Old Dogs and New Tricks
So often people say “My dog is just terrible about …(fill in the blank), but gosh, he must be seven years old already, I am sure its too late to train him now” We chime right in with “Absolutely NOT!, It is NEVER too late”
When is the last time you learned something new: new software on the computer, a new sport, a new card game? I bet it wasn’t so long ago and it wasn’t too hard to learn. So why do people assume that a dog is too old to learn? Not only should you continue teaching your old dog new tricks but you should never give up on his good manners or the wonderful communication you have fostered over the years.
Many older dogs are turned into shelters everyday because their people have given up on teaching them good manners; they just assume it’s too late to change them. We are here to promise you it is not too late. The beauty of dogs is they are incredibly flexible in their behavior and are able to learn new things everyday. The challenge is for the people to take the time to engage their dogs mind so that they can enjoy learning – one of our favorite things to tell people is ‘when the person changes the dog changes too’.
Give yourself credit for everything your dog does well; however everything that annoys you about your dog you have also helped create. It is simply a matter of learning how you have enabled the behavior and changing what you do. If your dog barks at the door do you shout ‘quiet!’ and do nothing to stop him or show him what you do want? He might not have a clue you are even speaking to him, and might just think you are simply joining in the barking. Does your dog pull on the leash and every effort you have made does nothing to change him? Well, if you allow him to pull you even one inch in the direction he is headed then you have just taught him pulling works! Everything you do communicates something to your dog; you just need to learn how to clearlycommunicate the things you want him to understand.
So often when someone brings a new dog home they sign up for training classes and put lots of time and effort into teaching their dog tricks and manners. As the dog learns and succeeds the person seems to think their job is done and they back off. A few months/years go by and it seems the dog has forgotten his manners. The person is bewildered and wonders where it all went wrong and how did their once wonderful dog get such bad habits? It is the same in all relationships, people work hard in the beginning to start things on a good foot, but as time goes by they slack off and the relationship suffers, sound familiar? Dogs need their people to engage their minds, keep the relationship fresh and in balance.
Mental stimulation is vital to a dog’s well being, but most dogs end up just hanging around the house and left to do as they please. They get bored and either act out to relieve the boredom or act up in order to get the families attention, either way it can lead to unhappy families with out of control dogs.
Take a long look into your dog’s eyes and remember laughing at her antics as a pup, the fun hikes, the times you couldn’t stop staring at how cute she was, or just cuddling on the couch. Now think about what you can do today to start recreating a strong relationship again, get to work engaging her mind, and don’t hesitate to call a good trainer to help you teach her some new tricks, and repair some bad habits. It is time well spent together.
Article Reproduced by permission by Tenderfoot Training
Tenderfoot Training encourages responsible animal parenting, healthy socialization, humane use of training tools, natural nutrition, and sensitivity to the animal heart, mind, and body. (Article updated 03/19/2015)