“Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks”
Here we are going to talk about training an old dog & guide you past the hearsay. That old wise tale, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is completely false. You can ALWAYS train an old dog. As dog trainers, there’s one statement we hear all the time; “My dog is too old to train so there’s no point in training him/her”. First of all, we can ALWAYS train or continue training your dog. It’s not too late, I PROMISE. There’s no age too young and no dog that’s too old. Whoever told you that is lying to you & we will tell you why.
Sometimes life keeps you busy, or you just haven’t had the time to train your dog. Well now years have gone by and your dog is counter surfing or begging for food. Maybe they refuse to listen to you. Maybe they drag you down the street on your morning walks. Well, you’ve probably given up and just accepted the fact that you have to settle with Fido disobeying and taking control. Well I’m here to tell you that there is hope. Sure it may be a little more difficult & may take a little extra time and attention but with all things, you have to be patient and give a little TLC. Therefore you also have to remember that these behaviors are a direct result of OUR lack of due diligence. We have to teach our dog standards and continue to enforce these standards.
Over the years your dog has established his own habits & hasn’t properly learned what we expect out of them. You can make all the excuses you want, but we have to move on and learn from our mistakes. Which leads me to the start…
First things first: Establishing A Baseline
We need to establish which behaviors we deem as disobedient or “bad habits” and furthermore what our short term and long term goals are with your dog. The best way to do this is by setting up a Free Evaluation at Global K9 Protection Services, The K9 Experts. If you are too far away from us, set up an eval with a reputable trainer in your area.
Let’s start by pulling out a notepad and writing down your long term and short term goals. That way you can visualize each individual goal & breakdown an approach for each. Likewise I would make a separate page for each “bad behavior” (maybe even two pages depending on how digressed each behavior is) so you or your trainer can break down; where you went wrong, how did we get to this point, how do we fix it, training notes & progressions. Within these notes, we truly want to be honest with ourselves because we can truly teach your dog what you expect out of him.
Like I said, it can be a long process & long term. As a result, your dog and your family will be much happier when bad behaviors are extinguished.
Training an Old Dog: When we break down our current issues, there’s probably been no enforced obedience therefore leads to a lack of structure, control & self sanity. Consequently, obedience training gives you & your dog structure, control and sanity, so it also helps build a quality bond. When accompanied with the proper methods, techniques and consistency, over time you and your dog are building a healthy relationship for the years to come.
Prioritize which behaviors are important to training your old dog, your lifestyle & start implementing the steps to accomplish these commands. We would recommend Sit, Down, Place & Let’s Go. These are the foundational commands that will help gain control of your dog. For example: Let’s say your cooking dinner and your dog is free roaming the kitchen but slowly keeps inching his nose closer and closer to the pasta dish on the table. If your dog understands his “Place” command, you can use that to control his behavior and create boundaries.
Obviously most families have a busy lifestyle and don’t often have the proper time to train their dogs. If you find your lifestyle is too cluttered to initiate the proper obedience training, then we would recommend hiring a professional & proven trainer or training company to assist you. With that being said, a professional trainer can only do so much. Therefor it is crucial that once your dog has begun his/her training, it is followed up by enforcing and maintaining those standards at home. If you don’t, you dog will go right back to the behaviors you spent time and money to eliminate.
Let’s say your dog HATES car rides. He refuses to get into the car & you feel you’ve exhausted all of your options. One option, like stated previously could be hiring a professional trainer but I’d say this is a behavior you can teach on your own. With everything, this is going to take a lot of time, patience & positive experiences. This approach I will discuss can loosely be applied to many different environmental scenarios. So with that being said, here is our approach:
We are going to start by breaking down why your dog totally despises anything involving the car. So let’s analyze why…What are his prior experiences riding in a car? Does your dog associate certain places with riding in the car? Most likely the answer is YES. Overtime your dog has begun to put two and two together that anytime he enters the car he ends up at the veterinarian office where he’s pricked and prodded. Or maybe he ends up at the groomers where there’s unpleasant sounds & strapped to a grooming table. So how do we fix this you ask? Hence the answer is fairly simple but the results of changing this behavior may take some time.
Grab a pocket full of your dog’s favorite treats & lets start by making the car a super fun place. Don’t even worry about going on a drive, we are simply going to just associate the car as a positive and fun experience. Let your dog know you have some treats and “Lure” him/her in the car and immediately reward your dog with a treat. Repeat this process until your dog becomes excited to enter the vehicle. Therefore some dogs may be more stubborn than others and may take a little more TLC, that’s when we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer.
Now, let’s add on to this… Grab a friend or family member, some treats & let’s hit the road. Lure your dog into the vehicle & reward him. Get into the vehicle with your dog and close the doors. Reward him. Now let’s get your designated driver to begin the drive. As the vehicle starts to move, grab his attention with a high pitched voice, pet him & reward him. Remember we are taking baby steps, so that means we are only driving around the block & right back home followed by a super fun play session outside of the vehicle. Slowly increase the lengths of the drive with all super fun destinations. To build this positive/fun experience for your dog, we are ALWAYS ending with something that benefits your dog (Dog park, Play time, etc.).
You can use this approach for a wide variety of unpleasant behaviors for your dog, just remember to always make things fun & positive. There are many different ways to build upon this & if you are ever uncertain, reach out to a trainer for some advice.
We could go on and on about different behaviors, scenarios and training your old dog. That would take up way too much time & would eventually get boring (for myself & for you). We highly encourage all of you to do your research, take your time & stay patient. These unwanted behaviors your dog has developed in the past are LEARNED behaviors/habits & we are trying to show them a new way. Teach them that these unpleasant experiences can now become fun & positive. Don’t ever listen to somebody who tells you that you can’t teach Old Dogs New Tricks.