Is it ever too late to start training a dog?

You can teach an old dog new tricks despite the old saying that
says otherwise. Although there may be some things that are best taught when a
dog is young, your canine pal can still learn a lot at any stage in their
life. 

At its core training at its most basic level is how you
communicate with your dog. There are ample benefits to training your older
four-legged friend.

Training an older dog can:

  • Keep them healthier, both mentally and
    physically
  • Make your dog happy
  • Establish trust and respect
  • Deepen the bond between you and your pet
  • Help the life you both share to become more
    enjoyable
  • Allow you to keep your dog when you might
    otherwise have to give them up

Socialize Your Dog

Socialization for your dog is crucial and is best conducted while
they are puppies so they can adapt to particular environments.

Let’s use the example of slippery floors. If you bring home a dog
from a shelter who has never experienced the sensation of walking on slick
floors, he may be fearful and act out. If he had been exposed to them when he
was just weeks old, he would not pay them attention.

Don’t give up,
though, because, with patience and positive reinforcement, you can work with
your pet to get used to things they have never seen at any age.

The trick to socializing your dog to new locations, sounds,
smells, textures, etc. is to start with calm, low distraction locations first where
your dog will feel more secure and at ease and then slowly build up to more
difficult locations and distractions, but only after your dog masters the
easier locations. Make these outings fun with praise and his favorite rewards!

Obedience Training for an Older Dog

Of all the kinds of training you can do with your adult pet,
obedience training is the foundation and will be the easiest for your dog to
learn regardless of age.

You can teach your dog any number of commands, and he will try
his best to please you. You can train them in specialized tasks, tricks,
advanced obedience skills, and more. Pay close attention to the signals they
give you in return in how they are showing you they are learning.

However, if your dog is in the elderly phases of life, this could be more difficult or impossible for them, especially if their mental health is declining. Some studies show that training if your pet is elderly, improve their mental health and can slow down the degeneration of their brain. Be prepared to know you may need to adjust the training to what they can do, both physically and mentally.

Overall, recognize that each dog is an individual and will learn
at their own pace.  Be patient with your
furry friend and recognize and acknowledge their attempts to learn, but do not
give up on them.

Modifying Behavior in an Older Dog

Changing the behavior of your older dog may come with some
additional challenges. You must first eliminate the unwanted behavior(s) before
replacing it with new, good behavior(s).

Modifying a dog’s behavior is more than just saying, “No!”  Remember, you are ALWAYS teaching your dog
something, make sure you are encouraging and rewarding the behaviors you want
rather than inadvertently rewarding the bad habits.

First, you have to make what has become a bad habit of unwanted behavior, less desirable for your dog to keep doing, so it will no longer be fun for your pet. For example, if your pet is begging for food by barking at you, don’t reward their protest by giving them something from your plate. Instead, direct them to a skill you have already taught them that is more desirable behavior, such as down or place while you eat, instead of standing next to you and barking for attention and food.

As soon as your
pet begins to practice what you desire, reward them for it. Dog’s thrive off of
praise and acceptance from you and live for it. Praise your dog gleefully when
they are doing something you want them to and add treats. It will not take them
long to feel confident about what you want and do it more often.

Overall, your dog will do his or her best to please you all their
life. While training is best done when your dog is still young, it does not
mean they can never be trained if you missed the initial time to start. Specialized
K9 Services at Woof in the Woods believes all dogs can be trained, and we offer
comprehensive training for both owners and their dogs. If you need help in
teaching your pet contact us
today to learn more about our training programs for dogs, and all breeds at any age.