Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
Although it may be overused, is it true that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Discover the real scoop on teaching an old dog new tricks by training him on how to train an older dog.
“You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”
The old saying goes, “An old dog won’t learn any new tricks.” Although the exact origins of the expression are uncertain, Know Your Phrase claims it first appeared in Nathan Baily’s book “Divers Proverbs” in 1721. In a book on animal husbandry from the 1500s, there is an even older proverb that uses dogs as a metaphor for human nature’s resistance: “It is hard to make an old dog squat,” which relates to teaching a dog to put its nose to the ground to follow the scent. These sayings, according to Cuteness, are from a time when people used to train their dogs for specific jobs like hunting or herding, which would unavoidably fail as the dogs got older and lost their senses.
How Do Older Dogs Learn Differently Than Younger Dogs?
A study in the journal Age found that although older dogs can no longer accomplish particular tasks due to failing health, they can still learn new skills more slowly than puppies and younger dogs. According to a study conducted at the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna, dogs older than ten require more than twice as many repetitions and corrections as puppies between six months and a year. The older dogs outperformed the young puppies in trials that required logic and reasoning, showing that older dogs are stubbornly unwilling to forget what they have already learned. In the study, there was no proof that the dogs’ Age affected their ability to remember what they had been taught.
Breeds are more intelligent as they get older.
Even while the study found no connection between a dog’s breed and learning ability, it stands to reason that breeds that are simpler to train as puppies will remain that way as they age. According to iHeartDogs, herding breeds like the German shepherd, collie, and Shetland sheepdog, as well as the poodle, golden, and Labrador retrievers, are among the breeds that are best at learning new skills. The Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgis are also exceedingly trainable.
Why bother trying to train an older dog at all?
Training an older dog is beneficial for various reasons, such as: if your older dog has a troubled past or you have acquired a senior dog that has to learn how to get along with your family, it may be necessary to resocialize or desensitize it to fear triggers. For the following extra reasons, you may want to train an older dog:
- To potty train an old outside dog
- To prepare for a new adventure, such as a trip
- To offer new activities that promote exercise and a healthy weight
- To provide a refresher course in obedience training
- To prevent mental decline and boredom
Tips for Training an Old Dog
Many dogs have age-related health problems, including musculoskeletal pain, hearing or vision loss, and a decline in cognitive ability, claims Rover.
Fortunately, older dogs can still learn new abilities, so you shouldn’t try to teach your senior dog more physically demanding games or activities. Said training an older dog requires more time and persistence.
Here are some tips for teaching an old dog new tricks to help make things a little bit simpler:
- Evaluate your pet: Does your dog have any physical or mental disorders that would make it hard to perform the task you want to teach? Suppose the reason for your training is to address a behavioural issue. May there possibly be an underlying health issue at play? An older dog who has started soiling the carpet may have bladder problems that need to be treated instead of needing a refresher course in-house training. Consult your veterinarian to determine whether your dog is sufficiently healthy for training.
- Exercise first: For dogs who are easily distracted and find it difficult to concentrate, a walk or a game of fetch will help them release pent-up energy, enabling them to unwind and be more attentive throughout the training session.
- Reward them: By giving your dog their preferred treat every time they comply with your request, you can train them to make your request with the desired reward. If your puppy doesn’t respond well to treats or if you’re watching their weight, reward them with loads of love and praise. Try clicker training as well.
- Stop pointing out your dog when they become sidetracked, lie down, wander off, or refuse to obey. This may sound counterintuitive, but doing so will only serve to reward those behaviours. The best line of action is to ignore it, reposition your puppy, and try again.
- Take breaks: It’s easy to get irritated when your dog doesn’t appear to comprehend, and it’s possible that your older dog feels the same way. Stop training if this happens, and try the next day again.
- Be patient: Be aware that older dogs need twice as much exposure and training time as younger dogs to learn new behaviours.
- Practice, practice, practice: Your old dog needs consistent practice to learn a new skill. Taking a day off will only make things harder for your old friend. Continue for as long as necessary, praising your dog with treats and praise when they master it. If your dog doesn’t have dog dementia, which may prohibit them from doing so, there’s a strong chance it’ll finally make it out. Thanks to daily practice, they will retain the new skill after learning it.
Unbelievably, even an old dog can learn new tricks. Simply put, training an older dog takes time, practice, a lot of love, and patience.