They say an old dog doesn't learn new tricks, but that's not true. The idea that anything that's older is by nature just going to sit around is a myth. For instance, some of the most active humans in the world (like Betty White, Jimmy Carter, Dick Van Dyke) are in their early to mid-90s. The same can go for older dogs. Sometimes a dog in his or her elder years is really looking for a job or something to do, and obedience training for a healthy senior dog may be perfect.
While many senior dogs appear more subdued or lower-energy, behavioral problems can still occur that were never fixed at any earlier stages in their lives. This includes all of the common elements addressed for the other age groups.
As with adult dogs, senior dogs can also present troublesome intimidation factors with certain unchecked behaviors. For instance, lunging at passersby on the leash can be intimidating and scary for those subjected to it by comparison to when these actions occurred when your dog was just a little puppy.
There are some variables to keep in mind for senior dogs. Sometimes new behaviors happen in their older years that were not previously seen. This may be health-related and caused by a change in a dog's body or mind. For instance, sudden urination in the house could be the result of a bladder disorder, or unusual behavior the result of onset dementia.
It's suggested to consult with a veterinarian if your senior dog is suddenly behaving oddly. However, for long-standing behavioral issues, a trainer would be your best option.
Below are some of the common problems that can arise in dogs of all ages:
Getting on counters or furniture.
Jumping up on people.
Biting not so playfully.
Barking at the front door.
Relieving themselves in the house.
Barking or whining in their crate.
Barking at dogs or people while on a walk.
And various other situations.
Even a senior dog can learn new behaviors and retain obedience training.
A misconception is that an senior dog is too old to acquire new habits and overcome obedience issues. Fortunately, that's not true. In fact, some adult dogs and even seniors learn more quickly compared to some puppies.
When training your senior dog, it's all about helping the dog become aware of the behaviors you were displeased by, and guiding them to learn the preferred practices, which can be done through rewards. The crux of this is proper communication with your dog.
Senior dogs are more willing than you'd think to start their obedience training. In fact, it can give a dog who has been less active a renewed level of energy.
Senior dogs in particular sometimes desire a new job and sense of duty, which by itself can fix many behavioral problems. This is because dogs are unable to multitask. Therefore, when you begin obedience training, they are now focusing on their new job--and are unable to act out the problematic behaviors from before.
Some of the first, basic commands to teach to dogs of any age are:
Sit / Sit Stay
Come When Called
Down / Down Stay
Climb Command (Go To Your Bed / Stay)
Loose-Leash Walking (Heel Commands)
Part of the process of mastering obedience training is achieving reliability, even with basic commands. This means ensuring your dog understands the commands even in assorted distracting situations, when the reward is taken away.
At Hira's Legacy, we believe in reinforcing reliability as part of the training process. It can be easily achieved with the right knowledge and tools.
It's important even for senior dogs to have socializing experiences. This includes both exposing your dog to other dogs and owners alike, but also getting them comfortable in different types of situations to ensure your dog's balanced behavior.
With adult dogs, difficulties are sometimes encountered based on a dog's particular personality. As an example, your senior dog may simply dislike other dogs. If that's the case, the dog's personality isn't exactly going to change. However, in this situation, it's still important for the dog to be exposed to social encounters, so they maintain their doggy social-skills.
Regardless of your dog's personality, it's important to make sure the owner controls the situation. This means avoiding bad experiences that could make your dog react more negatively to social situations. This can include exposure to misbehaving dogs, or humans who are not good with animals.
Most importantly, socialization is about creating positive experiencss for your canine. Your senior dog will make it clear what he or she likes or doesn't like. So, try to judge the best experiences based on the dog's personality.
Author: Nathan Schoemer
Editor: Cyrus Kirkpatrick