Can you train an old dog with new tricks? Turns out, you certainly can! But the question then becomes, how old is too old for your dog to be able to retain new information and commands?
It’s actually quite simple:
There is no age limit to training an old dog. The best way to approach training is to focus on untraining bad habits, start from the basics but offer plenty of breaks, start with easy tricks and commands, enroll in an obedience class, create a stable routine, and keep your dog’s age in mind. Remain positive; positive reinforcement works wonders.
Keeping your dog’s age in mind is key to successful training at any stage in their life.
In this article, I will explore various tips and tricks to making training a blast with your elderly pup!
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Plot twist: There is no age limit to training a dog!
Dogs have been biologically wired through years of selective breeding to want to please humans until their very last day on earth. As such, even very old dogs are still eager to learn something new and make their humans very happy. That is why you shouldn’t give up on continuing to train your dog - because they are always willing to learn.
Just be mindful of how age plays a role in training. The brains of young and older dogs differ, as you might anticipate, and this can impact how you approach training.
More than anything else, puppies are like sponges, eager to learn new skills and establish habits.
Adult dogs may also act as sponges, but not to the same degree or in the same ways. Adult dogs have years of old habits and behavior, as well as a pretty set understanding of the world… as puppies do not.
The foundation of dog training applies to both puppies and senior dogs alike. As such, it is always best, to begin with the basics and adjust those as needed for your particular dog!
If you have brought home an elderly rescue and need to refresh on house training, follow the same techniques as a puppy. Take the dog outside on a schedule and reward when pottying in the correct place.
For crate training, follow the same puppy methods. Introduce your dog to the crate, rewarding each positive interaction.
Begin feeding in the crate and offering toys and treats inside the crate. Gradually build longer and longer periods in the kennel. If anything, an older dog may be easier in this regard, as their bladder tends to be better than that of a puppy!
If you’re training tricks or cute commands, start simple and be patient, just like a puppy.
Just note that older dogs lose interest and fatigue easily, so taking proper and frequent breaks during training is a very good call.
You’ll have the most success if you begin training your older dog with simple tricks.
Start small and simple, especially if this is your dog’s first time learning tricks as a whole. Tricks such as “touch”, “place”, “sit”, and “down” are great places to start.
Our pups want to please us, and they begin to doubt themselves when they don’t. Build your dog’s confidence with straightforward instructions before going on to more difficult ones so that your dog understands that they can learn well and do what you want!
Besides, many tricks require foundation tricks to be successful. For a trick such as “roll over”, your dog must first know how to lay down on command! It’s like building blocks; you build upon each trick.
If you’re finding that training is getting a bit difficult, or you feel your dog needs to get out there and socialize more, joining a local obedience class can be a good option!
You and your dog could have a lot of fun in the class, and you could learn some helpful advice along the way.
There are classes out there specifically for adult and older dogs, so your four-legged family member won’t need to deal with the nuisance of puppies. Plus, the course can be specially tailored for older dog brains!
Dogs love routine - they thrive on them!
Routines and schedules help your dog’s brain process what is intended to happen next, putting them in the right frame of mind throughout the day. This also helps with behavior, especially when mental and physical stimulation is on the calendar (such as walks and puzzle toys) are on the calendar.
Making sure that your training sessions happen on a schedule can significantly aid with how well your dog retains the information. It doesn’t have to be long sessions either - scheduling some quick 10 - 15 minute spurts are more than enough for your dog!
Your dog’s mind may feel young, but their body is not.
If you are training a senior dog, keep their age in mind. Not all tricks are easy on an older body, so avoid those that require a lot of physical exertion that could be painful for your elderly pup.
Tricks such as begging, sitting pretty, or lots of running back and forth may be a poor choice. But tricks like giving paws or vocalizing can be good options for a senior pup!
As well as this, older dogs get fatigued easier and will need breaks. Be sure to provide all the necessary breaks to keep your pup happy and healthy.
Training should be a fun experience for all, so focus on positive reinforcement training methods!
This is especially important in older dogs that may have much less interest in training than they once did as young pups.
Positive reinforcement refers to a training method in which the dog is rewarded for good behavior, not bad behavior.
Instead of punishment, your pup doing the wrong thing is simply ignored, and all the focus is placed on your dog doing the right thing!
This works especially well for tricks and fun commands and gives your dog a good goal to strive for. The reward is what inclines your dog to repeat the behavior.