Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: How Old is Too Old for Dog Training?

You’ve probably heard of the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but is this something that you can take literally when it comes to dog training?

Just like humans, dogs learn faster while young. Puppies are easier to teach, especially when it comes to adapting to their environment and learning good habits. 

However, if there’s one thing you need to know about dogs is that they’re eternally curious. This trait makes it possible for you to teach your dog something new at any age. 

Is it too late to train my dog?

If you’re wondering if your dog is too old to train, rest assured that there are great benefits when you start training it now regardless of its age. These include:

  • Establishing trust and strengthening your bond with your dog.
  • Teaching your dog proper behavior, making your life together more enjoyable.
  • Keeping your dog happier and physically and mentally healthier.
  • Teaching you how to communicate with your dog better.

Do you have a two-year old dog that you failed to teach even the most basic commands or enroll in dog training classes? If you’re worried that it’s too late to start, trust us when we tell you that this is not anywhere close to “too late”.

As mentioned earlier, it is never too late to train any dog, and two years old is actually very young. In fact, some dog breeds, especially large ones, don’t mature mentally until they’re two to three years old. 

At two years old, a dog is only around 15% of his overall lifespan, so don’t hold off on leash training, potty training, or obedience training just because you think it’s too late. If you start now and have become successful, this means you’ll potentially spend the next decade with a well-trained dog.

How about at five years old? You probably already know what we’ll tell you when you ask if it’s too late to start training your five-year old dog. No! Although at this age, your dog has already learned unwanted behaviors, it is still possible to address and fix these issues.

One thing to keep in mind though is that just like in humans, old habits can be difficult to break. So if your dog is set in its ways and has spent half a decade doing a particular behavior, it can be challenging to untrain poor behavior and retrain your dog with more desirable ones.

The point is, you have to be reasonable when it comes to your expectations and exercise patience if you’re planning to train it on your own. You can’t expect to be able to completely change your dog’s habits overnight or even in a week. 

Take Your Dog’s Age Into Consideration

Your dog may be eager to impress you, and although we keep on repeating that older dogs can still learn new skills and tricks, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful of its age. 

Stop and consider if what you’re teaching your dog to do is too tiring for its age. Do you notice your dog obeying at first and then stopping? This doesn’t always mean that your dog is just being stubborn–it could also mean that your dog is tired or hurting. So if you have a senior dog, you might want to consider training it for some less physically demanding skills and tricks.

Older dogs may also have other physical limitations, and these may interfere not only in physical training, but also in obedience training. 

For instance, you might need to adjust your training because of your dog’s eyesight or hearing troubles. Dogs with visual problems may respond better to verbal cues, while dogs with hearing problems may need more gestures instead of verbal commands.

Final Thoughts

To answer the question whether you can still train an old dog, the short answer is YES. The process may be more challenging and may take longer compared to training a puppy, but dogs can learn in any stage of their life.

However, it’s important to note that puppyhood, particularly the first three to four months, is crucial when it comes to establishing emotional foundation. When your puppy learns not to trust humans or becomes afraid of people, dog training will definitely be an uphill battle.

Also, you should manage your expectations as to the type of skills your dog will be able to learn. For instance, it might be a little too late to get your senior dog into an exerting sport or agility training. Yet, your old dog can still learn tricks, brain games, and other enriching activities.

Another important thing to remember is that every dog is different, so progress may vary significantly. If you find yourself struggling to teach your dog because you failed to start young, your best bet is to hire a professional dog trainer. 

Reliable dog training providers are experts in positive-reinforcement training and can help you reverse your dog’s bad behavior more quickly and teach new skills regardless of their age.