While the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is used to mean an individual who is too old or stuck in their ways to learn new things (which isn’t actually true for most older people!), a variation of the expression was first used in the sixteenth-century work “Book of Husbandry” by John Fitzherbert to refer literally to teaching new skills to an old dog.
If you have an older dog, it is not too late to teach your pooch new tricks. Here’s how to go about it.
Use the Positive Reinforcement Approach
While older dogs can find training sessions challenging, their difficulty levels and limitations will depend on their specific physical and mental conditions.
Therefore, before you begin teaching your old dog tricks, consult a veterinarian to ensure that your canine friend is in the right condition to learn new skills.
Once your veterinarian gives you the okay, use the approach known as positive reinforcement.
That involves being patient with your dog and rewarding your dog with dog treats to help him or her to stay motivated to learn new things.
Treats can be healthy, too. For instance, you can get the best probiotics for dogs at Honest Paws to help support your dog’s digestion and immune system.
An older dog actually has the capacity to focus better and for longer than younger dogs, so teaching your old dog new tricks might even be easier than training a puppy!
Take Your Dog’s Previous Training into Account
As mentioned above, you need to be patient when teaching new things to an old dog. Furthermore, studies show that dogs, just like humans, need time to unlearn things before they can learn new things well.
Therefore, to make progress, you should consider your dog’s previous training.
If your dog had a previous owner, try to find out what training your pooch received. If you had your dog from a puppy, remind yourself what training your canine friend went through when he or she was young.
By understanding your dog’s previous training, you can better determine how to start the new training phase.
You may need to start with the basics again before moving on to more challenging tasks.
Build Trust with Your Dog
The greater your bond is with your dog and the more trust you both have with each other, the easier it should be for your dog to learn new things.
So, you may want to spend time building more trust with your dog before you begin the training process; and ensure you continue to build trust throughout the training phases.
Keep Training Sessions Shor
Your dog will be more motivated and eager to please if you keep your training sessions short.
So, when teaching your dog new tricks, don’t overdo it.
You should recognize and respect your dog’s limitations.
Start by Teaching a Single Trick
Following on from the last point, your dog will learn more easily if you start by teaching him or her a single trick.
Older dogs can become confused by too many different commands, so take things slowly.
You should never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.
So, make sure you consistently show your dog how pleased you are with the progress he or she is making. And remember to reward with tasty treats.
Teaching an old dog new tricks is undoubtedly possible, but it will take time. Typically, it can take an old dog about a month to learn a trick for the first time.
So, be patient, be consistent, and follow the above suggestions. Practice makes perfect.