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How to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

 

     The old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not only a cruel slight to more mature dogs, it simply isn’t true. While it can be more difficult for an older dog to grasp a concept, they have considerably more patience and attention for it than a young person or dog. In fact, it is strongly recommended that you continue to teach older dogs because it helps to keep their minds working and help keep them feeling young. To succeed, you have to know how to teach an old dog new tricks, because you do have to approach the training a little differently.


There are a few things to know when you are learning how to teach an old dog new tricks that will make it go a little faster.

 


Physical Abilities


Depending on the dog’s age, you may be limited as to what tricks you can teach. A five-year old dog has far fewer physical limitations than a ten or eleven-year old dog. You have to be realistic about what you can train the dog based on what it can do. It’s the most important consideration because if a dog’s joints and muscles are aging, you need to limit the tricks to things that are achievable. Jumping and rolling over probably aren’t realistic goals for a dog who has hip problems. Consider tricks like stay, speak, or shake a paw instead.


Current Skills

 

The first thing to consider is what the dog’s current skills are. If your dog has never learned how to do tricks, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start now. It does mean that you have a very different starting point than a dog that knows all of the basics or some of the more advanced tricks. Dogs who already know some tricks have a built in system already in place. Whatever method was used to train them to do other tricks. If your dog doesn't know any tricks, consider what really motivates them to determine the best method to reward them.

 

Think Practical


Older dogs are already programmed to have certain reactions to their environment or tone in your voice. They know what the leash means, and it is probably already a source of excitement. Teaching your dog to retrieve the leash as a trick will be considerably easier because there are two incentives, a treat and a walk. Dance is another great trick because dogs already do a lot of shaking and tail wagging. If your dog still gets excited and wiggly, this can be a perfect chance to easily turn that into a trick they do on command.


Verbal Encouragement


Older dogs already have an established relationship and know what the different tones in your voice means. Your praise can mean almost as much as a treat. This is particularly good to use if your dog is a bit overweight. Treats are great, and older dogs will respond to them, but you can use less and give more verbal encouragement to help teach old dogs new tricks.

 

 


You can contact us for more information about how to teach an old dog new tricks, how to train a young dog, or any other question you have about your canine companion.

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