“You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”

dog retrieving a training dummy

This is the oldest dog saying I’ve ever heard, aside from dog is man’s best friend, of course.

I don’t know what qualifies as “old”. For some people puppies out of their little cute 3-4 month range is too “old”. So a 7 year old Goldie may fit the bill though 49 is hardly over the hill.

Sure an adult dog already has a developed personality and some can be stubborn. Training just needs extra time and patience but I think that’s true for any dog, and well worth it.

Dogs are so adaptable and social that teaching an old dog new tricks is completely possible. This is a misconception and should not deter adoption of an older dog and training your new old dog.

Training for me is more than sharing rules with our dogs about what behaviour is acceptable and expected. Training is a great way to bond, especially with a new dog. It also stimulates and engages your dog. In fact mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise in maintaining your dog’s well-being. Like for humans, continued mental stimulation improves brain function and mental balance.

Creamy came with the basics – “sit” and “come” but we still refreshed these with her, also teaching her the hand signals for each.  We then added “stay” and “down”. She has now learned “leave it”, where she’s taught to leave something alone, like a treat, even when that treat is on her cute pink nose.  A great feat, considering the food-fiend she is. By the way, to this day, this is the one trick that Blackspot has not been able to master, from when she was a young one to now, and she’s got quite a few tricks “up her sleeve”.  So it’s really not about age.

The key to training, any dog, any age, is finding the motivator. Luckily for us, both our dogs love food so having high-value treats like sausage really does the trick. For your dog, maybe it’s affection or a particular toy.

So have some fun and teach your old dog new tricks. Learning never stops and if you make it fun, it will make all the difference.


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