Fans of the MythBusters television show watched as the myth that says ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ was officially busted. At Paradise Pet Resorts we see older dogs learning amazing new tricks every day at our pet care facilities in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, and we’re here to say it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! If you have adopted an older dog, you may be amazed at her ability to concentrate and learn new things.
Regardless of the now-debunked dog training adage, adult dogs can in fact be easier to train than puppies, simply because they have the ability to remain focused on you for longer periods of time. Most senior dogs also adapt quickly to new routines, so dog training routines such as housebreaking are not as time-consuming provided you are consistent about giving your dog sufficient outdoor time and/or walks. Adult dogs generally have more control and they also don’t have to take as many trips outside as pups do just to get their business done!
Dog Training Tips for Older Pets
Training commands such as sit, fetch, lay down, and come can be taught to older dogs using doggie treats to lure your new pet to perform the behavior you’re seeking to teach. Be sure to give lots of immediate praise before you provide a treat–this allows your dog to learn to work for praise alone.
If you find your older dog is not motivated by treats when you begin a new training, you can gently place him into position, offer lots of praise, and repeat the routine several times until the dog begins to understand what you expect. It can take up to a month of regular repetition for a new trick to become a habit, so it’s important to make time for training every day during a month when you are teaching a new behavior.
To prevent behavior problems such as destructive chewing or digging (yes, all dogs enjoy these activities, not just pups), make sure you provide plenty of exercise for your dog, as well as appropriate chew toys for her size. Chew toys are especially important if you are away during the day and perhaps forgot to make your reservation at Paradise Pet Resorts for the day!
Even if you have a fenced-in, secure backyard, spending lots of time in the yard does not ensure a dog is getting the outlet he needs. Long walks, fun-filled days, or having an active game of fetch that really tires out your dog will help ensure good behavior in the evening when you and your family have settled down for the night.
Be sure to consistently reward your dog when he is doing the right things, and manage the environment he is in during alone time to prevent him from doing inappropriate things. Should you have any problems that you can’t easily resolve, please don’t hesitate to call us to ask for advice from one of our dog trainers or consider taking your pet to one of our Adult Dog Refresher classes.
Most dog behavior problems can be corrected once your pet settles into her new surroundings and learns what is expected, but occasionally a problem may be related to a medical issue or lack of socialization in your dog’s puppy years. If you are concerned, we recommend you contact your vet to rule out any physical cause.
Thank you to the American Animal Hospital Association for resource material on training older dogs.