5 Reasons To Teach Old Dogs New Tricks

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on September 8th, 2022

It’s time to put that old phrase—you can’t teach an old dog new tricks—to rest. The truth is, not only can senior dogs learn new tricks, but there are some amazing benefits that come with life-long training.

In this article, we’ll talk about 5 reasons why you should teach your old dog new tricks! 

#1: For their safety
When your dog was a pup, you probably taught them some key safety commands like leave it or come. But there are a few additional tricks that can become useful for a senior dog’s safety, too.

Teaching your dog to respond to the sound of a clicker, for instance, may be useful as they begin to lose their eyesight. Because clickers emit a sharp, clear sound, they may also be effective for dogs who are losing their hearing, as well. Introducing hand signals to the tricks your dog already knows can be another way to help with hearing loss.

Senior dogs can use special training when it comes to using doggy car ramps and other accommodations for senior dogs, too. If you haven’t already, it’s a great idea to install BreezeGuard Screens in your cars to prevent your senior dog from leaning out of the window. Because their reflexes and mobility will be limited in old age, these safety measures are incredibly important.

#2: To encourage movement
Just like humans, dogs tend to slow down as they age. But, the fact is, movement is a great way to ensure continued good health.

When you train your old dog new tricks, consider working on tasks that invite some gentle movement into their routine. Here are a few simple commands to encourage movement:

  • Heel. Heel is a command that will invite your dog to walk closely beside you. This is a great trick for older dogs because you can speed up or slow down depending on their abilities. It’s also a useful command for your dog’s safety in public.
  • Put your toys away. Not only is this trick practical for keeping a clean house, but it’s also a good way for your dog to get a few steps in. If your dog doesn’t already leave their toys scattered around, don’t feel bad about making a bit of a mess for them. Once they’ve learned this trick, they’ll enjoy the chance to show you how tidy they are!
  • Back up. Back up is another trick that is gentle enough to teach a dog of any age. Not only is it useful if you ever need your dog to walk backwards out of the kitchen (or, for the lovably needy doggos, out of the bathroom), but it will also invite them to use some rarely used muscles.

You know your dog’s abilities best, so think about tricks that would be appropriate for them. A dog with arthritis, for instance, probably shouldn’t perform tricks that require too much flexibility. But a senior dog with lots of energy may enjoy slightly more rigorous tricks such as leg weaving or even dock diving. 

#3: To reduce stress
As your dog ages, reducing stress will be an important way to maintain heart and digestive health. Luckily, the right training method can give your dog a fun and satisfying outlet that will keep them feeling young. Here are a few ways that you can make your training sessions double as stress-relief:

  • Use positive reinforcement. Remember that the goal here is to reduce stress, so you always want to keep your sessions upbeat and positive. Find a healthy treat or reward system and always arm yourself with as much praise as possible.
  • Keep training sessions short. An aging dog may not be able to focus for long stretches of time. So, keep training sessions under five to ten minutes. Even two to three minutes might be appropriate for some dogs.
  • Be patient. A young pup may jump into a training session full of enthusiasm. But an older dog will likely take a bit longer to respond to and perform commands. Instead of repeating yourself, give your dog a few extra seconds. And, if they’re struggling to respond to a command even with some extra time, consider breaking tricks down into easier steps.
  • End on a good note. You may start to see your senior dog fading out of your training session, and that’s okay! Instead of pushing them to stay engaged, choose a very easy command to close out. This could be something as simple as sit or responding to their own name. Give them a treat and plenty of praise for a job well done!

#4: For a sense of purpose
Ever met a retired person who continues to volunteer, learn new hobbies, and maintain an active social life? These activities can provide seniors with a sense of purpose that makes them happier and healthier as they age. The same is true for doggos. 

Training sessions are a fantastic way to give your dog a continued sense of purpose. That’s because most breeds have a history of working alongside humans. It’s in their DNA! No matter if you’ve got a Border Collie, Jack Russell Terrier, or mix, chances are, they will enjoy the chance to show off their work ethic well into their golden years.

 #5: Because it’s just plain fun!
Just because the puppy zoomies may be less frequent as they once were doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t want some fun in their life. 

Your older dog may enjoy their training sessions with their favorite human just as much as a good nap or delicious meal. So, if it appears that your dog gets excited about training, make it a part of their regular routine. Remember to always keep a positive attitude with plenty of praise for your pup-at-heart. If that tail is wagging, you’re doing an excellent job!

Will you train your older dog?
Now that you know some of the mental and physical benefits of continued training in your dog’s golden years, will you try it with your dog?

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