Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Over a million dogs receive no training.

Is it ever too late to teach an old dog new tricks?

According to charity, PDSA, now could be a good time to give four-legged companions some lessons on basic commands as most people are still spending time at home.

Around 12% of dogs have received no training whatsoever, according to the PDSA’s 2019 PAW Report which found around 1,188,000 dogs don’t understand basic commands.

Anna Ewers Clark, PDSA Vet, said: “Now might be a great time to make sure your dog has a basic level of obedience for when you are out and about or at home more. Having a well-trained dog is important to help them understand what you expect and can also be great mental stimulation for them to stop them getting bored. Importantly it also helps keep them safe in certain situations. For example, good recall, sit, stay and leave commands can allow your dog to enjoy some much-needed time off the lead, and good walking “manners” can keep them safe near roads.

“Training gives you a deeper understanding of your dog and learning doesn’t only happen when they’re young.  Dogs are learning every day of their life and if something good happens when they perform a behaviour, they are likely to do it again. So it really is possible to teach an old dog new tricks, though it can take a bit longer to change those ingrained habits.”

PDSA’s Top Training Tips:

  1. Reward Good Behaviour

Make sure the reward is something your dog will really enjoy, such as their favourite snack.

  1. Short and Sweet

Conduct training sessions little and often so it stays fun for your dog. Always end on a high note and give your dog plenty of praise.

  1. Communicate

Use the same word for each command and accompany with a hand signal to avoid confusion. Only use the word once when your dog does the behaviour you want when teaching something new. Be consistent with what you are asking for, and how you are asking for it.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

Repetition, patience, and positive reinforcement are the key to teaching your dog a new command.

  1. Ignore Mistakes

Your dog will make mistakes – just like we do! It’s not their fault and it doesn’t mean they can’t learn the task; they might just need more practice or the environment that they are in might be too distracting. Ignore mistakes and reward instead whenever they do get it right.

  1. Positivity Rules

Positivity and praise will help your dog learn new commands. Shouting and being impatient will not help them at all in any aspect of their training or life.

  1. All Aboard

Everyone who encounters your pet should be following your example by praising correct behaviour, using the same commands and ignoring mistakes.

  1. Tasty Treats

Dog obesity is a big problem, so avoid creating a well-behaved but overweight buddy. If you’re using treats for training, always take a portion from the usual food allowance to ensure you’re not giving too many calories.

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