While it’s true that you can train an older dog without the use of any tools, the right tools definitely do make the task much easier. Whether you’re trying to housebreak an old dog, teach them some general house manners, or simply add to your repertoire of tricks, these are the tools that you need.
A clicker may seem like a simple tool, but it’s a game-changer when trying to train old dog. The only exception would be if your senior dog is losing their hearing. In this case, they won’t be able to hear the “click” made by a clicker.
Clickers can be used for training just about everything. It makes it much easier to communicate with your dog, while also significantly speeding up the training process. They also don’t cost much, making one a must-have in your training tool arsenal.
High Value and Low Value Treats
Positive reinforcement is the best training method to use for older dogs, no matter what you’re trying to teach. For some dogs, praise is often reinforcement enough. However, the better your reward, the faster your dog will learn.
This makes it useful to have a mix of both high value and low value treats. The high value treats should be saved for the most important and difficult training tasks. These are what you can use when housebreaking older dog. Chunks of cheese or cooked meat are great for this. Low value treats are those that your dog regularly has, such as dog biscuits. They’re nothing special, but they’re still a reward, so can be used for the easier and more basic training commands.
A Long Line
Standard leashes are great, but you’ll sometimes need to give your dog a little more freedom. This is where a long line comes in. They’re basically extra-long leashes, sometimes up to 50 feet in length.
Long lines are most useful when teaching recall. They give a dog plenty of space, but prevent them from running off, allowing you to safely practice in various environments.
A 6-Foot Leash
Long lines are great for training recall, but a standard 6-foot leash is another dog training essential you need. Even as a senior, your dog will benefit from regular walks. Many don’t think of walks as training opportunities, but there’s so much that you can teach while out and about.
Loose leash walking is an obvious one, as is walking to heel. However, going over the basic commands while on a walk, from “sit” to “stay” to “down”, is also useful.
When choosing a leash, don’t be tempted to go for a retractable one. This is a mistake that many new owners make. However, a retractable leash encourages a dog to wander off and pull unless it’s used correctly. Poorly-made retractable leashes can also be dangerous – there have been many cases of the lock mechanism breaking, resulting in dogs running out onto roads.
Many don’t think of a crate as being a training tool, but it’s truly a priceless one. It’s especially useful when housebreaking older dog. It minimizes the chances of accidents in the house, since dogs usually don’t like to soil their bed.
The only issue is if you have an older dog that isn’t already crate trained. In this case, shutting your dog into a crate will only cause them great distress. You’ll need to first spend some time crate training your dog, before you can use your crate as a training tool. Don’t skip out on this step – it’s never a good idea to crate a dog that hasn’t been crate trained.
Good Training Advice
If you’re relatively new to dog training, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed at all of the training advice out there. Yes, teaching old dog new tricks is definitely possible, but only if you use the right methods.
Fall into the trap of using aversive techniques and you’ll only damage the bond that you have with your senior dog. Instead, keep things positive and find some good advice that you can trust. The free workshop offered by K9TI is a great place to start! It covers the basics to help you train old dog, while also focusing on several common behavioral problems that dog owners face.
Many assume that it’s difficult to train old dog. After all, they’re already so stuck in their ways. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Use the right training methods, along with the dog training tools listed above, and it’ll surprise you how quickly your older dog will pick up on new tricks and commands.