Older dogs still have the ability to learn new tricks and skills, just at a slower rate than puppies and younger dogs. They are just as eager and willing to learn, although it may take a different learning approach than when they were puppies. According to a study conducted at the University of Vienna’s Clever Dog Lab, tests found that dogs around the age of 10 took twice as many repetitions and corrections than puppies, but they also outperformed puppies in logic and reasoning. This means that older dogs retain the skills and tricks they already know and learned while still being able to learn new ones (just at a slower pace).
There are many reasons why you would want to teach your older dog some tricks, such as adopting a senior dog, preparing for travel, introducing new exercises and activities into your daily routine, helping them lose weight, or simply refreshing old tricks and forms of obedience.
Here are 5 tips for teaching an old dog tricks:
If your dog has a hard time paying attention while learning new tricks, make sure they get some exercise in before you start your training. Taking them on a nice walk or even a fun game of fetch will help release some of your dog’s energy. This will ensure that your dog is more relaxed and focused when you start your training session.
When your dog performs a trick correctly, it is a great idea to give them a reward to let them know that they are doing a good job. Giving your dog incentives will create a positive association between the command and the desired outcome. If your dog does not respond positively to treats, you can reward them with something else. For example, you can use praise, pets, or a chew toy. Any type of reward will work as long as your dog responds positively to the reward and you remain consistent in using the same reward.
Ignore Undesirable Behavior
It is very important to remember not to call attention to undesired behavior. Do not call attention to your dog when they get distracted, lazy, wanders off, or refuses to cooperate with the trick at hand. This will signal to your dog that you are reinforcing this type of behavior, and they will continue to do it. Your best move is to ignore this behavior and reward behavior when a trick is done correctly.
Take Breaks and Be Patient
You have to remember that your dog is old, and it will take them longer to pick up these new tricks, so you must be patient with them. It’s easy to get frustrated with your dog when they are not picking up a trick as fast as you thought, but your dog is most likely feeling the same way. It’s also important to remember that older dogs need twice as much time and exposure to a new trick to truly master it, unlike when they were puppies. When you and your dog both get frustrated, take a break and try learning the trick again the next day.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is the key to success, especially with older dogs. Older dogs need consistency, so practicing this new trick every day will help them retain the knowledge. Skipping a day of practice will make it much harder for your dog to truly master this skill. Remember to reward your dog with treats, praise, or pets when they complete the trick correctly. This will encourage them to continue learning this new skill until they can do it based on memory. Even after they have learned the trick fully, it is important to continue practicing daily.
Is you companion a senior dog? Read more on which pet insurance is best for older dogs.