By Toni Lynn Mark, Training and Behavior Education Specialist
Have you ever heard that saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well, that’s hog-wash. And so is “You shouldn’t teach a new dog old tricks.” When you look back in old photos, you’ll sometimes see family pets in portraits (often sitting politely too). Although they may seem like just cute photos, they tell me more—most importantly, that dogs have been part of our family structure for a very long time.
In order for dogs to be members of a family, they must be trained enough that the family feels comfortable and safe with that dog. So that means that we’ve been training dogs to be part of the family for a very very long time. Many basic training and obedience classes start with those “old” tricks. For example, training a dog to sit may seem simple, but it’s absolutely necessary to a dog performing good behavior throughout their lives. If a dog is trained to sit, that means they aren’t jumping up on people or counters, chasing the cat, etc. A dog being trained to lie down has similar results—the dog isn’t jumping, nor is he up tearing up the good furniture in the house.
The good news is that most of these “old” tricks are easy and quick to teach. When teaching these different tricks, you should use positive reinforcement training methods. That means that when the dog performs the desirable behavior, you should reward it. You can reward it with love, attention, or the best one—treats! The more often the behavior is rewarded, the more likely that behavior will continue. You can hold several training sessions as you train this behavior.
Always remember- the more it is rewarded, the more likely the behavior will be repeated! Sadie sits politely instead of running off the porch into the road!It’s a great thing to teach new dogs the basics. When you get the basics down, you can advance onto other more exciting tricks, such as shake (where the dog might start by sitting) and roll over (where the dog might start by laying down). At the very least, teaching these old tricks to new dogs can make sure that your dog is in your family photos too!