They say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but it really isn’t true. You can teach new tricks to a dog of any age, with a little bit of will and some understanding. Dogs are often rehomed as adults and must then adapt to fit into their new environments. This was the case with my own dog, who came to me as an adult. Like a lot of other new dog owners, I used a few training techniques to help settle him in.
No matter how old your dog is, the best way to train him is to use positive reinforcement, also called reward-based training. The key principle is to reward a desired behaviour, promptly. The tricky part is figuring out which reward will motivate him to keep performing that behaviour. For some dogs, this will be food, and many people find that using treats works well. You need to be careful to use small, or low-calorie treats if you have a dog prone to putting on weight, as you may need to use quite a lot of treats in the early stages of training! Other dogs are not terribly food orientated but will respond well to the use of a toy as a reward. Some dogs require nothing more than to be praised or fussed when they offer the right behaviour. Clicker training can work as an excellent aid to positive reinforcement, by connecting the reward with the desired behaviour in your dog’s mind. It takes a little getting used to, and you must be quick at clicking and rewarding when the dog does what you are asking for.
Getting rid of bad habits is perhaps the most difficult thing to achieve with an older dog. It’s often possible, however, to teach your dog an alternative behaviour to replace the habit. Your vet can put you in touch with a dog behaviourist or trainer, who can help with this. Or if you need some advice then contact us via a contact form. Training can be extremely beneficial for both you and your dog, stimulating your dog and strengthening your relationship, so don’t be put off by your dog’s age!