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Can I Train My Older Dog, or is it a Lost Cause?

Monday, January 22, 2024

Can I Train My Older Dog, or is it a Lost Cause?

When most people think about training a dog, they usually associate it with puppy training. Whether you adopt an adult dog from the shelter or just don’t train your puppy for whatever reason, there are many instances where an adult dog needs proper training.

Just because your pup is getting older doesn’t mean that he can’t be trained. They say that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but this isn’t actually the case. In fact, adult dogs can sometimes be easier to train than puppies because they have a longer attention span and more self control. Puppies can sometimes pick things up faster than older dogs, and older dogs can be a little more set in their ways, but you can absolutely train a dog of any age.

While you may have to make some extra accommodations, training an older dog can be done, usually with great and lasting results! Here are some tips to help you along your training journey.

Tips for Training an Older Dog
Have Patience
Especially if you just adopted an adult dog, have patience with them. Give them a while to get acclimated to their new home. Don’t start them with strict training the second they walk into your house. Even if you got your dog as a puppy and are just now going to be doing training, it’s important to be patient. While adult dogs can learn quickly, don’t expect them to learn and retain everything you are teaching them overnight. As with puppies, training takes time and consistency.

Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Page
Everyone who interacts with your dog needs to hold them to the same standard of behavior. If jumping is an issue with your dog, and you have taught them to not jump on people or objects, make sure houseguests know that jumping up to give them a slobbery kiss isn’t allowed. It can be very confusing to your dog if certain things are allowed with some people but not with others. Discuss training with your household and make sure that everyone uses the same commands and rewards.

Be Consistent
Again, consistency is key. Sometimes your dog will go forward one step and back two, seeming to forget everything you taught him at your last training session. This is normal, and it happens even with puppies. This does not mean that your dog can’t learn the behaviors you are trying to teach him. The key is being extremely consistent. Make sure to work with your dog regularly. This will make it easier for him to learn the desired behaviors.

Keep Training Sessions Short
Even though your adult dog has a longer attention span than a puppy, it is still important to keep training sessions short. A training session should last no longer than 15 or 20 minutes. If you have a younger dog, they should be even shorter than that. The longer a training session, the more likely your dog will lose focus and start to make mistakes. The key is to have short training sessions often. Even for a very busy person, it’s easy to find 15 minutes every day to spend with your dog!

Know Your Dog's Limits
While an older puppy or young adult can go bounding after a ball or catch a frisbee mid air, an older dog may not be able to keep up with that. Older dogs can possibly have stiff joints or other physical changes that make it harder to do agility-type exercises. However, you can still do some agility training with an older dog, even if they aren’t quite as fit and agile as they were in their youth. When it comes to obedience training, an older dog can do most things that a puppy can do. If your dog can’t hear or see as well as he used to, you may need to change your verbal cues to a hand cue, or vice versa.

Talk to Your Veterinarian
Especially if you are going to be doing more physically demanding training, it is important to get your veterinarian’s okay before starting a training program. You will want to make sure that your dog is healthy enough to undergo the training. If your dog has limitations, your veterinarian will let you know. You can still train your older dog, even if he has certain health conditions. You just have to accommodate for those conditions and limitations and take it easy.

Training Helps Keep an Aging Dog Physically and Mentally Active
This isn’t as much a tip as it is advice. By physically and mentally stimulating your older dog often, you are helping them to feel younger. Like people who stay active and engaged in activities after they retire, continued training for an aging dog can help them feel like they have a “job” to do, or a purpose. It can also help to keep them at a healthy weight. Training helps strengthen your bond with your dog and give them the attention that they want and need.

Contact Us for Help
The Academy offers a number of training programs for dogs of all ages. We have extensive experience training older dogs. Whether your dog just needs basic manners or your dog exhibits major behavioral issues, we can help.

By using a professional dog trainer, your dog will not only learn the desired behaviors, but he will retain them. We do a turnover lesson at the end of the training program to “train” you. You will learn how to give all of the commands, as well as get advice on how to make sure your dog retains his new behaviors for years to come.

​If you have questions about any of our training programs or would like to sign up, please call us. We look forward to working with you and your dog!

Bryan Bailey

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Bryan Bailey

CBCC-KA Certified

Bryan Bailey, an acclaimed author, media personality, and expert in canine behavior and training, co-founded Taming the Wild and brings his diverse experience and innovative methods to his role as a mentor and director at The Academy for Canine Behavior and Training.

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