Need some tips for training an older dog?
Today, we’re proving that it’s totally possible to teach an old dog new tricks!
It’s a bit more challenging than training a puppy, but absolutely doable.
Read on to find out how!
Training Older Dog
I always get so mad when I hear people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
My old pups were learning new things right up until the moment they crossed the rainbow bridge.
In fact, I think it’s easier to teach an old dog new tricks than it is to teach a puppy! Senior dogs already have the basics mastered, so it’s a cinch to add on to their repertoire.
Now, if we’re talking about training an older dog from scratch, that’s a different story.
For example, if you rescue a senior pup who wasn’t properly trained by his previous owners, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Still, it’s 100% doable with a little dedication and patience.
Let’s look at why they’re more of a challenge to train. Then, we’ll get into some tips.
Why are older dogs harder to train?
If you think about it, I bet you’ll figure out why they’re harder to train. Like older people, senior dogs are set in their ways.
They’re past that crucial point in puppyhood that influences their lifelong behavior. In other words, in their minds they’ve already learned how to behave.
So, your not training him so much as un- and re-training him, if that makes sense.
So, how should you do it? Let’s check out some tips and videos that will help.
Figure out what he already knows
If he’s been with you since puppyhood and you are trying to make up for slacking on training (no judgement, I promise), then you already know exactly which commands he understands.
When you adopt a senior pup, you’re facing a bit more of a challenge. Once you know he trusts you, run through the basics.
Take a look at the video below for the first 7 things all dogs should know, then run through the basics with him.
Once you have an idea of where he’s at with his training, you’ll be ready to get started.
Consider introducing a crate
Crates aren’t just great for training puppies, they can also help give older dogs a sort of sanctuary that’s all their own.
If you adopt an older dog who never used a crate before, you’ll have to go very slowly.
Make it a comfortable and rewarding experience. Put treats in there, a cozy bed, his favorite blanket. Basically, turn it into that aforementioned sanctuary.
Don’t close the door just yet, either. Wait until he’s totally comfortable with his crate. Then, you can close the door for a few minutes at a time and work your way up.
Stick to positive reinforcement
Positive training works better than negative reinforcement at any age. When you rescue a senior dog, though, it’s extra important.
The key is to enjoy the whole teaching-an-old-dog-new-tricks activity and build a better relationship with him.
Training treats make the best rewards, as most dogs are food motivated.
For a senior with health issues that make treat training a challenge, you can use other forms of rewarding him.
Lavish him with praise and pets, for example. Or maybe use his favorite toy as a reward. Check out the tips in the video below.
Keep the distractions to a minimum
Whether you’re training an older dog that you rescued or your own senior, keep distractions to a minimum.
If you have a noisy house full of kids and other pets, take your senior outside in the back yard, or into a quiet room.
Eventually, you’ll want to add in the distractions, but when you’re working on basics it’s best to give your dog a chance to focus solely on you.
Keep it short and sweet
This tip goes for training dogs of all ages, but it’s very important for older dogs who tire easily.
Keep your sessions to right around 10-20 minutes. Watch for signs of fatigue or boredom. Training should be fun for your dog, not tedious and tiring.
Get help when you need it
Training an older dog can be a grueling task but try making it fun by joining a class (they are not just for people with puppies)!
Don’t be afraid to bring in a professional, especially if you’re dealing with a dog that was abused or has major trust issues.
You’ll want to find a class that’s just for older dogs. Puppy training classes may be a bit too much for your old pooch.
If you can’t swing classes (they can be pricey), check out Zak George’s videos on dog training. He’s all about the positive methods and is really quite fantastic!
Above all else, be patient! You really can teach an old dog new tricks! You just need to work a little harder at it.