Training an Older Dog
If you have an older dog and are under the illusion that teaching him new tricks is impossible then think again. In many ways it is more important to keep an older dog’s mind active because it can help to prevent canine dementia and even depression in his later years.
Stiffening joints and other health conditions can prevent the possibility of strenuous physical exercise in an elderly pet. Our long distance walk becomes more of an amble with an old friend and ball chasing a thing of the past.
In many ways, because of the loss of physical stimulation, mental exercise becomes more important than ever. There are things you can do to use your dog’s mind without having to put pressure on him physically.
Clicker training is fabulous to teach anything at all. When your dog is tuned into the clicker you can teach all sorts of clever acts. Teaching your dog to look left, right, up and down is a great filler of training time and he doesn’t even need to stand up. You can even teach your dog to yawn and sneeze on command with a clicker.
A filled Kong or similar toy will encourage your older do to think about how he can get the treats from within. Something tasty in an old sock or piece of knotted material will keep a food-loving pet busy for a while as he tries to release the treat.
Hiding items around the house and garden then encouraging your pet to find them can also fill many happy minutes. Older dogs love to sniff every blade of grass and leaf available and if you show them that there are also goodies to find this will certainly put a spring in their step. If he has never searched with his nose before then it may be easier to begin in the house as there is less distraction. Why not hide your pets treat filled Kong, then he can find it before starting the second round of emptying it.
Keep in mind that, although they benefit greatly from learning, elderly dogs can tire easily and may need shorter training sessions than their younger canine friends. If your dog can’t manage too much learning then regular grooming will also enhance your relationship with him and let him know that he is cherished.