Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Move over puppy power, and make room for senior power. It is an absolute fallacy that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks! In fact, many of the same training tips apply to puppies and senior dogs alike. With more and more people adopting pets from shelters or animal rescue groups, training and retraining older dogs is a hot topic. Here are some tips on what to do.

  1. If you need to potty train an older dog, choose one spot outside and take them their each time. Use the same phrase before going out each time, such as “Go outside?” or “Time to potty!” Consistency is key.
  2. To avoid nighttime accidents, training alone may not be enough. As dogs age, many of them have weaker bladder control. Simply restrict your dog’s access to food and water for a few hours before bedtime. This will help.
  3. For simple commands, a little deception is best! If you want to train the dog to sit, for example, watch them closely. When they start to sit on their own, say “Sit!” and then reward them for sitting. When they think it was their own idea, they are more receptive. Eventually the dog will learn to do this at your command.
  4. If you’ve adopted an older dog who was taught to beg at the table for food, you can break this habit with a little consistency. First, ignore the begging. This will often end the problem in a short time. If not, then train your dog to sit in another room while you eat. Lead them to that room and tell them to stay. When they do, give them a treat. If they follow you back to the table, take them back to the other location again, and so on. Eventually they will learn to stay in the other room during mealtime.
  5. To train an older dog to go into a crate, make it very comfortable for them, with soft bedding. You might also toss a treat into the crate now and then during times they are not using it. Don’t do this just to lure them into the crate. The objective is to make the crate feel like a positive place. Soon the dog will come to see the crate as their safe, quiet place.
  6. To keep an older dog from pulling on the leash (and taking you for a walk, if it is a large dog!), try this: stop. When they pull, then want you to go faster. Stop immediately when the dog starts to pull, hold the leash firmly, but don’t pull the dog towards you. The dog will learn that pulling does the opposite of what they want – you end up not moving at all!

Remember to keep training sessions short and always reward your dog for good behavior with treats or affection. Don’t punish for non-compliance. Keep the training time positive.

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