Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Sophie learning to lie down at 6 years of age!

What do you think?  Have you ever tried to teach an older dog a new behavior?  Yes, you can teach an older dog basic behaviors like sit, down, stay, leave it, take, carry, off, wait, and many, many, more.

What do you need?  Patience, good timing and something valuable enough for the dog to “want” to try and earn.  When a dog is motivated he is trainable.  If you offer a piece of kibble to a dog that has already eaten and try to lure him to lie down, he may just look away.  But if you use a piece of cheese, I bet he will be more interested and at least try to earn it.

If you rescue an older dog that does not know how to do basic cues, try using a high value treat or piece of food and lure the dog into a sit.  Taking the treat right to his nose and up over his head, this will encourage his head up and his haunches down.  Pop the treat in his mouth as soon as he sits, be enthusiastic “good sit!”  Repeat the lure several times in many different locations until he is performing 80 % of the time, then add the cue “sit” just before you move the lure.

For the down, put the treat to the dogs nose and take it straight down to the ground then out a few inches, luring the dog to lie down.  Be patient!  When his elbows go down, reward, repeat several times and again, add the cue after he has it most of the time.

What if he will not lie down? Add a prompt like placing your other hand on the dogs shoulders, gently encourage the dog to go down while still luring him with the food. Once he is getting this, fade your hand to just over his shoulders but with no pressure, then fade this hand altogether.  Once he gets it, try bending over but not touching the ground, then just leaning over.  Repeat in many locations, use plenty of high value rewards and reward in a timely manner to make your training go faster!

Our Scottie just learned to lay down this week at 6 years of age.  She is a rescue that we have owned for a year, but there were many other behaviors more important to change first.  Like to not “bite” anyone!  Miranda did most of the training, great job Miranda!