As the saying says, you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Or can you?
As spring appears over the horizon, March is a good time to get outdoors and work on a few fun new moves with your dog. Your pet will be emotionally and physically exercised and will also bond with you when you reinforce what they learned as a puppy or pick up new skills.
Of course, there are differences. A puppy is a blank slate, one programmed to absorb new learning. But older dogs can learn, too. Just like an older person with a smartphone. Here are some tips to teach older dogs new tricks.
Clickers are great tools on which to build training. Clicker training helps good behaviour by teaching dogs to associate clicks as positive reinforcement. If you prefer not to use a clicker, the same principles apply, simply choose a word that will work for you instead.
To start, get their attention, then click the device. Give praise and offer a treat. Do this about three dozen times to set off the association process. And always give them a treat as a reward.
Your dog can learn the names of everyday household items, and it’s excellent mental stimulation. The clicker or word you have chosen can help.
Get your pet to touch your hand. Reward this with a click. Then move on to holding something in your hand, such as a ball. Get them to touch the ball and click again. Repeat this procedure, adding the name of the object. They’ll start to recognise it and retrieve it on command.
Just like kids, dogs have plenty of toys that need to be tidied away. The good news is you can train your dog to do this.
Put all the toys in a pile away from the toybox. Point to each one and say, ‘take it,’ then ‘bring it’ and ‘drop it’. Reward success with a treat or click. When he’s put away all the toys, reward with another click or a treat. Reinforce the activity by saying ‘put your toys away’.
Barking when he wants to go walkies isn’t great behaviour. So you can teach him to ring a bell when he wants to go out. Attach one to a door handle and guide your dog with a training stick, or even simply pointing with your finger. When he touches the bell, reward him with a click and a walk. Make sure your pet touches the bell before you go for a walk.
So, get your training hat on, your clicker out and you’ll soon discover that you and your dog can teach each other some new tricks this spring!