How to Train Your Older Dog to Behave

How to Train Your Older Dog to Behave
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon5-20 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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.

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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!

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The Basic Care Method

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1

Go on daily walks

They don't have to be hours long, but try to top twenty minutes.

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.

3

Play with your pup

This can help the two of you bond, and helps build trust.

4

Focus on the positive

Really watch for areas you can praise your dog, and follow through quickly.

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.

The Stubborn Dog Method

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1

Go slow

Try to teach only one command per day to keep things simple.

2

Get help

If this isn't working, call a professional trainer to help lay the groundwork.

3

Keep working on it

Practice what the trainer has taught you every day for a few weeks.

4

Join a class

If your dog is responding, sign up for a training class with other dogs.

5

Use the training

Implement what you learn at the class and be persistent!

The Social Butterfly Method

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Watch the dog

Observe how your pupper responds to new people, places, or things to identify issues.

2

Bring in stressors

Try to introduce things that make your dog uncomfortable--in a controlled situation.

3

Don't overwhelm them

Keep it short and praise the dog if he keeps his composure.

4

Ask a pro

If your dog doesn't do well, talk to a dog trainer or behaviorist to see what they suggest.

5

Listen and learn

Follow their direction closely whenever your dog has to be around what bothers them.

By Abby Clark

Published: 10/16/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Tigger

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Indian pariah

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7 Years

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Question

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We just shifted into a new apartment from a house with a yard. He didn’t have a hard time the first few weeks here but ever since we got him a dog walker, he keeps on crying to go out again 10 mins after he has returned from his walk

June 25, 2022

Tigger's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Advay, Pup might be asking to go out because of the amount of smells and appearance of other dogs at the apartment complex. When you take pup outside, if pup going potty, then when you come back inside and pup asks to go back out and you take him, does he go potty again then? If pup is going potty each time, I would speak with your vet to make sure there isn't something causing irritation or incontinence like a bladder infection. I am not a vet. If pup is not going potty after that initial time you take pup outside, I would give pup more more chance to go potty, taking pup a second time, but keep it super short, close to home so pup isn't allowed to sniff or go greet a bunch, and to the point. Stay outside for no longer than 10 minutes whenever you take pup out and suspect they don't really need to go potty. After taking pup outside and ensuring pup really doesn't have to go potty, when pup cries, I would tell pup Quiet. If pup doesn't obey, then I would briefly correct with a puff of air from an unscented air pet convincer at pup's side. Avoid blowing it in their face and don't use citronella - only unscented air to interrupt the crying. Quiet method for teaching Quiet command: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Also, if pup may be bored or lacking in exercise, you can wear pup out on walks even more by adding in training practice during the walk - like a structure heel, sit-stay at curbs, Down Stay occasionally, watch me, turns and speed changes while pup remains in heel. Pup having to concentrate and focus on you a lot during the walk can take some of the mental energy edge away in addition to meeting that physical need for exercise. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 27, 2022

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Freya

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Jack Russell Terrier/Cattle dog

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4 Years

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Barks and growls at other people and my girlfriends kid. Lunges at our other dogs on runs as if to herd them.

June 14, 2021

Freya's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Blake, It sound like pup needs a combination of off-leash obedience practice (which is practiced on a long training leash initially) to help manage the herding drive, as well as calm respect building for you to help pup let you handle situations around other people and dogs, and counter conditioning and desensitizing to people and running dogs. Commands like Leave It, Come, Quiet, Place, Down, Heel, and Out can help with impulse control, management, and build respect for you gently. Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Check out trainers like Thomas Davis' channel from the Canine Educator online. I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer to help you in person with this. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues like fear and aggression, has experience with herding breeds and teaching impulse control, works with a team of trainers and has access to well mannered dogs, like the trainers' own dogs, so there are "strangers" and other dogs to practice controlled settings with for training sessions, and who comes well recommended by their previous clients for behavior issue needs they had with their dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 15, 2021


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