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Contrary to popular belief, senior dogs are perfectly capable of learning a new command. In fact, it helps to keep them mentally simulated and they are actually much easier to train compared to puppies as they have more self-control and longer attention spans. Below are five tips to consider when training older dogs.
If you just brought a senior dog home, allow him to settle down and familiarise with the new surroundings, this should take a couple of days. His training history also affects his learning pace. If your dog wasn't previously enrolled in training programs, the learning curve may take more time as compared to dogs with prior training experience.
Being aware of your dog’s training history means being mindful of any bad experiences he might have encountered previously. Positive reinforcement is always a recommended training method although it may take more time. Reward-based training with the use of clickers help dogs to associate correct behavior with treats. When you follow a click with a treat, it reinforces approval of a positive behaviour. The Starmark Pro Training Clickeris a great tool when employing this method of training. Soft, bite-size treats are great for training and a good treat bag always come in handy when you need both hands for better control.
It is generally easier for an older dog to learn basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ compared to more advanced and demanding tricks as they may face mobility issues. You should always check with your vet first before engaging them in any physically vigorous activities as they are more prone to injuries and health problems such as arthritis and heart conditions.
While older dogs may have a longer attention span, their energy levels do get drained much faster. Some telltale signs of a tired dog include yawning, drooping ears, and excessive lip licking - all of which indicate that it’s time for a break. Breaking down hour long training sessions into shorter ten minute sessions dispersed throughout the day will better match the pace at which an older dog learns, allowing them to progress much faster.
If you don’t have time to train your dog, it will be useful to enroll in an obedience class. Professional dog trainers will be able to advise and guide you on the right training techniques for older dogs. It’s also a great environment for you to observe how your dog socializes with people and other dogs. If you do decide to enrol in a class, it’s prudent that you find the right trainer and training methods for both you and your dog.
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