Is it ever too late to start training a dog?
Short answer: no, of course not!
Sure, you may have your work cut out for you when you train an older dog, but it’s totally doable.
Read on to learn more.
Is It Ever Too Late to Start Training a Dog?
Like I said, the short answer is “no.” All dogs are capable of being trained, whether they’re brand-new pups or senior canine citizens.
Yes, puppies are easier to train since they are like little blank slates.
Older dogs often have to unlearn negative behaviors while learning positive ones, so it’s kind of like doing twice the work.
Still, it’s 100% doable!
The better question, perhaps, is “what type of training does my adult dog need?” We’re going to get to that in just a minute.
First, though, I think we should look at the benefits of training beyond just ensuring that you have a well-behaved dog. Trust me, it’s relevant.
The Benefits of Training Go Beyond Having a Well-Behaved Dog
Yes, having a well-behaved dog is the main reason behind training. However, it’s far from the only benefit.
Let’s look at two other fantastic upsides to dog training.
Training helps you bond with your dog
Training, at its core, is really about establishing a bond with your dog.
All those hours that you put into teaching him to sit, stay, come, wait, and potty outside translate to a deeper understanding of each other.
He comes to learn what he can expect from you and vice-versa. He also learns that he can trust and rely on you.
It keeps your dog healthier
Dog training also helps improve your dog’s overall mental and physical health.
Enrichment activities, like trick training, challenge his brain. Teaching him physical tricks, like how to jump rope, keeps his body fit.
If you want the most bang for your training buck, though, try agility training. It does both!
The great thing about these benefits is that they apply whether your dog is 8 weeks or 8 years old.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the bonding benefit is even more important than the “teaches him to behave” benefit when it comes to adopting adult dogs.
Why is bonding with an adult rescue dog so important?
One word: trust. Adult rescue dogs have either come from terrible environments or wonderful ones. Both are equally tough on them.
On the one hand, an awful environment- like a puppy mill, abusive home, or tiny cage- can leave him traumatized and scared to trust people.
On the other, though, coming from a loving home means he’s grieving the loss of his previous owners and dealing with all sorts of confused feelings about why he’s not with them anymore.
In both cases, he has to learn to trust you, which is where training comes in to play.
Okay, so we know that it’s never too late to start training and why we should train older dogs. Now, on to what type of training they need most!
What type of training do adult dogs need most?
The type of training that your adult dog needs depends entirely on what he already knows.
My boy Coop was 6 months old when we rescued him. He spent that entire first 6 months in a tiny cage, so as far as training went, he was a blank slate.
Let’s pretend that your dog is as well and start from the beginning. For each type of training, I’ll give you my favorite video tutorial to get you started.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s entirely possible to socialize a dog even if you miss that magical “window” during puppyhood.
My Coop had zero socialization before he came to us yet he actually ended up being my most polite and well-behaved dog around company.
He also got along amazingly well with our other dogs and cats.
Overall, you’ll use the same socialization tips that you’d use for a puppy, like those in the video below.
The main difference is that you’ll take things a bit slower with an older dog, especially one that’s been abused.
While potty training is usually the first thing that we teach our dogs to do, I rank it below socialization for a reason.
Honestly, I’d rather have a dog that’s not terrified of people than one who always does his business where he’s supposed to.
That’s not to say it isn’t important. No one wants to spend their days cleaning up dog waste, right?
So while it’s ranked just below socialization, it’s only less important by an iota.
Again, the methods aren’t much different from puppy potty training. The video below gives some great tips.
Like potty training, obedience training ranks right up there near socialization in importance.
Fortunately, once you’ve established trust, obedience training is a breeze. Well, maybe not a total breeze, but it’s not really all that difficult.
In fact, I’ve had an easier time teaching my adult dogs the most important basic commands than I did my puppies.
Adults are usually mellower, for one thing! They also seem more eager to please than puppies.
Zak George’s video has great tips on how to train ANY dog to do the basics, so check that out.
Beyond the basics: Advanced training for older dogs
If you focus on socialization, potty training, and basic commands, you’ll have a wonderfully behaved companion in no time.
What about tricks and advanced training, though? Is it ever too late to teach a dog new tricks?
Again, the answer is a resounding “nope!” In fact, my dog has learned more tricks as an adult than she ever did when she was still a puppy.
The more time I spend training her, the deeper our bond grows.
Just last night, I trained her to give me kisses by sticking slices of cheese on my face.
I NEVER could have done that when she was a puppy. She would have taken half of my face with it. Not because she’s vicious or anything, but because she was just too rambunctious.
Bottom line: it’s never too late to train a dog
Long story short, it’s never ever too late to train a dog. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Yes, you’ll need to have a bit more patience. Yes, you may have to untrain them first.
However, if you put the work into it, you can have a beautifully behaved dog of any age.