Shelter Dog Adoptions: The Pandemic's Silver Lining

    This has been an incredibly tough year, but the increased number of people fostering and adopting shelter dogs has been a silver lining. If you’re thinking about adding a furry friend to your family, please consider adopting a senior shelter dog. Grey Muzzle’s Executive Director, Dr. Lisa Lunghofer, answers some common questions.

    What suggestions do you have for people who are considering adopting a shelter dog, particularly a senior dog?

    Lisa: When adopting any dog—senior or not—it's important to be sure the dog is a good fit for your lifestyle. For example, some senior dogs are high-energy, while others are happy to snooze the day away. It's critical to consider what would make a good match for you in terms of temperament, energy-level, and health care needs.

    It's also important not to make assumptions about senior dogs. Age is not a disease. Dogs are usually considered senior at the age of seven, but medium and large dogs typically have a lifespan of 10 to 14 years, with smaller dogs tending to live even longer.

    Of course, as people and dogs age, we all tend to have more medical issues, which can be expensive to treat. It’s important to get as much information as possible about the dog you are considering adopting, including information on diagnostics (e.g., blood panels), treatment provided (e.g., spay/neuter), and any other known health needs. Dental disease is a particular problem facing older dogs who are surrendered to shelters. Many dogs have never had proper dental care and as they age this can be a real problem. Not only does it make it hard for dogs to eat, it also can result in other health problems. Dental cleanings and more extensive care can be expensive, but once dogs get treatment, their health and quality of life are greatly improved.

    We hope people will be open-minded when they consider adopting a shelter dog. Age is just a number. It’s important to think about the qualities of a dog that would be a good fit for their family.

    What are the benefits of adopting a senior shelter dog?

    Lisa: Opening your heart and home to a senior shelter dog is a deeply rewarding experience. Older dogs who have lost their families are especially grateful for a second chance to love and be loved again. And people who have adopted senior dogs tell us they would do it again in a heartbeat.

    With a senior dog, what you see is what you get. Older dogs are usually housetrained and well past the teething stage. All dogs are individuals, but senior dogs tend to be more laid back and easier to live with than younger dogs. Many shelters offer “seniors for seniors” programs with reduced adoption fees for senior citizens.  Some shelters even offer reduced fees to anyone taking home an older dog—a bargain for what could turn out to be years of unconditional love!

    You’ll find many wonderful senior dogs at shelters and rescue groups from coast to coast. Search for Grey Muzzle grantees by state on our website under “Who We Help.” You can also search online sites like or, or better yet, visit an animal shelter near you, where distinguished old dogs are waiting to meet you.

    Is there anything else you think people should know about adopting senior dogs from shelters or rescues?

    Lisa: If you're ready to adopt, please consider opening your heart and home to a senior dog. There are many amazing old dogs waiting in shelters right now for somebody like you to bring them home. Nobody is more grateful or loving than an old dog who knows he's gotten a secon chance. And when you adopt a senior dog, you'll be helping bring us closer to a time when every senior dog thrives, and no old dog dies alone and afraid.

    If you can't or aren’t ready to adopt, you can still help older dogs. Most animal shelters, rescue groups and sanctuaries rely heavily on volunteers. You can donate your special skills or spend time walking or comforting a senior dog awaiting adoption. Fostering is another a great way to help save lives without making a lifetime commitment. And, by donating to The Grey Muzzle Organization, you can help carefully vetted animal shelters, rescue groups and sanctuaries improve and save the lives of senior dogs in communities all around the country.