3 Fun Tricks to Teach Your Older Dog
There’s a silly old saying about not being able to teach an old dog any new tricks. The saying implies that only puppies or very young dogs benefit from training sessions. Nothing can be further from the truth. Even though Barkley is getting a little gray around the muzzle and might take a little bit longer to stretch when he stands up, he’s still perfectly capable of training sessions.
In fact, some experts argue that older dogs are even better at learning new tricks than puppies. Because of their maturity, they are not as easily distracted (although I can’t promise no distractions if bacon magically falls from the sky—and that’s me, not the dog!). Therefore, you can hold their attention for longer.
It’s also beneficial for older dogs to train regularly because it keeps their mind sharp. Just as older people become more forgetful when they don’t challenge themselves, dogs require tasks that keep their memories sharp.
So, without further ado, here are some fun training challenges for your older dog.
3 Fun and Easy Tricks to Teach Older Dogs
Ring the Bell
You can teach older dogs to let you know when they need to go outside by teaching them to ring a jingle bell on the door. This is a lot of fun for visitors to your home to witness.
It’s easier to teach an older dog this trick than a puppy, because your older dog is already housebroken. Therefore, you won’t be struggling to get him out the door before she makes a mistake.
Here’s how you do this.
- 1.Tie a dollar store jingle bell on a length of yarn and suspend it from the doorknob.
- 2.When it’s time to take Rufus outside, touch the bell to make it ring. You will ring it the first several times so that he begins to associate the bell ringing with the door opening.
- 3.After a couple days of consistently doing the ringing, point to the bell and encourage Rufus to ring it. Some dogs will nudge it with their nose and others will slap it with their paw. But, by now, they know the bell rings and the door opens. When he succeeds in ringing the bell, give him a training teat, praise, and open the door immediately.
Not only is this a cute trick, but it’s also useful. As dogs do progress in age, they may have a harder time “holding it.” If you’re in another area of the house, you’ll know to hightail it to the door and let your dog outside to handle his business.
Gimme Five is another fun trick for your pet to learn. Most dogs already know how to shake hands. This is an adaptation of her favorite shaking hands trick. This means that it will be fun for your dog to learn.
- 1.Hold your hand out as though you’re prompting him to shake to cue him that he needs to lift his paw.
- 2.Slide your hand gently up into a high five position and say “Gimme Five!” as you hold up your hand. Be careful not to startle him. You don’t want him to think you’re going to slap him, especially if you have a rescue dog!
- 3.When he gets the idea of what you are looking for, he will tap his paw into your waiting hand. Give a training treat, praise, hugs, and repeat again until he gets it down pat.
Another super fun trick is to teach your dog to make figure eight patterns weaving in and out of your leg. Of course, that’s assuming you have a dog that will fit, not a Burmese Mountain Dog or St. Bernard! Dogs seem to be a little confused by this at first. After all, for years you’ve been tripping over her and shooing her out from under your feet. Once she gets the hang of this trick, she’ll think it’s the most fun thing to do, ever!
- 1.Start by having your pooch sit beside you. Give the command “through” and lure her from beside you and pass through your legs with the promise of a training treat. When she has passed through your legs and is behind you, give her praise and the treat.
- 2.Next, use another cookie and prompt her with the command “around,” and have her come around the side of your leg. When she gets to just in front of your legs, praise and a treat.
- 3.Repeat the “through” sequence, completing with a treat and the praise.
- 4.Finally, repeat the “around” sequence going to the opposite side followed with a treat and more praise.
Some people like to guide the dog with his leash as she learns this trick, but others prefer to be free of the constraint. Of course, that’s entirely up to you.
To be honest, this takes several training sessions. There are a lot of moving parts for your dog to remember. Either way, she will just have fun spending time with you and being the object of your attention.
When Training Doesn’t Work
In rare occasions, older dogs don’t always pick up those fun new tricks. When this doesn’t work, don’t despair or badger the dog. You’ll usually find an underlying medical reason. These include:
- Limited mobility such as hip or knee pain. The poor old guy or gal is just slowing down!
- A memory/cognitive issue that’s causing confusion or lack of alertness. Yes, dogs really can go senile.
- Fading vision or hearing.
In these cases, just love your treasured friend and don’t worry about training. These were just for fun tricks, anyways!
Spending this quality time with your older bestie is beneficial for both of you. He will be engaged, active, and using his mind instead of snoozing. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve proven the old wives’ tale and that you really can teach old dogs new tricks.