While puppyhood is the most important time to teach new habits, it’s never too late to teach old dogs new tricks. Taking a little bit more time and some extra patience, training an older dog isn’t much different than training a puppy. Since training an older dog takes more time and repetition, many become frustrated and give up. However, with just a little bit of extra patience your dog will learn new tricks that will keep him busy and out of trouble.
Teaching a new behavior to your dog will also strengthen the bond between the two of you, and will increase his ability to learn other new behaviors. Plus, it’s fun! Consider working on practical skills such as people manners, loose leash walking, “stay,” coming when called, and “leave it.” Or, you can teach him a fun trick like how to balance a treat on his nose, shake, “speak”, or crawl on his belly. The possibilities are endless!
Once you decide what you’d like your dog to learn it’s time to figure out how best to train him. Do you take him to a class, hire a trainer, or teach him at home? Here are a few options for training an old dog new tricks.
1. Group Classes A training class can be beneficial because both you and your dog get to interact with other class participants. Socializing with other dogs and people can help build your dog’s confidence. Group classes can also help your dog learn how to concentrate and focus, even with many distractions. Before you sign-up, be sure to attend some group classes in your area and ask some of the participants what they think about the class. Are they enjoying themselves? Do they feel their training needs and goals are being met? Does it look like the dogs are having fun?
2. Private Trainer A private trainer can come to your house or you can go to their training facility. A private trainer will customized your pet’s training based on your his temperament and lifestyle. The more personalized the attention, the greater the cost. Another benefit of private lessons is that your trainer will notice subtle mistakes you make while working with your dog and help you correct them. Some trainers have programs where you may drop off your dog, and he will be taught skills and behaviors by the trainer. One thing to keep in mind with this type of training is that some dogs are not able to apply these new skills and behaviors once they return to their home environment. The dog may have established a different relationship with his trainer than the one with his owner. He knows what to expect from the trainer but often does not understand what his owner wants him to do.
3. Do-It Yourself If you prefer to train by yourself or do not have the means to take your pal to lessons there are many books and videos that can help you train your dog without the assistance of professionals. There is nothing more rewarding than learning how to communicate with your dog. And you just might find that your dog teaches you a thing or two! Some people are afraid that they might make mistakes while training their dog. But that’s just a part of the learning process.
By teaching him new tricks and behaviors you will quickly learn how best to teach your dog. It will build your confidence and strengthen your relationship. Pet owners report that it’s relatively easy to train their friend to pass through a newly installed pet door. Your command to come when called can be strengthened with a signal from a remote training collar. And with available pet proofing products, dogs can be “self-taught” to stay off of expensive furniture or stay out of certain rooms. Remember that “training” is not just a certain period of time that you set aside to work with your dog. Training happens all the time. Your dog is learning every second he’s awake, whether you are there or not!