HSN Blog

Teach Your Old Dog New Tricks

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The answer is yes! If you adopt an adult or even a senior dog, you may be amazed at their ability to concentrate and learn new things. Here are some tips and tricks:

It’s Never Too Late

Don’t let old clichés make you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Even a senior dog, with no prior training, can wrap their brain around the following instructions. Reward training is going to be the key for your adult dog to learn positive behaviors and reduce even a lifetime of bad manners. Most dog behavior problems are easily resolved once they have settled into their new home and understand what is expected of them, but occasionally a problem may be related to a medical issue or lack of socialization in the dog’s early years.

Two Critical Tools for the Job

In addition to your dog, you’ll need two other constant companions for training:

  • Treats
  • Patience

Be sure to consistently reward your dog when he or she is doing good things and manage the environment to prevent him from doing inappropriate things. Should you have any problems that cannot be resolved easily, don’t hesitate to contact our dog behaviorist to ask for help. Also, be mindful of quality and quantity. Your treats should be quality, something your dog particularly goes wild for, and your patience should be in large quantity or you’ll be the one going wild with frustration.

Things Start Great with Crates

They are older and larger, so you might feel wary of constricting them with a crate, but they need the same basic structure as a puppy. Get a crate that’s the proper size, build up their endurance for staying in it and get them to adopt it as their den. Food and rewards will enhance the association with a positive experience. Never use the crate as a punishment – that makes it feel like a prison. The crate can be their residence when you aren’t able to supervise.

Long on Patience, Short on Sessions

Maybe the easiest health angle to recognize is that they’re older and tire more quickly. They don’t have the exuberance of youth, so don’t train them like a puppy. Keep training sessions short and learn your dog’s signs of exhaustion, which might include:

  • Yawning
  • Excessive lip licking
  • Lifting front paw

Clear Focus

They are older, so it feels like the pressure’s on you to catch them up on training. You might mistakenly embark on a long list of desired behaviors or responses, juggling multiple tricks at once. Don’t get them confused! Start with one or two, like sit, down and/or come when called. Be sure to give quick praise before you give the treat, so the dog will eventually work for praise alone.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Learning a new behavior or trick is going to be a lot easier for your older dog than a behavior you want to control. It’s going to require a lot more patience to eliminate acts they’ve been allowed to do repeatedly from puppy to adulthood. Use treats to reinforce alternative behaviors, but not to feed them in an attempt distract from jumping up or being aggressive. Your dog will misinterpret this as a reward for the negative behavior.

If you hang in there, your old dog shouldn’t have any more trouble picking up new tricks than an energetic young pup. The bonding experience for both of you will be more than worth it. Soon enough, you’ll both be able to shake on it!

Humane Society Naples Dog Training Schedule

The Basic Obedience class begins Saturday, September 8 at 9 am for pups over five months of age. Sign up before Wednesday, September 5!

The Puppy Obedience class begins Saturday, September 8 at 10:30 am for pups under five months of age. Sign up before Wednesday, September 5!

  • The classes are six weeks long at the same time and day every week
  • Five furry students per class
  • HSN Alumni receive 50% off classes!
  • Any rescue pup gets 15% off classes – no matter where they were adopted from!

Contact HSN Dog Behaviorist Bekah Coffing at dogtraining@hsnaples.org to sign up for any of these classes or visit hsnaples.org/training for more information.

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