There are many benefits to adopting a senior dog (7 years or older). Senior pets are normally calm and friendly. They’re often already house-trained and are much less destructive than a puppy, which means they’re low-maintenance. Plus, you know exactly what you’re getting when you adopt a senior dog thanks to their documented medical history and years of others observing their personality. Senior dogs can be great companions.
But not all senior dogs are perfect. Some are well-trained, but others might not have the perfect manners you’d prefer they display. Luckily, the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” isn’t true. You can train your senior dog and improve his behavior. In some ways, it might actually be easier to train a senior dog than it would be to train a puppy. Puppies are full of energy and easily distracted, while adult dogs have more self-control and can focus more easily.
Not only is it easy to train your senior dog; it’s also important. Establishing a regular training routine adds much-needed structure and mental stimulation to your dog’s life, keeping his mind sharp as he ages.
Here are a few tips to help you train your senior dog.
Don’t begin your new training regime the moment you bring your new senior dog home. Instead, give him a few days or even a few weeks to get used to his new home. Like children, puppies adjust quickly, but a senior dog has a whole lifetime of memories and experiences behind him. He may need a little time to adapt to you, your family, and your house.
When you feel that your dog is ready to begin training, carefully choose what you want to work on. Although it’s fun to have a dog who can shake hands or play dead, those commands aren’t your top priorities. To make the most out of both you and your dog’s time and energy, focus in on what commands your dog truly needs to learn. Don’t worry about flashy party tricks — instead, stick to the basics. Teach your senior dog to sit, stay, wait, and other important commands before moving on to any “fun” commands.
Remember, your senior dog has had a lot of life experiences that he can’t share with you. Since you don’t know what kind of things have happened to him, use positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. Don’t punish your dog; instead, work hard to make training sessions fun.
The way to your senior dog’s heart is through lots of treats and lots of praise! Your adult dog may be nervous as he adjusts to you and your home, so work hard to make him feel comfortable during training sessions. Dogs who are given positive reinforcement are typically much more willing to keep learning than dogs who are given negative reinforcement.
Training your new dog at home can be a great way for you to bond with him. In addition to daily training sessions, however, think about enrolling in an obedience class with your dog. A weekly or even a biweekly class could be beneficial for both you and your dog. If you’re new to dog training, you can get tips from the instructor and learn how to teach your dog at home. Plus, the class would be a great opportunity for your dog to socialize with other dogs and other people.
Older dogs are prone to a variety of health problems. Many health issues affect a dog’s energy level or pain level, which in turn might affect how much training you can realistically do. For instance, many older dogs (especially large breeds such as Golden Retrievers/Labradors, German Shepherds, and mastiffs) have joint problems or arthritis. This might make it painful for them to sit on certain surfaces or difficult for them to get back up after lying down. Obesity, heart problems, and muscle pain could also impede your dog’s ability to fully participate in training sessions. Observe your dog and take a look at their medical records. Then, plan the length and location of your training sessions with your findings in mind.