We all know the famous adage: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But for many older-dog-lovers, it’s clear that that’s not necessarily the case. Not only can older canines learn new commands and skills, but doing so can help keep them in shape mentally and physically, giving them a longer lease on life. Let’s learn more about how to train an old dog and enhance their life and yours.
How Old is Too Old to Train a Dog?
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Can Older Dogs Be Trained?
Whether you adopt an older dog or raise a puppy to a ripe old age, you can almost always still teach it better habits and new commands. In fact, some older dogs are easier to train, especially if they already have an arsenal of skills under their collar. Many senior canines also have a better attention span than a puppy or young dog, and their advanced self-control can alleviate potential frustration. As long as you have the patience, it’s worth giving them a chance.
Benefits of Training an Older Dog
When you train a dog new commands, whether a puppy or an older dog, it will impart many benefits that can improve their way of life. For older and senior dogs, new tricks and activities can improve their mental capacities and keep them sharp, even if they have physical limitations. If they are still spry enough for more activity, new training can help correct bad behaviors or reinforce better habits. And of course, dogs love and need to stay active, even in small doses. Proper exercise and movement can help keep them from developing premature joint issues and improve overall health, too.
How Old is Too Old to Train a Dog?
When training an older dog, it’s less about the number of years and more about what they can handle. If your senior dog has physical limitations, you might want to keep their new training focused on their mental and emotional health while keeping them from doing any acts that might hurt them. For dogs that are closer to the end of their journey, less physically demanding commands like “shake” or “speak” could help keep their golden years enjoyable.
When Should You Start Training a Dog?
If you adopt a middle-aged or senior dog, you’ll want to assess their current capabilities, skills, and limitations before you start new or re-training. If you notice any bad habits or behaviors that need to be corrected, consider getting going immediately. The sooner you train an older dog, the quicker it will learn to listen to you and obey your commands. Training and physical activity can help dogs work out any stress they might be carrying and help them rest easier and sleep better.
Common Challenges When Training an Older Dog
When training an older dog, it’s important to be patient — while they can learn new skills, it might take longer than with a young dog. Also, keep those limitations in mind; you don’t want to force them to learn things that hurt or exhaust them. Another unfortunate consideration with senior dogs is working with their declining eyesight and hearing; if yours is living with vision and hearing issues, you’ll need to reconsider your training strategies. Stay patient and work within the dog’s capabilities and you’ll both get better results.
How to Train an Older Dog
Now that you know it’s possible, you’ll want to learn some strategies to ensure you make the most out of training and don’t waste the time you and your dog have together.
Unlearn Bad Habits
First, you’ll want to help your dog unlearn any bad habits or behaviors. Dedicate the beginning of training to correcting these issues, which the dog might have struggled with since their puppy days. As your canine companion learns what new behaviors please you, they will be happier knowing that they are well-behaved — and a true “good dog.”
Teach Basic Obedience
If your older dog doesn’t know basic obedience, you’ll want to establish a base of behavior from which they can learn more. If they are physically capable, “sit” is a great place to start, since it’s easy to learn and can lead to other tricks. Teach the dog to follow your commands when you ask them to “come,” “down,” or “stay,” as well. Always use positive reinforcement, too — negative reinforcement is no good for you or your furry friend, no matter the age.
Teach Other Commands
Once you have nailed the basics, consider what other commands your older dog might benefit from. If they still have some pep in their step, they might benefit from learning how to fetch, even if they’re not quite the speedster they once were. Another fun command is the classic “shake,” an act that can create an enhanced physical and emotional bond between you.
For more limited dogs, try teaching them the names of different objects or toys, which can put their brains to work and improve their memory. No matter what, keep training sessions limited in length and frequency and only work on one or two commands at a time, making sure they don’t get too tired or sore.
Online Dog Training Courses - Pettable Academy
If you need some help teaching your older dog, consider enrolling in online dog training courses with Pettable Academy. Our professional dog training experts can lead the way as you teach your dog at a pace that works well for them and yourself, helping strengthen the bond between the two of you along the way. Take our simple questionnaire to get started and let Pettable Academy teach your old dog new tricks.