sleeping.
Importance of Health
Health has a great impact on a dog’s overall temperament. When choosing an elderly dog, it’s important to have his health checked out. An older dog may become more grumpy because or orthopedic problems or underlying medical conditions that have an impact on behaviors such as hypothyroidism or canine cognitive dysfunction. An elderly dog may have less tolerance than a younger one if he has mobility issues and it’s painful to move away to avoid interacting with the children. Also, elderly dogs suffering from vision loss or hearing loss can be more likely to startle when children approach unannounced.
Choice of Breed
The breed of dog you are selecting can also make a difference of how likely he is to get along with your kids. Some dog breeds are more likely to be child-friendly and tolerant. However, it’s also important to consider that not all dogs are created equal and among child-friendly breeds you may stumble on a dog who doesn’t tolerate children well, and then, surprisingly, a breed that you wouldn’t expect to get along with children, instead does very well with them!
The Role of Parents
Parents often do a lot of homework to select a dog that’s good with children, but it very important for parents to also teach children how to behave around dogs. Many dog bites happen in households where parents expect their dogs to tolerate everything children do. This is not fair and it’s an accident ready to happen. Even the calmest dogs have a breaking point. Children need to be taught to treat dogs with respect and that dogs need to be left alone when they’re eating and sleeping. Most of all, no child and dog should never be left alone unsupervised.
The Bottom Line
Old dogs may lose their homes for various reasons and it doesn’t necessarily have to be because of a behavior issue. The death of the owner, a recent move, the onset of allergies, a disability or simply not enough time may be some explanations. One of the biggest advantages of matching an older dog with kids is according to the Senior Dog’s Project the fact that an older dog’s temperament is already known. However, it’s important for parents and children to realize that an old dog may not be able to keep up with an energetic child.