That old saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is far from accurate. Not only are most senior dogs happy to learn something new, but it’s a great way to keep them mentally alert. Like humans, their brains need exercise just like their bodies do. When you teach an old dog new tricks you are giving them a brain boost. Keeping dogs active physically and mentally will make life more enjoyable for you and for them.
As your dog ages, he may begin to “falter” somewhat in his basic obedience skills. He could have some accidents inside the house or jump on furniture that he knows is off limits. As frustrating as your dog’s changes in behavior may be, don’t become impatient or angry with him. There may be reasons that he isn’t acting like himself. The following obedience training tips for senior dogs can help you get to the bottom of your senior dog’s behavior.
Take Note of Any Changes
It’s normal for dogs to experience some changes as they age but others could be signs of health problems. Is he starting to avoid the stairs? He may be suffering from joint pain. Has he become more aggressive toward you or other people he is familiar with? He may be suffering from dementia. “Accidents” in a housebroken dog may be a sign of kidney disease or intestinal issues.
If your dog is becoming more aggressive with you, be careful about leaving him around small children or other younger dogs. Sometimes dogs “act out” simply because they aren’t feeling well. They can respond more aggressively to an energetic pup or a child they consider to be annoying.
Keep a list of behavior changes and schedule an appointment with the vet. There may be other reasons for your dog’s behavior but you want to rule out any health concerns before you sign him up for a refresher in obedience training. It may even be a matter of medically managing a health condition while you work with him to reinforce his training.
Treat Him Like He’s a Puppy
If your dog is acting like he’s forgotten his training, then start back at the beginning again. Go through all the same steps you did when he was a puppy. Use rewards when he does what you ask to help reinforce positive behaviors. Training an older dog should always be a positive experience. Think of it as instruction that you are doing for him and not as a punishment for making mistakes. Getting older is rough for anyone and added stress and confusion will only make matters worse.
At the same time you are working on the basics, work in some new tricks to keep him on his toes. One of the most popular obedience training tips for senior dogs is to play hiding games. Hide treats in the backyard or invest in dog toys that are made to challenge dogs mentally.
Encourage Him to Stay Active
aging dog may not have the same energy and drive that he did when he was younger; he may also show less interest in doing some of his favorite activities. Once you know that he is healthy enough, look for physical activities that he will enjoy. You may have to throw the ball a little closer or limit the length of your walks. It’s a lot better for him to get some exercise than none at all. This will help to burn calories, keep joints limber, and improve circulation.
Give Him the Right Nutrition
Your senior dog’s body is slowing down and he may have difficulty doing a lot of everyday activities that used to be effortless. His body also needs more nutrition to help him build a stronger immune system and stave off a number of common health conditions. These nutrients can be found in a specially formulated senior dog food.
One of the most important things a senior dog food accomplishes is to reduce the number of empty calories in his diet. Older dogs often have problems with weight management, further increasing their health risks. Do your research to find a good dog food that will help eliminate empty calories and give him the additional nutrition he requires.
Adopting a Senior Dog
If you have adopted a senior dog, then kudos to you! In many cases, senior dogs are ready-made pets that have already had training. However, like any aging dog, they may be having problems controlling their behavior. A senior dog that has had its life disrupted and been separated from its previous owner for any reason may present some training challenges.
There are two obedience training tips for senior dogs that apply the most to adopted dogs. First, treat your dog as though it has never had obedience training, even if you think he might have. You may need to start from the beginning with this dog just as you would with one you have had his entire life.
Second, give him a healthy diet that is designed specifically for senior dogs. Food and nutrition have a big impact on your dog’s physical and mental capabilities. You’ve taken the first step towards helping a senior dog live a longer, happier life. Now, finish the job by keeping him as healthy and active as possible for the time you have left.