Old dogs can learn new tricks. Here’s how.
November is Adopt a Senior Dog Month. Older dogs are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. But, they can be more mellow, less demanding and instant companions. Here a past post about reasons senior dogs make a great addition to the family. Here’s another post about bringing home a senior dog.
Training can help a senior shelter or rescue dog adapt to a new household and make life easier for everyone in the family. The dog may just need a refresher course when coming to a new home or the dog may have had a only a limited amount of training before. Here are tips to help.
- First, be patient while your dog adjusts to his/her new home. There are new smells, sights, other pets and humans, routines and other things to get used to.
- Training should start even during the adjustment period.
- Consider a crate at first, although if your adopted dog had a bad experience in the past with crates or being confined you may need some extra patience. Make the crate inviting and interesting. Make sure it’s the right size, put in a toy and maybe a treat or two. A crate will help keep a new dog out of trouble, can help prevent house-training accidents and may make him/her feel more secure.
- Have a routine and set boundaries from the beginning. Agree on what behaviors are accepted and which are out of bounds.
- Agree on what words everyone should use when training your dog.
- Be positive. You replace unwanted behaviors by rewarding wanted behaviors and ignoring, as much as you can, behaviors you don’t want.
- Consider your dog’s physical condition. How mobile is he/she? Will aches and pains limit what the dog can do. Keep training goals and expectations reasonable and be patient while your dog learns.
- Keep training sessions short but frequent. Five minutes or even less is good per session. You want to keep your dog’s interest while limiting stress. Three to five sessions a day is good.
- Have rewards on hand. In the beginning especially, give treats out frequently to reward and reinforce the behavior you want. Always include praise. After some success, try just praise or play as a reward.
- Time some training sessions to happen before mealtime. You can use kibble as a reward, which may motivate your dog.
- Start with the basics. First see what commands your dog understands and follows. Come, sit, stay, pee are all important. Start teaching these first.
Here are three posts with more detailed training tips.
Many local shelters and rescues celebrate Adopt a Senior Dog Month with special discounts. Check Charlotte shelters if you’re thinking of adopting a senior dog.