Here at Delaware K9 Academy, we often get asked if age has something to do with a dog’s ability to learn new things. Many dog owners wonder if old dogs can still pick up new skills or if it is a hopeless situation after all. If this sounds like your situation, our discussion on dog training for older dogs might come in helpful for you and your canine buddy.
Dog Training Essentials for Senior Canines
VCA hospitals explain that ideally, dog training should begin as early as 7 to 8 weeks. It’s the best time to teach basic obedience commands like sit, stay, and down. Teaching dogs at a young age also helps them socialize better, providing them better opportunities to connect with other dogs or family members. However, this doesn’t mean that older untrained dogs can’t learn the same skills. With enough patience and proper dog training techniques, we believe that anything is possible.
Here’s how you can move forward with your dog training sessions for older dogs:
Set Realistic and Reasonable Goals
A lot of things can change as a dog ages. While their playfulness and curiosity might not quickly fade, other aspects such as strength, vigor, and cognition can slowly deteriorate over the years. As a result, it’s crucial to set reasonable and realistic dog training goals for your senior fur buddy.
Give your dog enough time to adjust to the lessons. Also, take note of any changes in energy levels. Sometimes, older dogs get tired faster than the younger ones. Some senior dogs might also have a shorter attention span compared to others.
Start with untraining bad habits
Senior dogs, especially those that grew up in less than ideal places, can sometimes pick up destructive behaviors like excessive barking, lunging, and climbing on or scratching furniture. It’s extra crucial to identify such problems and begin to address them early on.
The key to succeeding in this step is the correct use of positive reinforcement. With positive reinforcement, you can slowly build your connection with your senior dog. It also allows your dog to identify the things that please you, such as staying still when you’re away or avoiding unwanted reactions like jumping on people.
Ultimately, you want to associate rewards such as yummy treats or belly rubs with the new action you introduced. Also, you want to redirect poor behavior into something more desirable. One example of that would be lying down and staying silent when you have a guest instead of lunging or barking excessively.
Teach Socialization Skills
Socialization is another fundamental skill that dogs need to learn. It allows them to safely and harmoniously interact with other animals or people around them. Here are some ways you can introduce socialization to your senior canine buddy:
- Maximize walks to help your dog get exposed to new places, smells, animals, and humans.
- Introduce your dog to more people by inviting one or two guests at a time.
- Be extra sensitive to your dog’s body language and lookout for signs of aggression or fear such as snarling and snapping.
- Once your dog has started to adjust better, you can take him to a dog park for more interactions with fellow animals and other humans.
Keep Your Dog Happy With Mental Exercises
Besides helping you enjoy a happy relationship with your dog, dog training also allows them to maintain a sound and balanced mind. Once your dog masters the basic skills, you can start introducing additional tricks doing a handshake, rolling over, kissing, or retrieving things like a leash or the newspaper.
Dedicate Enough Time for Snuggles and Belly Rubs
Even senior dogs would still demand snuggle time. After you end each training lesson, we suggest dedicating a few minutes to snuggle or play with your dog. You can watch TV together or sit by the porch while you relax after a long day.
If you’re dealing with a dog that experienced heartbreaking separation or loss of trust, spending quality time and providing constant reassurance can also help in the training journey.
Dogs Can Learn, No Matter How Old They Get
Dogs, regardless of age, remain eager to please their fur parents. So, even if you’re dealing with a five-year-old or a much older dog, you can still teach him or her several skills and tips. However, some training lessons such as those that involve agility and speed may not be suitable for an aging dog.
This may be due to existing health problems like weak hips, poor eyesight, painful joints, heart problems, or incontinence. If this sounds like your situation, we suggest focusing on doing fun and exciting brain games, nose work training, or other similar activities to keep your dog’s mind sharp and in good shape.
We also suggest getting everyone in your household involved in the training. This way, all of you have a uniform approach when responding to the dog’s behavior, such as barking or whining. It eliminates confusion as it ensures that every member of your pack is on the same page.
It would help if you also made each training lesson fun and enticing by offering delectable and healthy treats. It’s a great way to reinforce a lesson and associate feel-good emotions to a specific command or cue.
Get Professional Help for your Senior Dogs at Delaware K9 Academy
Training an older dog is definitely possible! However, as we have established in the discussion above, it’s not an easy feat to pull off. It would likely take longer to teach the skills you want, requiring you to extend your patience and persistence.
If you’re having a hard time teaching your senior dog the essential dog etiquette and skills, Delaware K9 Academy can help. We provide training classes for any type, size, age, or breed of dog. We offer Bootcamp Training and private dog training lessons, perfect for various kinds of dogs.
You may reach out to us today to learn more about our dog training lessons. Feel free to contact us today!