Move over puppies—senior dogs have a leg up when it comes to being great pets.

By Jen Reeder

Age isn't just a number at shelters. Sadly, dogs 7 and up are among the last pets to be adopted, often because people mistakenly believe senior pets won't be as much fun as younger dogs. In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, Laura T. Coffey, author of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts, shares why you should give mature mutts a new leash on life.

What You See Is What You Get

Senior pets have reached their full size, with an established personality. "You won't have any surprises," Coffey says. Knowing a dog's qualities, like being snuggly or independent, goofy or sassy, will help you find the perfect fit for your family.

You Won't Break the Bank

Shelters and nonprofits commonly offer financial incentives. Before anyone "permanently fosters" or adopts a senior dog, organizations like Old Dog Haven in Washington state and Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in the San Francisco Bay Area will cover dental care and veterinary exams, diagnostics, surgeries and vaccinations.

They Can't Be Blamed

Sure, some shelter dogs have behavior problems, but many times owners surrender aging dogs because of financial troubles, illness, military deployment, relocation, divorce or other life changes. "Through no fault of their own, pets are left looking for a new family," Coffey explains.

Perfect for Busy People

Older dogs are generally calm, socialized and usually house- trained and spayed or neutered, unlike puppies. According to Coffey, "It's kind of like jumping ahead to the best part of being a pet parent."

It's a Rewarding Experience

The compassionate act of helping a senior dog live out its golden years in a loving home is life-changing, says Coffey. "When you go out of your way to help an older dog who has run out of options, you get so much in return: affection, gratitude, unconditional love, and so many happy memories."

Tips for Keeping Senior Dogs Healthy and Happy

Get them off the couch. Older dogs can morph into couch potatoes if you let them, so continue taking them on frequent walks or swims to keep them moving as they age. Ask your veterinarian about mobility exercises for advanced or arthritic dogs.

Prevent Injuries. A few adjustments to your living space, such as placing rubber mats under rugs to prevent slipping or moving the dog's bed downstairs, can help prevent a painful fall. Some dogs will also benefit from an orthopedic bed.

Keep them entertained. Dogs need mental as well as physical exercise, so stimulate their brains with puzzle feeders and interactive games to combat cognitive conditions.

To adopt a senior dog, visit The Grey Muzzle Organization for established rescues in the U.S., or search for adoptable senior pets on