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What To Be Aware Of When Training An Older Dog

Jason Wright

May 28, 2024

Training an older dog can be a uniquely rewarding experience. While the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" may be at the top of some people's minds, the truth is it's never too late to instill new skills and reinforce positive behaviours in an older canine companion. 

However, it's important to acknowledge that training an older dog differs significantly from training a puppy. Unlike puppies, older dogs come with a lifetime of experiences, established habits, and possibly even ingrained behaviours. This means that approaching their training requires a specific understanding of their needs, capabilities, and limitations. 

With the right tactics and techniques tailored to their age and stage in life, you can work with your older pet to achieve remarkable results and strengthen your bond along the way.

Things to Consider When Training an Older Dog:

Before diving into training tactics, it's essential to understand some key considerations when working with an older pet.

These considerations include:

  1. Physical Limitations: Older dogs may face physical challenges such as arthritis, decreased mobility, or other age-related ailments. These limitations can impact their ability to perform certain exercises or activities comfortably. 

It's crucial to consider these limitations when designing your training plan, opting for low-impact exercises and gentle movements that won't exacerbate any existing conditions.

  1. Health and Wellness: Prioritize your dog's health and wellness during training sessions. Ensure they're in good health and consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues that may affect their ability to learn and participate.

It’s also important to consult your vet to understand any underlying issues your pet may have that would affect their behaviour during training sessions, such as hip dysplasia or pannus, which affects their mobility and sight.

  1. Established Behaviors: Unlike puppies, older dogs may have already developed a set of behaviours and habits over the years. These behaviours could range from minor quirks to more ingrained patterns of behaviour. 

When training an older dog, be prepared to address and modify these behaviours patiently and consistently. Remember, it may take time for your dog to unlearn and adopt new habits, so approach the process with understanding and persistence.

  1. Attention Span: Older dogs may have shorter attention spans than younger ones. As such, it's important to keep training sessions short, engaging, and focused to maintain their interest and maximize learning opportunities. 

Break training exercises into manageable chunks, and be mindful not to overwhelm your dog with lengthy or overly complex tasks. Keeping training sessions brief and engaging can help your older dog stay focused and motivated throughout the learning process.

Your Dos and Don'ts for Training an Older Dog:

In addition to considering key factors, it's helpful to remember some practical dos and don'ts when training an older dog. This will help keep the training sessions successful and enjoyable so that you can maintain a consistent schedule when working with your pet.

Training Do’s:

  • Do approach training with patience, breaking down new skills into smaller, manageable steps that accommodate an older dog's learning pace.
  • Do stay consistent, working with your pet daily to see results.
  • Do keep training sessions short and sweet, focusing on one command or behaviour at a time to ensure your dog remains engaged without becoming overwhelmed or tired.
  • Do experiment with different rewards to find the right motivation for your dog, whether it's food, toys, or verbal praise.
  • Do incorporate hand signals into your training routine, especially if your older dog experiences hearing loss, to aid communication and reinforce commands.
  • Do use balanced dog training methods, using a mix of reward and punishment to help your pet understand what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. 

Training Don'ts:

  • Don't rush the training process or expect immediate results. Training an older dog requires patience and consistency.
  • Don't overexert your dog or push them beyond their physical limitations. Always take their health and comfort into consideration during training sessions.
  • Don't rely solely on verbal commands, especially if your older dog has hearing impairments. Use visual cues and hand signals to enhance communication and clarity. However, if your dog has visual impairments, be sure to use loud and clear commands so they can hear and understand you.

Training an Older Pet: The iTK9 Way

Training an older dog may present unique challenges, but it's entirely achievable with the right approach and techniques. 

If you're struggling to work with your pet or unsure where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them safely and effectively through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning.

We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.

Included in all of our programs are the following;

  1. In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
  2. Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
  3. Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.

Contact us today for more information on our programs, including Board & Train.

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