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.
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The Stubborn Dog Method

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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!
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The Social Butterfly Method

Effective
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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.
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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
329 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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