You can teach an old dog new tricks despite the old saying that says otherwise. Although there may be some things that are best taught when a dog is young, your canine pal can still learn a lot at any stage in their life.
At its core training at its most basic level is how you communicate with your dog. There are ample benefits to training your older four-legged friend.
Training an older dog can:
- Keep them healthier, both mentally and physically
- Make your dog happy
- Establish trust and respect
- Deepen the bond between you and your pet
- Help the life you both share to become more enjoyable
- Allow you to keep your dog when you might otherwise have to give them up
Socialize Your Dog
Socialization for your dog is crucial and is best conducted while they are puppies so they can adapt to particular environments.
Let’s use the example of slippery floors. If you bring home a dog from a shelter who has never experienced the sensation of walking on slick floors, he may be fearful and act out. If he had been exposed to them when he was just weeks old, he would not pay them attention.
Don’t give up, though, because, with patience and positive reinforcement, you can work with your pet to get used to things they have never seen at any age.
The trick to socializing your dog to new locations, sounds, smells, textures, etc. is to start with calm, low distraction locations first where your dog will feel more secure and at ease and then slowly build up to more difficult locations and distractions, but only after your dog masters the easier locations. Make these outings fun with praise and his favorite rewards!
Obedience Training for an Older Dog
Of all the kinds of training you can do with your adult pet, obedience training is the foundation and will be the easiest for your dog to learn regardless of age.
You can teach your dog any number of commands, and he will try his best to please you. You can train them in specialized tasks, tricks, advanced obedience skills, and more. Pay close attention to the signals they give you in return in how they are showing you they are learning.
However, if your dog is in the elderly phases of life, this could be more difficult or impossible for them, especially if their mental health is declining. Some studies show that training if your pet is elderly, improve their mental health and can slow down the degeneration of their brain. Be prepared to know you may need to adjust the training to what they can do, both physically and mentally.
Overall, recognize that each dog is an individual and will learn at their own pace. Be patient with your furry friend and recognize and acknowledge their attempts to learn, but do not give up on them.
Modifying Behavior in an Older Dog
Changing the behavior of your older dog may come with some additional challenges. You must first eliminate the unwanted behavior(s) before replacing it with new, good behavior(s).
Modifying a dog’s behavior is more than just saying, “No!” Remember, you are ALWAYS teaching your dog something, make sure you are encouraging and rewarding the behaviors you want rather than inadvertently rewarding the bad habits.
First, you have to make what has become a bad habit of unwanted behavior, less desirable for your dog to keep doing, so it will no longer be fun for your pet. For example, if your pet is begging for food by barking at you, don’t reward their protest by giving them something from your plate. Instead, direct them to a skill you have already taught them that is more desirable behavior, such as down or place while you eat, instead of standing next to you and barking for attention and food.
As soon as your pet begins to practice what you desire, reward them for it. Dog’s thrive off of praise and acceptance from you and live for it. Praise your dog gleefully when they are doing something you want them to and add treats. It will not take them long to feel confident about what you want and do it more often.
Overall, your dog will do his or her best to please you all their life. While training is best done when your dog is still young, it does not mean they can never be trained if you missed the initial time to start. Specialized K9 Services at Woof in the Woods believes all dogs can be trained, and we offer comprehensive training for both owners and their dogs. If you need help in teaching your pet contact us today to learn more about our training programs for dogs, and all breeds at any age.