Despite the old saying, teaching an old dog new tricks is possible. Dogs are lifelong learners, which means they are adaptable to learning new things at any stage. If you think training your untrained adult dog or teaching your dog new tasks is impossible, think again.
Younger dogs may catch on to new tricks more quickly, but older dogs have longer attention spans and more self-control than younger dogs, so it’s just as easy, if not easier, to train them.
5. Untrain and Retrain
How you train your older dog will depend on several things, including their age and health, their breed, if you’re teaching them a new trick, or if they’re new to your home and have to train them thoroughly.
If you have adopted or rehomed an older dog, they may have had little to no boundaries in their previous home. First, you want to observe them, let them explore their new home, then take note of any bad habits they have that may need undoing. Next, you want to start teaching them your house rules, which may involve some “untraining.”
The behavior you may need to work on may include chewing, constant barking, and housetraining. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t catch on right away. Since their behavior likely stems from la ack of boundaries, be firm but gentle in establishing yours.
4. Be Patient
Just as it takes time for dogs to learn new tricks and habits, it will also take time to break old habits. And whether you’re teaching a new trick or reinforcing already learned ones, it may take a little longer with older dogs than with a puppy.
Be patient and remember that older dogs may have some physical limitations that may prevent them from learning new tricks. If your dog is eager to learn and obedient at first but suddenly stops or quickly loses interest, take a break, and let them rest and try again later.
Additionally, training sessions should be short anyway because you don’t want to wear them out. Sessions for older dogs should last no longer than 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Stay Positive
Overall, dogs are generally eager to please and want to make you happy. They want your attention, approval, and your love. The more positive reinforcement you give them, the more likely they are to want to continue working and learning. Even if they struggle a little initially, they will catch on because they want to make you proud.
Instead of focusing on what your dog is not doing, focus on what they are doing right and reward them with lots of positive feedback, affection, and even treats. Make training a fun and rewarding experience that your dog looks forward to.
2. Be Consistent and Keep up a Schedule
Just like with training a younger dog, consistency is vital when training an older dog. Feed them at the same time every day, take them for walks at the same time, and work on training at the same time every day. They will become accustomed to the routine, and they will quickly learn.
And even if they don’t adapt quickly or they have an off day, it’s still essential that you maintain consistency and stick with the routine. Training is mentally and physically stimulating for both you and your furry friend. So, even if you think they’re not catching on, if you’re sticking to the routine, they probably are. If anything, training will strengthen the bond between the two of you.
1. Start Simple and Work up to Harder Tasks
Whether you’re teaching your dog a new trick or just doing a refresher course to see what they need work on, it’s best to start with smaller, more straightforward commands and work up to harder ones and multiple commands.
Some simple verbal commands you can start with are:
- High Five
- Shake Hands
Once they have mastered these, you can move on to some more complex tricks, such as:
- Walk Backwards
- Turn Around
- Lay Down
- Roll Over
- Play Dead
When they can do the simple tricks one at a time, you can try doing a chain of tasks, like “sit,” “speak,” “shake hands,” and “lay down.” Remember to be patient. Even if they have mastered doing each trick separately, they may have trouble combining them all. Also, be mindful of your dog’s age and any limitations they might have. Don’t make them do any tricks that may cause them pain.
Finally, you can teach them even more challenging tasks, such as putting away their toys, retrieving their leash and scent tracking.