teaching an old dog new tricks

Is It Possible To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

How many times have you heard that one before? It’s the type of quip that you hear so much of that you take it for a fact.

But what if I told you, it’s wrong. What if I told you that it’s just an adage that doesn’t hold any scientific weight behind it?

Because believe it or not, an old dog can learn new tricks, and not only that but in some instances, they learn better than their puppy counterparts!

Separating Fact From Fiction

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Dogs are always eager and willing to learn on a 24/7 basis. They’re constantly observing how we interact with them, how we live with them, how we react to their behaviours.

This is known as operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning, also known as trial-and-error learning, is where dogs learn to associate their behaviour with its consequences.

This is how it’s broken down:

  • They have an innate curious nature.
  • They are always observing the world around them.
  • They respond to external stimuli from what they see, hear and smell.
  • They want to be part of new experiences.

Now, in saying that, there’s no doubt that it’s mostly easier to train a puppy new tricks.

Like babies, puppies are new to the world, so their brain acts like a sponge. They absorb new things at a rapid rate and have a “clean slate” from which to learn new habits i.e.: tricks, behaviour etc.

Older dogs will have engrained habits that are harder to alter. So, it makes teaching new things such as tricks and behaviours more difficult, but by no means impossible.

Older dogs also have an advantage in that they’ve less energy than an overactive puppy, so they can be more focused in some instances!

According to Canine behaviourist Will Atherton, to teach an old dog new tricks “You need to restructure the relationship between you and your dog, your dog needs to see you as their calm and consistent leader for guidance and direction in all scenarios.”

It becomes easier to teach something new when you have that guidance. So, let’s look at that in a bit more detail.

How To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Firstly, you need to be a calm leader for your dog to look to for guidance.

This is crucial because it makes it much easier to teach.

Next thing you need to do is work your dog every single day; you need to teach them every single day.

This requires patience and persistence. You don’t need to be harsh or militant when teaching your dog. Dogs thrive on leadership. They want to work with you because it’s in their nature.

Will Atherton notes: “The best way to make your dog love you more than anything in the world is through working with them”

Schedule a time with them every day.

Steps To Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

  1. Restructure the relationship so that your dog sees you as their leader.
  2. Recognize and respect your dog’s’ limits
  3. Keep training short and snappy.
  4. Treat your dog with praise and positive reinforcement
  5. Start with a basic trick- keep it one at a time!
  6. Try training your dog in an unfamiliar environment which he can associate learning behaviours with.
  7. Work with them every day- always be patient and persistent.
  8. Trust the process- it can take up to one month for them to learn.

Final Bark

So, there you have it. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Patience, persistence and positive reinforcement are the keys. So, why not reward your dog with the tastiest treats and most tantalizing toys available?!

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Every month, our team of dog parents and dog lovers create a new theme packed with healthy treats and fun toys for your dog.

So, check us out. And be sure to check out our ever-growing doggy blog, crammed full of useful information for you to learn from.