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It’s never too late for your dog to learn good behavior. Training an older dog doesn’t have to be a difficult task as long as you have an open mind.
Whether you’ve just adopted an older dog, or you have a dog that’s a few years old who never got proper training, there’s a way for your dog to learn and understand what’s right and wrong.
The first thing you need to keep in mind before you start training an older dog is that you need to have a good understanding of where your dog is at. Depending on how old your dog is, if he was adopted, and what he’s been through, your dog could have developed negative behaviors that could take a little more time to reverse. Also, your dog’s age can affect how much he can do and the length of time he can do it.
You also have to understand that training an older dog mainly applies to how he interacts with your family. You’re going to be teaching him basic commands so that he can be a better part of the family, but you’re not going to be changing his personality. Dogs who are dominant or anxious are likely going to remain that way for the rest of their lives, but good training can help them be better in stressful situations.
Once you’ve figured out how much your dog can handle and how much work you need to do, starting your training with an older dog will be much easier.
Training an Older Dog
The best way to focus your goal of training an older dog is to use reward training. Older dogs aren’t going to learn as fast as puppies, so teaching them that good behavior results in a treat is an easy way to help them understand, and doesn’t require a ton of effort on your end.
Clicker training is another good way to teach your dog what you want him to do. Your dog will be able to associate the sound with good behavior, and he’ll be able to understand what you want him to do in response to that sound with a command.
One word commands are the best to use because they’re easy for the dog to comprehend and remember. When you’re working on training an older dog, it’s important to keep the time between your dog doing the requested behavior and your reward as short as possible. The longer you take to reward your pooch the more difficult it will be for him to learn.
Working with a dog trainer can be beneficial for training an older dog if you’re not extremely familiar with training or you’ve never done it before. A trainer can help you work with the best practices to train your dog, and make sure you’re doing everything correctly so your dog can have the best learning environment possible.
Older dogs might have a harder time understanding commands or hand signals, so you may have to adjust the way you teach commands to accommodate whatever struggles he’s having. For example, puppies can learn commands that are as subtle as a flick of a finger, but older dogs may have trouble recognizing this, so a more pronounced hand motion might be needed. If your dog is hard of hearing, hand signals can also come in handy to help him learn basic commands. Rather than using a clicker, treats would be a better solution to help your dog understand the intended behavior.
There Are No Limits When Training an Older Dog
There is nothing that an older dog can’t learn, as long as he has a patient and understanding trainer. If you want to house train your older dog, you would use the same method as you would with a puppy, but using a crate makes the process much simpler. Pick a crate that’s the right size for your dog, so you’re sure he’s comfortable. Most dogs will try very hard to hold it when they’re confined, but don’t let your dog suffer. Then give him bathroom breaks at the same time each day. If your dog struggles with incontinence issues, more frequent trips might be needed.
Leash-training your older dog is also a possibility. Choose a training collar or a harness rather than just a normal leash so your dog can get used to the feel. It shouldn’t be a game of who can pull harder either; rather you should give your dog a short, quick yank to let him know that what he’s doing is incorrect. Starting in your yard is a good point to begin because it won’t be full of distractions or things your dog will want to chase. With leash-training, it could be easier to have a trainer help you with this process. Older dogs can be a little harder to control because they may already have negative behaviors in place, so having a professional by your side can make the training easier.
Patience is key, but every dog can learn new tricks with a little time and love.