Adopting an Older German Shepherd: 3 Things to Know About

Categorized as Buying and Breeding
adopting an older German Shepherd

Before rushing ahead and getting a puppy, you may want to take a breath and consider the thought of adopting an older German Shepherd. It is true that puppies, regardless of breed, are cute, and some are just plain adorable. These two reasons alone are enough to make most people choose a puppy as opposed to an older dog. 

However, despite how tempting it may be to bring home the first puppy you lay eyes on, puppies are not for everyone. Just take a look at the number of puppies who are dumped at shelters every day. The truth is, for many potential German Shepherd parents, older dogs may actually be a better fit, and here are the reasons why.

Pros of Adopting an Older German Shepherd

1. You Get What You See

The first thing that I like about adopting an older German Shepherd is that we know exactly what we are getting. You don’t need to guess what his coat type is, how tall he will be, and how much he will weigh. 

Moreover, you’ll be aware of important information that is hard to find during early puppyhood, such as the dog’s personality (whether he is outgoing or shy), activity level (whether he is an adventurer or napper), and grooming requirements, making it easier for you to figure out if the dog you have an interest in is the right fit for you or not.

2. You Can Skip All The Tasks Involved With Raising a Puppy

Raising a German Shepherd puppy from a puppy into an adult dog is a time-consuming task that requires patience, dedication, and consistency. You’ll need to house train him, teach him commands, socialize him, and curb his bad behaviors. The challenges that you can skip if you choose to go directly to adulthood.

While the amount of training varies from one dog to another dog, many mature German Shepherds are often already house trained and have some degree of basic training and manners. It’s less likely you’ll see destructive behaviors such as chewing, nipping, and accidents in the house. Your furniture and carpet will thank you for your decision to adopt an older dog over a puppy.

3. Older Dogs Need You More Than Ever

When it comes to getting a dog, many people are quick to adopt puppies and younger dogs but often overlook older dogs. As a result, most shelters become overcrowded with too many older dogs. Unfortunately, because of the limited room these shelters have, older dogs are often the first to go straight to the euthanasia room to make room for younger, more adoptable dogs. 

By adopting older dogs, you are not only providing them a comfortable, caring home in their last years of life but also saving their life from death row. Your generosity will be repaid with love, loyalty, and friendship that you would never have otherwise known.

4. Older Dogs Need Less Exercise 

This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your lifestyle. If you’re an active type of person, an older dog is definitely not a good fit for you. But if you’re a more chill-out type of person or a senior yourself, an older dog may be your furry match in heaven. 

Whereas a younger dog can make you out of breath, an older dog is happy going for a short walk around the neighborhood in the morning and snoozing during the day. Also, with an older dog, seniors don’t need to worry about what would happen to their dogs should they outlive them.

Cons of Adopting an Older German Shepherd

In contrast to the pros, there are plenty of cons as well. Here are some issues that can come with an older dog.

1. Older Dogs Can Be Carrying Some Baggage from Their Past

Older dogs may come with some baggage from their previous homes, such as certain phobias, lack of training, or socialization. However, if you’re adopting from an excellent German Shepherd rescue or shelter, the dogs will likely already have been temperament tested and evaluated. You’ll know right from the get-go what kind of challenges that you are going to be facing.

There is one warning about adopting an older German Shepherd. That is, they may not show their true colors in the shelter’s noisy environment. Only after you bring them home, the dog’s true temperament will come to the surface. Fortunately, by working with a qualified German Shepherd rescue or a shelter, you can minimize the risk of bringing home the wrong dog.

2. It Takes a Longer Time for Older Dogs to Adjust and Bond

Many people interested in adopting older dogs are concerned with two main issues. They are worried that an older dog will need a longer adjustment period and difficulty bonding with their new family.

For the first issue, there is really no exact measurement of how long it takes for older dogs to adjust. Every older dog is different. Some dogs may take months to settle into a new environment, while others will take only a week or two.

The main thing to remember here is to give your new elder furry member all the time, space, and support he needs to settle in to his new home.

As for the bonding issue, here are a few things to keep in mind.  Many older German Shepherds are handed to shelters or breed rescues not because they are at fault for something but because they often outlive their owners or have been too large to follow their owners to an assisted-care facility. Since they have bonded with their previous owners, they are capable of bonding closely again if you give them a chance. 

3. They May Have Some Health Issues

Although shelters routinely worm and treat fleas and ticks on dogs as they are accepted into their facilities, you should still be prepared to deal with other health problems that come with older age, which can involve providing regular vet visits and medication. The health problems range from simple things like a urinary tract infection to severe things like chronic arthritis and cancer.

Where to Find an Older German Shepherd

When looking to adopt an older German Shepherd, there are a multitude of shelters and German Shepherd breed rescues that can help match you with the right dog. Between the two, in my opinion, rescue groups are a better place to find good, adoptable older German Shepherds.

A breed-specific rescue is an organization comprised of experienced breeders, trainers, and owners of that breed. These people know everything about the breed and have an extensive placement experience and process, so there is a good chance that you’re going to find the most compatible dog here.

If you adopt an older German Shepherd through a breed rescue, you’ll have to go through a certain amount of screening. Some people might be put off by this, which is understandable as it seems to be an invasion of privacy. 

However, this process is necessary to ensure that both the new owners and the dogs are happy with each other. Some rescue groups even go further by allowing a foster-to-adopt scenario where you can foster the dog for a period of time to see if the dog is the right one for you and your household.

How to Adopt an Older German Shepherd Through a Breed Rescue

Every breed rescue organization has a different way of operating, but the basic steps are similar.

1. Fill Out an Adoption Form

The first thing you have to do is fill out an adoption application. The application will ask you to answer several questions like:

  • What is your past experience with dogs?
  • What was the cause of your dog’s death?
  • How many children do you have at home?
  • How old are your children?
  • What other pets are in the home?
  • What are your expectations for your new dog?

After you have turned in your application, one of the rescue volunteers will call you back, and answer any questions you might have, and discuss the next steps to take to adopt a dog from the rescue. 

2. Meet Up with The Dogs

After this initial screening process, you’ll then be invited to meet the dogs in person. The meeting will take place either at the rescue place or at your home. You’ll be watched to see how you are with the dogs and how the dogs react to you.

3. Wait on Waiting List

Once your assessment has been reviewed and you’re deemed an appropriate candidate for the rescue’s dogs, you’ll be placed on a waiting list. When the rescue receives a dog they think might be a match for you, they’ll give you a call.

4. Introduce You to The Dog

You will then be introduced to the dog the rescue chooses for you. The dog will have been examined, vaccinated, and treated for worms. He will be housed at your home for at least 10 days to a month, during which he will be monitored and assessed to verify if the dog is compatible with you.

5. Complete The Paperwork

To finalize the adoption process, you’ll be asked to complete the rest of the paperwork. This will include a contract that allows the rescue to visit the dog at any time. The contract will also state that the rescue group has a right to take the dog back if, during the inspection, the volunteer discovers that the dog has been neglected and mistreated.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful and useful as you raise and train your German Shepherd.

Here are some of my favorite reviews for German Shepherd supplies that I personally use and recommend. If you do decide to purchase them, please remember that I’ll earn a small commission which helps me maintain this website.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.