Imagine going to your local pet store with your dog. You are ready to check out, but you need to write a check and your hands are full of items that you are trying very hard not to drop. Now imagine being able to hand your purse to your dog, for him to hold, while you pay and gather up your things.
Having your older dog trained to hold something is very useful. You can use it to make your friends laugh by having your dog hold funny items for you. You can use it while duck hunting, to keep your dog from dropping his bird on his way back to you. You can train your dog to do service work, and have your dog assist you with grasping items and carrying things.
Training your older dog to hold an object is very similar to teaching your younger dog to hold an object. You will need to consider a couple of additional things though.
First, you need to consider whether or not your older dog can hold an item without the item causing him pain. Older dogs are more likely to have dental problems, so take care to ensure that your dog does not seem in pain while doing this.
Secondly, you need to consider whether or not your older dog can hear and see well. If your older dog cannot hear or see well, you will need to modify the training a bit. For a hearing-impaired dog, you will need to replace the "Hold" command with a visual hand signal, and for a vision-impaired dog, you will need to allow extra time for your dog to sniff the objects and tools that you are using.
Almost all dogs can succeed at this if they are given enough time and opportunity to practice. Dogs that naturally carry things in their mouths, such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors, are likely to learn this more quickly than other breeds. Expect this to take between one and three weeks, with practice every day.
To get started, you will need a leash, some of your dog's favorite small, tasty treats, and one or two different, six to twelve inch long objects. Objects that can easily fit into your dog's mouth. Objects such as retrieval bumpers, stuffed dog toys, or rubber chew toys work well.
Choose a calm location to train this at, such as inside your home or a fenced yard. You can practice having your dog hold objects in more distracting locations once your dog has mastered the calmer locations.
Keep things fun, and if you find yourself getting frustrated, end the training session on a successful note and come back to it later, when you are feeling better.