If you have adopted a dog (that is more than 7 years old, he would be considered as an older dog) and if he is giving you all kinds of trouble, it’s time to look into conducting obedience training for him.
Older dogs will have undesirable old habits that you will need to correct in your obedience training. Make use of positive reinforcement to make your dog feel that doing the new behavior is more rewarding than the old habits. Remember to use both hand signals and verbal clues in your training.
If your older dog has already been obedience trained before, retraining him again on some basic obedience commands is a good way to provide mental simulation for him and to keep his brain healthy.
This will prevent him from suffering from dementia as this disorder can make him turn into a stupid dog.
Plan for an obedience refresher training for your dog regularly as this will certainly help to get your dog to behave himself in the house.
In fact, training an older dog would be much easier than a young puppy as he is physically and mentally mature.
Training An Older Dog Obedience
It’s all drills down to habit. Your older dog might have been doing this behavior over and over again for years without any correction. What you need is to let him know that this action or behavior is not acceptable, and he needs to change it.
Of course, breaking an old habit takes time and could take up to 3-4 weeks of training. So be patient and by applying positive reinforcement to reward for desirable behavior, you can certainly have a well-behaved dog.
Keep in mind these 3 keys points for your obedience training and you are good to go:
- Be consistent in your commands so as not to confuse your dog.
- Positive reinforcement for good behavior.
- Repetition is a Must.
“Untrain” Undesirable Old Behavior
Older dogs might have picked up some undesirable behaviors such as chewing on furniture and shoes, barking at your visitor or running out of the door and you need to let him know that these behaviors are not pleasing you.
You see, dogs love to please their owners and will do what it takes to make them happy. As old dogs are more mature, they will likely be more eager to get your love and attention than young puppies who are still developing their thoughts.
So make use of this to your advantage to encourage your dog to perform the right behavior that you want him to be trained for.
Using positive reinforcement is certainly the best approach to make your dog unlearn his old habit as he will see that doing the new habit is going to be more rewarding than the old behavior. He will get a reward for that and most important of all, he makes you happy.
Housetraining On Potty
If you find your older dog is not properly house-trained, you should do the training as soon as possible as you would not want him to pee and poo everywhere in your home.
You can work on having a routine schedule that includes his feeding and potty time so that you can better manage his elimination.
Potty training your mature dog is certainly going to be much easier than a young puppy as his bladder is fully developed, and he can hold his potty much longer.
What you need to do is to have a routine schedule so that your dog knows when he is supposed to go for his potty and where the designated potty spot is.
Rewarding him if he does it correctly in the designated potty spot. This will make your puppy associate a positive experience for his potty.
You will need to supervise him during the potty training and ensure that you praise and reward him immediately when he does his potty correctly.
In the event that you see an accident, do not yell or scold him, just catch him attention by clapping your hand, put him on a leash and bring him to the designated potty area.
Yelling at him will make him scared of you and he will attempt to hide his potty from you as he will think that potty is an action that you disallowed. He would not know that you are getting angry because he pees at the wrong potty spot.
Make sure that you clean up the accident area thoroughly as you would not want your dog to revisit this spot for his next potty.
Dog possesses a good sense of smell, and he could “smell” his urine scent even when you have cleaned up the accident area thoroughly.
A normal floor cleaning detergent would not work well in removing the urine scent.
I would suggest that you sprinkle some baking soda on the urine stain. Let it soak for 15 minutes, then clean up the mess with a wet sponge.
Start training him to associate the potty command “go potty” with his elimination.
This can be put to good use when you see him showing signs of potty needs such as sniffing around the floor or turn round in circles and you can quickly give this command to make him go to the designated potty area for his elimination.
Make sure that you are consistent with the command so that he would not get confused.
In case your older dog is suffering from some health issues such as incontinence, you would have to put him on a dog diaper.
You may also have to place a potty pad in the area where he is sleeping as he might unknowingly start eliminating while sleeping or resting.
Usually the best window period for a puppy to do his socialization would be when he is about 16 weeks old.
Nevertheless, it is still not too late for your older dog to start his socialization training if he is not yet or properly trained to socialize.
If you find your dog showing signs of anxiety and stress when he is “interacting” with his world (environment, dogs, things or people), you should plan for his socialization training.
Start slow by having him socialize in an area that he is familiar with such as your backyard.
Introduce stimuli (you could have your friend bring his well-trained dog over to your home) to him in your backyard. Watch his reaction as you slowly introduce the new dog to him.
Remember to keep praising and rewarding him if he remains calm and reacting well to this new friend of his.
Motivate Your Dog to Listen to You
It’s important that you work on activities to motivate your dog to make him feel that you are worth listening to and it is rewarding to be with you.
This will provide a good foundation for his obedience training down the road.
Get Control Of Him Anytime
Make him feel comfortable that you can reach out to him anytime to get control of him through his collar, and he does not shy away or shows signs of anxiety through the following training.
Train Him to be Comfortable For You To Reach Out To Him
- Induce him to make his way closer to you by using treats. Rather than you making a move to him which is like invading his territories, it is certainly much easier for him to come to you.
- Get some high quality treat on your hand and this will make him come closer to you. As he is snacking on the food, use another hand to touch his collar.
- When your hand gets a full grab on the collar, praise your dog and give him more treats.
- Release the touch of the collar when you are done with the feeding. You will want your dog to associate the positive experience of touching his collar with a reward he will get.
Get His Attention By Calling His Name
Train him to pay attention to you by providing rewards when you call his name. This will make him know that whenever his name is called, good things will happen.
This is what you should do.
Have your dog sit right in front of you and as you call out his name, wait for 1 sec before feeding him with a treat.
If this goes well, you can increase the difficulty by injecting some distraction in the exercise.
Place some toys on the floor for your dog to play. Call out his name, and he should stop playing and reach out to you. If he does it immediately, praise him and give him a treat.
If he doesn’t, try to get his attention by placing the treat near to his nose and as soon as he looks at you, call out his name, praise him and give him the reward.
You would want to keep repeating this training till he gets really comfortable and reacts instantly to you when you call his name and abort what he is doing or playing.
Use Of A Clicker
How about getting “clicker” to help you with your dog obedience training.
When you press on a clicker, it will emit a sound to your dog, and he will know that the behavior or action that he is performing now is what you are expecting. You will then associate that behavior by giving him a treat.
This will help him to remember that action as a positive experience.
Make the clicker the motivator for your dog so that when he hears the clicking sound, he will preempt that good thing is going to happen.
This clicker method works great if you are not in time to give him a reward for his action.
Say you want your dog to sit and you execute the “sit” command to him.
Upon seeing that he performs a sit, you would press the clicker and your dog will hear it. He will then patiently wait for his reward as you make a move to him.
In this way, you do not lose out on the “timing” which is to associate his obedience for executing the “sit” instruction with a reward.
Remember that clicker is used to mark that behavior and you are supposed to reward your dog to foster a positive experience.
Use Verbal and Hand Signal In Your Training
There might be delays or changes in how your older dog responds to your training as he moves into his golden years. His hearing or visual sight may not be as sharp as he used to be when he is young.
So I would recommend that you use both hand signals and verbal clues in your obedience training to help him overcome any communication barrier he might be facing.
Take into consideration the physical and mental limitations of your dog when training him on the obedience commands to ensure that he can perform them within his ability.
Say for example, if your older dog is suffering from arthritis, he might be experiencing pain when you are teaching him the “sit” command.
Also, bear in mind that dogs possess a short attention span, so keep the training session short. You can have multiple sessions instead of a long one.
It’s important that you spend sufficient time to build your dog’s trust on you and see you as Alpha. This will certainly help in your obedience training as in the dog world, all pack members will have to listen to their pack leader.