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There are many reasons why you may have skipped training when your dog was a puppy. Maybe you didn't adopt or rescue him until he was older. Maybe your puppy had health problems, something happened in your life or schedule that wouldn't allow for it, or you just don't know where the time went! The good news is that the answer is a resounding "YES", an "old" dog can be taught new tricks. (click here if your adult dog has a behavior problem).
If your dog is indeed a senior citizen, there may not be much you need to teach him. Hopefully, you have already developed a good relationship with your old dog. Feel free to teach him some new tricks and games - he will love the attention and the treats for his effort. Remember to only teach tricks and games that he can physically handle at his age - for example, an senior may not be able to perform "roll over" or "beg" if he suffers from arthritis (click here for tricks and games). It your old dog should start to have any newly acquired behavior problems pay a visit to your veterinarian. Health problems and health-related behavior problems are easier to deal with when caught early.
A training manual I recommend to my clients is "Good Owners, Great Dogs" by Brian Kilcommons with Sarah Wilson. I recommend this book because it discusses training and behavior problems in a way that a pet owner can understand. Furthermore, it contains helpful photographs, has an index, and the sections are written in a clear manner (i.e. they are short and easy-to-read). The quotes on this page are taken from this book. One of the frequently asked questions presented in "Good Owners, Great Dogs" is, "My dog is five years old. Is it too late to train her?" The answer to the question is, "Not at all. Dogs are social animals, accepting of changes of leadership at any age. It may take her a bit longer than a pup to understand - you're working against five years of guessing. Once she comprehends you're trying to teach her something, she'll learn whatever you teach her quickly."
In the past, many dog owners had the misconception that a dog should not be trained until around 8 or 10 months of age. One of the reasons for this misconception was that the old-time methods were quite corrective and harsh and were not suited for a puppy, or for many adult dogs for that matter. Because the methods were harsh, people wanted their puppies to be puppies prior to "breaking their spirit". Fortunately, with today's training methods that teach with positive reinforcement, a puppy can be started young and many of the behavior problems can be prevented in the first place instead of corrected for the first time in a "teenage" dog.
A "teenage" dog refers to a dog that is approaching maturity starting around 8 to 10 months of age. The "terrible twos" for dogs tends to start around 8 months and go until a year-and-a-half or two years old (this is the "teenage" time for dogs). Some dog-training schools call their beginners obedience classes "terrible teens" classes. It is worthwhile to enroll in such a class, provided it is a well-run class. Make sure you sit in on a class without your dog prior to enrolling to make sure you like what you see. It is important to make sure that the dogs and handlers are having a good time, not overly stressed, and are actually learning the lesson at hand.
If you are teaching your dog for the first time and he is 8 months or older, the first step will be for your dog to "learn to learn" and to "love to learn". Training with a clicker is a great method to teach your dog to "learn to learn" and to "love to learn". To find books about clicker training go to the Dogwise web site and search for "clicker training". Games and tricks will also teach your dog to "learn to learn" and to "love to learn". Click here to find games and tricks to teach your dog. Also, teach your dog a simple obedience command such as "Sit" and teach him to use the "Sit" command as a way of saying "please". This is a leadership or "nothing in life is free" program. Ask your dog to "Sit" before you give him a biscuit, before you feed him, before you pet him, before you play a game with him, before you toss his toy, before you put his leash on, before you let him out in the yard, and before you release him from his crate, kennel run, or the car. This will get him responding to an obedience command for everyday life rewards and it will get you used to using commands to communicate with your dog in your everyday life. Between the clicker training, the tricks and games, and using an obedience command as "please", your dog will begin to think, "What can I do for you to get what I want?"
Here are some of the benefits of training your teenage or adult dog:
Personalized Dog Training by Martha Windisch. Located in South New Jersey in the town of Chatsworth.
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