“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” This is a very familiar phrase that’s been a part of American vernacular for years, but is it true? Absolutely not! We are firm believers that you can teach an old dog new tricks – all it takes is dedication and patience. Psychology Today reports that a recent study in Milan revealed that the effect of aging on dogs is similar to that in humans. An older dog’s ability to pick up on a concept may take a bit longer than a younger dog, but they can still do it. The study also showed that oftentimes older dogs have better reasoning skills than puppies (again, like humans!).
In honor of debunking the belief that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, we’re rounding up a few tips to help the mature dog in your life stay young at heart.
Teaching an Older Dog to Put His Toys Away
Older dogs need to be engaged just as much as puppies, and teaching them tricks throughout their life will help them stay sharp and feel loved. Make sure your dog has a basket where his toys are stored, and try to keep the toy count to three or less. Teaching your dog to put away his toy after a game of fetch is a great new trick for a mature dog. Start by using a clear indicator word like “basket.” Put the toy in the basket and say the word “basket.” Then give your dog a treat. Run this drill repeatedly but start with small distances. Grow the distance over time and keep rewarding your dog with a treat every time he puts the toy away when you say “basket.” This particular drill is good for their mind, but also for their bodies as it keeps them moving.
The common thread in new ticks is consistency, and the same goes when teaching your dog to give a high five. Using positive reinforcements and delicious treats, communicate to your dog that you’re looking for a high five. Start by picking up his paw and saying the phrase “high five” and rewarding the action with a treat. Continue to do this until the dog starts lifting his paw on his own. Enjoy your “high paw” and take pride in your dog’s new trick.
Teaching your dog to spin is great at any age, so long as their physically able. Even though it seems like this could be a difficult exercise to communicate, it’s fairly simple, but like all tricks must be approached with patience and repetition. Start with a treat in one hand. Then lower yourself to our dogs level, and lead them in a circle with the treat while saying “spin!” After one rotation has been completed award them the treat and rise. Try without the treat, and see if they can spin just by following your hand. If they do, then award the treat. Gradually start moving away while leading them with your hand, until it becomes a simple circle with your hand from a standing position. Keep using positive reinforcements, and stay dedicated!
Potty Training an Older Dog
If you’re housebreaking an older dog, there are few items to keep in mind before the training begins. If your older dog is showing signs of incontinence, it could be a medical issue and you should consult a veterinarian. If you’re welcoming a new dog into your home (possibly a rescue), then it’s likely the dog just needs to understand your potty routine. Just like housebreaking a puppy, an older dog needs to understand what your expectations are. Create a routine that relies consistent feeding times and walks, so your dog begins to understand what to anticipate. Use positive reinforcement, and reward your dog with a delicious treat when they potty outside. Put in the time, and your old pup will be a potty pro.
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