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How to Teach an Old(ish) Dog New Tricks

How to Teach an Old(ish) Dog New Tricks

You know the old saying… “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

We’re here to bust that myth.👊

Your adult, or even your senior dog, can learn new tricks whenever you’re ready to teach them! What do you need to make adult dog training a success? Patience and positive vibes. Lots of it. This will see you through the constant practice sessions needed to reinforce the new learnings.

Challenging? Yes, but it can be done. Especially with a little help. 

Training tips to teach older dog new tricks: 

Consider what your dog already knows. 

If you’ve done training with your dog before, then you’re already familiar with what they can do. If you’ve adopted an adult dog, check in with the previous caretakers to get to know your would-be dog student better before your training session. 

  • Begin with basics. Does your dog know basic commands? Avoid expecting too much too soon and start with basics before gradually building up to more advanced tricks.
  • Build on your dog’s existing skills. Does your dog know “fetch”? That’s a great starting point for building up to fetching their leash for a walk, for example.
  • Break bad habits. Did you adopt your dog as an adult? You can also use adult dog training to transform unwanted behaviors into new and improved ones.

Give breaks as needed. 

You can’t teach old dogs that refuse to learn new tricks because they’re spent. (Yawning, licking, and sniffing the ground are common signs of a bored, disinterested dog trainee.)

Observe your dog’s energy levels to ensure you don’t force them to physically and mentally exert more than they can. Unlike energetic puppies who can train for hours, adult dogs and senior dogs tire more easily, so their brains may need a break faster.

Remember that training is a workout for the brain, and for older dogs, short and sweet sessions are best!

One trick at a time. 

You might feel eager to teach your dog a library of tricks you’ve always wanted them to learn but take it easy on their brain — especially when dealing with dogs with mobility or cognitive issues (which are typical with aging). 

Create an adult dog training plan that caters to your dog’s age and health. Then stick to one trick at a time to help your dog retain new tricks faster. By being considerate of your dog’s needs, you make these sessions fun for them, too. 

Commit time and consistency. 

You can teach old dogs new tricks, but the process isn’t as easy as a walk in your favorite park. Based on the study conducted by the The Messerli Research Institute’s Clever Dog Lab (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna), they concluded that “You can teach an old dog new tricks — but younger dogs learn faster.” 

So it’s important to remind yourself that adult or senior dog training is a marathon, not a sprint. You might take two steps forward and one step back. Be committed to the process, and you will eventually reap the rewards you seek. 

Treats are your dog’s best friend. 

Second to you, of course. Sometimes, older dogs can learn new tricks if it’s for the right reason. And that reason could be your dog’s favorite, mouth-watering treat. 

By now, you know your dog well enough to understand their taste. A hard, crunchy treat might be good for your dog, but they might go bonkers over a soft or freeze-dried treat of a specific flavor. Go for what makes your dog most motivated, and reserve that “special” treat for training sessions only.  Don’t forget to pair these dog-training treats with praise or compliments to double down on positive reinforcement! 

You ABSOLUTELY can teach old dogs new tricks. And now you also have a list of dog training tips that proves to the naysayers that the adage “old dogs will learn no tricks” is outdated. With the guidance of a loving and patient pet parent (that’s you!), your old(ish) dog can learn anything they put their mind to. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a MYTH. 
  • With patience, positivity, and determination, you can teach your dog anything you want. 
  • Begin by evaluating what your dog already knows and build on that– like going from fetching a ball to fetching their leash for a walk, for example. 
  • Give breaks as needed. This is exercise for your dog’s brain, and they might tire easily! 
  • One trick at a time. Don’t throw a whole library of new tricks at your adult dog at once! 
  • It’s proven that younger dogs learn faster, so be patient and consistent with your older dog. Know that it might take a while, but if you stick with it, they will learn. 
  • Save your dog’s favorite treats for training time. Sometimes they need the right incentive! 
  • Go out and prove the naysayers wrong!