Although you’ve heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” in fact you can teach an old dog just about anything! It’s never too late to train a dog.
Whether you are bringing home an older dog from a shelter (or rescue), or you’d like to work with your own older dog, there’s no reason to delay doing some training with an older dog.
There are actually some advantages to working with an older dog. Older dogs may already know some commands. They have a much longer attention span than puppies. They can understand very quickly what you want them to do because they already know a lot of human words. And, older dogs already know how to learn. They know the routine of learning things that humans want to teach them.
Even if you are starting from scratch with an older dog and he doesn’t know any commands, chances are that he knows at least a few basic words such as “good dog” and “no.” He understands certain basic training concepts that you have to spend time teaching to a younger dog.
Older dogs are often eager to please, too. They may have seen a lot but they appreciate it when you spend time with them.
You do have to make some allowances for older dogs. An older dog may not be as active or as spry as a younger dog. Depending on the dog’s age he may have some health issues to take note of when you train.
For instance, if your older dog has some arthritis, then give him time when he sits and gets up and down repeatedly. This action may cause him a little pain. If you are doing training that requires your dog to do things quickly then give him some extra time. So, if your training requires strenuous physical activity for your dog, do make allowances for his age.
If your older dog has had some previous training you may need to “unteach” him any lessons that hinder your current training. If he’s had any bad experiences you will need to carefully re-train him around those experiences.
Even if you are interested in training an older dog for some kinds of specialized training, such as hunting or herding, many older dogs are able to pick up these jobs and excel. If they have a natural instinct and they enjoy the work they are even more likely to love the training and learn fast.
However, on the whole, there is no reason why you can’t train an older dog. You should find that their intelligence and their ability to focus is very great. They have often gained a great deal of wisdom in the course of their lives and they can apply this to the training you are giving them.
I’m not suggesting that it’s better to wait until a dog is older to begin training. If you have a puppy or younger dog, it is certainly to your advantage to begin training right away. That said, somewhere along the way people have tried to tell us that dogs reach an age where training won’t work, or that it won’t do the dog any good. That is simply not true!
It’s never too late to train a dog. Spend time training your older dog and watch him come alive again. He may spring to life like a puppy all over again, enjoying his work and loving spending time with you.
About the Author: Chip Ingersoll is the founder of Alpha-Dog Pet Center, located in Amherst, Ohio, and has been working with dogs professionally since 2013. He offers various programs for obedience training and pet therapy, and also for dogs with behavior problems. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education (B.S.Ed.) from Kent State University in 2000, his Master’s Degree in Education Leadership (M.Ed.) in 2006 from Trident University, and his Certification as a Professional Dog Trainer from K9-University in 2015. He is a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and completed an advanced certification as a Canine Behavior Specialist, also through K9-University, in 2016. In addition to Obedience Training and Behavior Consultations, Chip is also a certified instructor for PetTech’s “PetSaver: First-Aid, CPR, & Care” program, in which he provides Pet CPR & First-Aid training to pet parents, first-responder agencies, and pet care professionals. He is also a Therapy Dog Trainer/Evaluator for The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. Visit the Alpha-Dog Pet Center website at http://www.alphadogpets.com/ or find them on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AlphaDogPets/) for more information.