How to Train Your Older Dog to Behave

Medium
5-20 Days
Behavior

Introduction

Articles are quick to highlight that as dogs age they become more calm and wise. What they don't often tell you is that they also become more and more stubborn, and bad habits turn into deeply entrenched behaviors. For a dog that has been trained and loved his whole life, these traits are mostly just endearing - like the grumpiness of an old man. But for dogs who missed out on key learning when they were young, old age only makes things more complicated.

Defining Tasks

Rescue dogs often come with one or two serious behavioral issues. Many of the owners that surrender a dog really weren't ready for one in the first place. Most of them were unable to successfully train their dog, hence why the dog is now in a shelter.

This poses a problem for adoptive doggy parents. How do you bring one of these misbehaving grown-ups into your home? The majority of new-to-you dog owners do not want to sacrifice their houses (or their friends) because of their new four-legged friend.

Thankfully, old dogs can learn new things! If it's a brand new behavior that they're taking on, the learning process should be quick. If you're teaching them not to do something that they may have been allowed to do their entire lives, it's going to take a lot more work.

Getting Started

There are things you can do before the pooch even comes home to help prepare for those first few weeks. If you're physically and mentally ready, you're more likely to succeed in retraining your mutt. To prepare, be sure to:

  • De-clutter the House: Some doggos are very destructive. Make it easier on you both by removing any extra objects in the areas that the pup will be in.
  • Buy Treats: To help your new dog learn, have a good supply of treats on hand. Be sure to reward good behavior as it's happening so the dog gets why he's being praised.
  • Get a Crate: Just because a pooch is older does not mean you should trust him to roam free when you're not around. When you have to leave, crate him up!
  • Be Realistic: It can take weeks of persistent training before your canine shows progress. Don't expect change to happen overnight!

It's also important to note that all household members should be aware of how you're training the dog. If everyone is doing the same things, the dog will get the picture much faster. Remember, with dogs, consistency is key!
Below are some great methods for teaching an old boy or gal some manners. See which ones work for your family and your dog, and give them a whirl!

The Basic Care Method

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Step
1
Go on daily walks
They don't have to be hours long, but try to top twenty minutes.
Step
2
Feed them right
Provide a healthy, appropriate diet for your dog. This can be done with raw food, supplements, or high quality dog food.
Step
3
Play with your pup
This can help the two of you bond, and helps build trust.
Step
4
Focus on the positive
Really watch for areas you can praise your dog, and follow through quickly.
Step
5
Be firm but calm
Bad behavior should be stopped using a low but strong tone of voice as the action is happening. Dogs don't respect a leader who freaks out all of the time.
Recommend training method?

The Stubborn Dog Method

Effective
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Step
1
Go slow
Try to teach only one command per day to keep things simple.
Step
2
Get help
If this isn't working, call a professional trainer to help lay the groundwork.
Step
3
Keep working on it
Practice what the trainer has taught you every day for a few weeks.
Step
4
Join a class
If your dog is responding, sign up for a training class with other dogs.
Step
5
Use the training
Implement what you learn at the class and be persistent!
Recommend training method?

The Social Butterfly Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Watch the dog
Observe how your pupper responds to new people, places, or things to identify issues.
Step
2
Bring in stressors
Try to introduce things that make your dog uncomfortable--in a controlled situation.
Step
3
Don't overwhelm them
Keep it short and praise the dog if he keeps his composure.
Step
4
Ask a pro
If your dog doesn't do well, talk to a dog trainer or behaviorist to see what they suggest.
Step
5
Listen and learn
Follow their direction closely whenever your dog has to be around what bothers them.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
baby
Bich-poo
13 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
baby
Bich-poo
13 Years

Excessive urinating in the house, despite numerous outings a day. We have taken her to vet and had numerous testing done no medical issues, thinks its behavioral. Use a gate to keep her contained, chews gate and gets out anyway, then urinates on carpets. Took up all carpets and now urinates on floors. Help don't know what to do. She does drink a lot of water and urinates large amounts.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jo Anne, I suggest looking into doggie diapers. You can buy both disposable and washable diapers with pad inserts. You can even use feminine pads and human incontinence pads instead of the dog pads inside the washable diapers. Based on what you have described this sounds very related to age. This could even be indicative of mental decline (I am not a Vet though). Since she is drinking large amounts of water and peeing large amounts, that does suggest a medical condition. Several common medical conditions can include those symptoms and are easily missed in their early stages before they begin to effect other areas in the body. It may be worth getting a second opinion from a Vet if she continues to get worse. (I am not a Vet, so cannot give medical advice). Either way, at her age you are likely looking at management rather than going back to how things were before. You will likely need to use doggie diapers or confine her to an Exercise Pen and put a real grass pad in it. Use carabinners to reinforce the exercise pen and give her something interesting to do while in the pen, like chew on a food stuffed chew toys. Introduce the diaper using lots of treats and fun, then let her wear it around and give her time to adjust to the way it feels, like you would with a puppy and a new collar. Interrupt her with toys, games, and training sessions if she starts to bother the diaper. Be sure to change the pads often once they get wet to keep her skin healthy and avoid irritation. Real grass pad: https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Patch-Disposable-Potty-Grass/dp/B005G7S6UI/ref=asc_df_B005G7S6UI/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309763115430&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4628430177348674255&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1015431&hvtargid=pla-568582223506&psc=1 I am so sorry you are going through this. Many of us have been there with our own dogs as well. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
milo
Beagle
3 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
milo
Beagle
3 Years

Hi,

Milo is a reactive dog(leash frustrated). And I think it has to do with the lack of socialization. How can I let him socialize without him barking and scaring off other dogs he tries to greet? Also, I think he might be becoming a little aggressive. He snipped at two dogs and he didn't act like that when we got him(we got him 6 months ago). I think the behavior is getting worse. I want him to get trained but I don't know if I should put him in group classes or a private lessons because he may try to bite other dogs, it might be too much for him to be surrounded by so many dogs and he might not focus. When he sees another dog it kinda hard to control him, he doesn't listen. I thought about putting him in doggy daycare so he can get the socialization he needs and it is professionally supervised, in case something happens. Also, I thought about taking him to a dog park but I don't think he can handle that. I just don't know what is best for him.

Is there anything
I could do to help the behavior a little better? I don't want to use shock collars or anything like that. I want him to be comfortable around dogs and to not whine, lunge and bark at other dogs. I want to walk past another dog without him acting crazy and if he wants to greet another dog for him to be calm.

Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jala, First, don't put him in daycare, don't take him to dog parks, and don't enroll him in a typical obedience class yet. The daycare and dog parks can make it worse since that environment will add stress, lack structure and very easily lead to fights which is stressful and dangerous for him and the other dogs. A normal obedience class won't benefit him and will ruin the entire class for everyone else who is there to work on obedience with their own dogs. What you CAN do is see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your city or driving distance. A G.R.O.W.L. class is a class for dog aggressive or reactive dogs who all wear basket muzzles for everyone's safety and are intensively socialized with each other while practicing structured things like heeling. If you can find one of those classes close enough to you, that would be a great way to socialize him. If you cannot find the class or would prefer one on one training, then I would recommend hiring a private professional trainer to help you. Look for someone who has access to a training facility with several friendly dogs on property where the trainer can get Milo around a lot of other dogs and work on his fear and his response in a quicker amount of time than you could in your neighborhood. Teach him commands like "Watch Me"- which means look at me. Work on teaching a structured heel where he walks behind you and is focused on you. Interrupt him as soon as he starts scanning the horizon looking for other dogs, staring at another dog, or trying to get in front of you during walks - don't wait until an outburst, catch it early if you can - notice what he is thinking at that moment. Start your walk out making him sit before being leashed, wait at the door and walk behind you - how you start the walk will effect his arousal level during the walk. Work on heavily rewarding him for obeying commands and staying focused on you - keep your energy very calm and pleasant though. When you start to approach another dog, give him the "Watch Me" command and reward him for focusing on you. Also reward him for normally looking at you when another dog is present even if you have not told him to. Reward him for looking at the dog and staying calm (not tensing up and fixating), looking at the dog and then back at you, and generally being calm. You want to make the presence of another dog pleasant for him and also encourage focus on you instead of that dog. Go to places with a lot of space, like the park, where you can control how far he is from other dogs and train where he is close enough to notice the other dogs but far enough away to still look at you for treats and stay a bit calm with your help. All of this will go much faster if you attend a G.R.O.W.L. class or hire a trainer who has access to other dogs to help you. Getting him around other friendly, polite dogs while he is wearing a silicone muzzle can also help if you have a trainer there to show you how to train his responses to the other dog. If it is done wrong if may lead to worse problems though, so do that under the supervision of a trainer. For maintenance, once he is doing better around other dogs, see if there are other pet parents who go on heeling walks with their dogs. A regular structured heeling walk with other dogs is a great way to socialize reactive dogs. His focus needs to be on you though. He is more likely to do poorly if he starts getting aroused so keep all energy around other dogs right now calm. The goals is NOT for him to be chasing and rough housing with other dogs - that actually causes reactivity for some dogs. You want him to learn how to calmly hang out with other dogs, doing things that stimulate his mind and keep his energy calm. Once he is great around other dogs, then you can consider joining an obedience class - at that point that would be a great thing for him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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