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Older Dogs Benefit From Training Too

 by danielle on 26 Aug 2014 |
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The old adage ‘You’re never too old to learn something new’ just as neatly applies to dogs as it does to people. Old dogs are quite capable of learning new tricks and can indeed benefit from it greatly.
 
As dogs age there is the tendency for owners to decrease the amount of activities they engage in. They may after all suffer from arthritis or just be sleepier than they used to be, and even tire a great deal more after taking the same length of walk that they used to.
 
But that doesn’t mean they can’t continue ‘brain-exercises’, something that many vets recommend. Training can be a great way to keep an older dog stimulated and excited about life even though they can’t run and jump as much as they used to. Tricks after all don’t have to include leaping in the air to catch a treat or roll-over – it can be as simple as ‘speak’ or ‘drop’ – all tricks that require very little physical exertion.
 
Here are some trick ideas to consider for seniors:
 
Shake:
 
This can be achieved by picking up the dog’s paw in your hand and then praising and giving a treat whilst saying ‘Shake!’ Do so repeatedly to build the association between the treat, and the touching of the paw. Eventually, try saying the command and not pick up the paw, but putting your hand only near it. If your dog moves it even slightly, praise and reward. Over time raise your hand higher and wait for the dog to paw it before rewarding.
 
‘Which hand?’:
 
Secretly put a treat in one of your hands. Then place both hands in a fist in front of your dog, one empty, one with something yummy hidden inside. Ask: ‘where’s the treat?’ Your dog should sniff out the correct hand but don’t immediately given it to them. Wait until they try to get the treat out with their paw in frustration before rewarding and praising. With practice your dog will learn tapping the correct hand will yield the treat.
 
Twirl:
 
Take a treat and put your hand in front of your dog’s nose. Guide them in a circle and say ‘twirl’ praising them and rewarding when the circle is complete. Repeat a number of sessions, then try saying ‘twirl’, waiting a beat before guiding them part or all of the way, depending on their memory level. Remember to reward even the smallest sign of the dog trying to do the movement on their own. Ultimately, your dog should happily do a neat little twirl when asked. 
 
In the end though, it is not the tricks themselves that matter but the time you spend together and the mental stimulation your dog is given during the learning process.  At any age, an active dog, whether that be physically or mentally, is a happy dog. 

 

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