Can old dogs learn new tricks?
Always wanted to adopt a dog but not sure how you go about it? Maybe you just want some tips on how to train the current family pooch? Professional Dog Trainer and Behavioural Specialist Doggy Dan lets Gloss in on the secrets to teaching an old dog new tricks.
Training a mature dog from a shelter can be easier than starting from scratch with a new pup. Often some of the hardest work will have often been done for you – all you need to do is remind your furry friend of the rules they used to follow. If he was housetrained in his previous home, the re-training process should progress quickly.
The first thing you should do is take your dog out to the yard where you expect it to eliminate. After the dog goes to the toilet, praise it or give it a small reward. Don’t stand over your dog and pressure it, give it space. Remember we all like a little privacy when we go to the toilet! If it doesn’t want to go then just remember to take it out later on.
Show the dog that it has a bed, somewhere that it knows it can go and escape to at any time. Remember you want the dog to feel safe, then it can relax and then you can enjoy its company to the full. There will be plenty of time for fun and games in the days to come, so don’t force the dog to do too much early on, let it become accustomed with its new surroundings.
Try and get into a predictable routine as soon as possible. Dogs prefer a routine so this will help your new friend to settle in.
The best way to train a dog is with several shorter training sessions rather than one very long one. Try working your dog for 5-10 minutes and then have a play break followed by another 5-10 minutes. Training like this several times a day will keep the dog at its best and stop it from finding it repetitive.
Remember that your dog is a dog and not a person! Dogs live in the moment so don’t cling onto the dog’s past and feel sorry for it. Instead move ahead and show the dog that you make the decisions. Do not think that by letting the dog do whatever it wants it will end up happy! A dog is looking for you to be a strong pack leader.
The key to success with any dog is showing it in a way that it understands that it doesn’t have to look after you. That way you’ll end up with a happy dog and a healthy relationship. One way to do this is to call the dog to you instead of going up to it. If your dog won’t come then ignore it and walk away.
Start right away with expected behaviours. If you don't want the dog on the furniture, then don't let it on them from day one. It’s tempting to be compassionate and “bend” the rules when they’re first settling in, but just remember that if you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter then you’ve already been exceptionally kind – now it’s the dog’s turn to return the favour.
Once your dog has settled into its new surroundings make time for your new friend. Dog training is all about repetition, so you really need to work on it every day if possible. Coming from a dog shelter can be a traumatic experience for many dogs so this is an ideal way for you to have some one-on-one bonding time with the new addition to your family.
Every dog loves food so it’s a great idea to have some doggie treats on hand to help reward your newly adopted dog for good behaviour. You’ll find your new dog particularly responsive when you use treats randomly. Vary the rewards that your dog gets and don’t give out treats every time it does something – keep the dog guessing and you’ll really start to see results!
Many dogs also love non-food rewards. Discover what your dog really appreciates and start using this to reward good behaviour. Remember that every dog is different. It could be that your dog loves chasing a ball as a reward or it could be that verbal praise and a tickle tummy is the ultimate prize!
If you think you’re ready provide a loving home then you should consider adopting one of the thousands of abandoned dogs currently caged up in shelters around New Zealand, desperately looking for a loving owner like you. Pedigree is doing a great thing at the moment by donating a percentage of the profits from every sale to help raise funds to adopt, feed and house desperate dogs in local communities – visit www.pedigreeadoptiondrive.co.nz to find out more.
If you can’t commit to adopting a dog right now then you can make a small donation to the Pedigree Adoption Drive so they can help care for the dogs until the day their new owner comes to pick them up.
If you'd like my help training your dog then please visit the home consultation page.