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Effective Training Techniques for Senior Dogs: 5 Helpful Tips

Senior dog looking attentively during training

Guess what!?

The old saying is simply not true. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. And not only can you, but you SHOULD!

Training older dogs can be a fulfilling experience that has many benefits for both you and your dog.

With patience, consistency, and understanding, you can teach your senior best friend new behaviors and skills. Here are five easy tips to help you train your older dog and enhance their final chapters of life!

  1. Always Make Sure Training Is Fun and Confidence-Boosting

I recommend positive reinforcement-only training for all dogs. But as our dogs age, it is not uncommon for them to become more sensitive, maybe even a bit more anxious, and more vulnerable to stress. For this reason, we want to make sure that our senior dogs are always enjoying training and gaining confidence from it. If your dog appears hesitant or avoidant of the training you are doing, stop and take a break!

2. Start With Easy Incremental Steps

As dogs age, and especially if it has been a long time since they have learned new skills, they may take longer to absorb new information compared to their younger selves. For this reason, we always want to start the training with a SUPER easy first step that we can gradually build on. Think of what step your dog can successfully dog right now. Start there.

Is your dog not understanding what you are trying to teach? Try to think about how to make the first step even easier for them to get it right!

3. Keep Training Sessions Short and Sweet

Along the same lines as the point above, older dogs may get tired more easily than they did when they were young, so it's essential to keep training sessions short and engaging. Aim for multiple short sessions throughout the day rather than one long session. Limit each session to around 10-15 minutes to prevent your senior dog from becoming overwhelmed or losing interest. By keeping sessions brief and enjoyable, you'll maintain your dog's focus and motivation to learn. It may even grow their drive and stamina!

4. Adapt Training Environment, Methods, and Goals to Suit Their Needs

Older dogs may need physical accommodations to be successful in training. For example, if your senior dog has a hard time moving around on hard floors, be sure to train on a rug or grass so they can have better traction.

You may also consider using verbal cues or hand signals if your dog is losing their sense of sight or hearing. By tailoring your approach to suit your dog's individual needs, you'll set them up for success and make the training process more accessible and enjoyable for both of you.

5. Train For Useful New Skills

While I am ALL about supporting things like trick training and "just for fun" dog activities, senior dogs have a lot of new needs that can be addressed in a low-stress way if we take the time to train them for it!

For example, if your senior dog needs to use a ramp or set of steps for different day-to-day activities, consider training them to happily use their new equipment using positive reinforcement. This will help you avoid having to physically coerce them, which is stressful and dangerous for you both. Similarly, if your senior dog has new vet care needs, you can train them to cooperate with procedures such as eye drops, injections, and more in a stress-free way! Training can and should be FUN and useful!

Training older dogs can be a rewarding experience that enriches both their lives and yours. By approaching training with patience, adaptability, and consistency, you can help your senior dog learn new skills and behaviors well into their golden years. Remember to celebrate small victories and always be understanding of your dog's individual needs. With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to strengthening your bond and enhancing the quality of life of your senior dog!

For more resources and service specifically for your senior dog, check out my website here!

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