Despite the saying, you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks -- even if he's stubborn. Your willful old pooch may not have the enthusiastic will to please that he did when was a puppy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have him giving his paw and opening doors on command. The key to success is using everything you know about your dog to motivate him. Training puppies is a bit of a guessing game, but with your old dog, you know exactly what his “currency” is, whether it’s treats, his ball or an old sock.
Take your dog for a short walk. This gives him chance to go to the toilet. As dogs get older, their bladder and bowel control weakens. By giving him chance to eliminate now, you reduce the chances of him becoming distracted later.
Create a suitable training environment. Remove all distractions, such as toys, and do your best to shut out external noise and smell. If you have a yard and weather permits, this is the best place to train your dog. If you can’t use the yard, use part of the house that is quiet and free from foot traffic.
Call your dog into the training environment. Adopt a friendly, relaxed demeanor to put your dog at ease. If he’s old, stubborn and set in his ways, this new social dynamic between the two of you may unsettle him.
Find the most suitable reward. Over the years, you’ve no doubt figured out what Lucky’s weakness is. It may be his ball, it may be food or it may be something totally weird, like a stinky old rag. This is where you’ve got an advantage. When teaching a puppy, you have to guess to a degree when finding a reward. With your stubborn old mutt, you know exactly what he wants.
Teaching the Target TrickStep 1
Crouch down with a treat concealed in your hand. For the target trick, the treat is the lure, but it can also be used as the reward.
Teaching the Target TrickStep 2
Hold the treat out at nose height. Tap on the treat hand with your free hand and say “paw.” Make the hand signal obvious as your dog’s hearing may not be as good as it used to be. Lucky may sniff your hand, cock his head in confusion or walk off in boredom, but eventually he’ll attempt to prize the treat away from your hand with his paw.
Teaching the Target TrickStep 3
Release the treat, and if treats aren’t Lucky’s main currency, give him his reward, too. With sufficient repetition, Lucky will learn that the action of raising his paw to your hand when he hears the word “paw” has a positive outcome.
Teaching the Target TrickStep 4
Repeat the exercise once a day for no longer than 10 minutes. Since old dogs lack that puppyish obsession for pleasing their owner, you’ve got a much shorter time window before Lucky gets bored.
Items You Will Need
- Food treats
- Don’t attempt any tricks that could injure an older dog. If Lucky has arthritis, for example, don’t try to get him doing flips.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images