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Your older dog is just a special today as he was when he was a young pup. However, his behaviors and his reactions are going to be quite different as he ages. Your older dog might not hear as well as he used to. He also might not see you as well. His reflexes are going to be a bit slower. Just as you have had to do his entire life, you need to keep your older dog safe. Training him to stay out of the street is important at any age. If you have rescued an older dog or your environment is new to him, he will need to be trained to know where he is safe and where he is not. Remember, with an older dog, because his senses are a bit different and his reaction times are slower, you will need to spend some time teaching him to stay out of the street, especially if he now lives near one.
Staying out of the street will require your older dog to remain focused and pay attention to his surroundings even if he can't see or hear as well as he used to. You can spend some time with your older dog on a leash showing him the street, teaching him to look both ways should he need to cross, and understanding the boundaries to keep him safe. Your older dog will respond best to positive enforcement training rather than consequence training relying on items like shock collars. With lots of repetition and introduction to the road and the dangers of cars, you can train an older dog to stay away from the street. Training your older dog to stay away from cars as well as out of the street altogether will help to keep your dog safe in his later years.
To train your older dog to stay out of the street, you are going to need a harness and leash or a leash and collar. Be sure to bring lots of high-value treats during your training sessions, and when you and your dog are outside, have treats on hand to reward him for those good choices he'll make after initial training. If your older dog is used to using a clicker to train, be sure to bring a clicker with you. He will recognize the click and reward that comes with this training if you have the clicker in your hand during your sessions. Be patient and always be on guard, so he doesn't get hurt during your training.
The Street Sense Method
Introduce the street
Take your older dog to the roadside while on a leash.
Have your older dog sit and offer him a treat.
If your older dog doesn’t know the ‘wait’ command, this is a good time to teach it. Use this opportunity to train him to sit and wait until you tell him it is okay to cross the street or enter the road. If he does know the ‘wait’ command, ask him to wait. He should still be in a sitting position.
When it is safe to cross or enter the road, do so with your dog still on the leash. Be sure to release him when it is safe and take a step into the road ahead of your older dog.
Continue to practice crossing the street or entering the street after your older dog sits and waits to be released before entering. This method assumes your older dog will be on a leash with you when around the street. Over time, even if off leash, he should be conditioned to sitting and waiting next to the street before you release him into the street.
Each time your older dog sits and waits patiently to be released, be sure to give him a treat. It is a good idea to also give him a treat once he is safe on the other side of the street.
Make sure your training sessions include times when cars are driving past. Your older dog should take notice with several training sessions that he is stopping, sitting, and waiting and not released as a car passes, but only after the road is clear.
The Along the Street Method
Put your older dog on a leash and walk him along your property next to the street without crossing into the street. This could mean you are walking curbside or in a gutter. Just walk him for a bit parallel to the street without stepping into the street.
Every few feet or yards, stop and give your older dog a treat. This is rewarding him for staying with you and not going into the street, even if he doesn’t know that just yet.
Practice this walk along your property line against the street for a few days. If possible, take your older dog out a few times a day for this walk. Be sure to treat him along the way.
Once he is used to walking this line several times, begin to stop and step out into the street. If your older dog steps with you, stop and step back to the other side back on the property line, bringing him with you. If he does not cross with you, give him a treat. The goal is for you to take a step into the street but for him to stay in the safe zone.
Keep practicing these walks with your older dog. Challenge him by stepping further into the street keeping the leash loose enough for him to stay put. When he stays on his side, give him a treat. If he steps into the street with you, cross back to the safe zone and start again without giving him a treat.
The Cars, Curb & Clicker Method
Curb and street
Take your older dog to the street side or curb. For the first few sessions, you might want him to be on a leash. Over time, make this leash loose until he doesn’t realize it is there and you no longer need it to pull him back to safety because you can trust him to stay out of the street and away from cars.
Have your older dog sit curbside. Be sure to click and treat for obeying this command.
As cars pass, if your older dog doesn’t move, click and give him a treat. He should be getting a treat each time a car passes. If it is a busy street where cars are passing constantly, consider clicking and treating at regular intervals. If you see the occasional car, click and treat with each passing car. This teaches him to recognize cars as they pass and rewarding him for staying seated instead of heading into the street.
When there are no cars passing, step out into the street. Your older dog should not follow you at this point. If he does, step back and ask him to sit and stay. If he stays put where he is safe, click and treat as you step back onto the curb with him.
Keep practicing rewarding your older dog for staying put in a sitting position while cars pass. When the coast is clear, challenge your older dog by stepping out into the street and jumping back onto the curb quickly, rewarding him with a click and treat when he stays put.
Keep challenging your older dog by stepping farther out into the street, keeping the leash loose enough so it doesn’t pull as you step away. Each time you take one or more steps into the street, come back quickly with a click and treat as long as your older dog stays put on the curb.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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