Is it Ever Really Late to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

It is never too late to teach any dog new tricks, no matter their age.  Here are some tips to help you.

Owning a dog is one of the best things that you can do in your life. There are so many benefits to their companionship. Teaching them different tricks is important for building your relationship but also for their growth. No matter if you are buying a new puppy or adopting an older dog, you want to make sure that you establish a dynamic that promotes obedience as much as it does a loving environment. And remember that it is never too late to teach any dog new tricks, no matter their age.

Trust And Friendship

Owning a dog is a wonderful experience. Training a dog, although extremely tedious and time consuming will feel rewarding at the end of the day. Training an old dog, especially if they are unfamiliar with new owners, requires you to first establish and build a relationship and then develop the trust that will allow a dog to feel completely comfortable with you. New dogs that change owners may suffer from different psychological or emotional traumas that you may not be aware of, whether it is a result of the separation, or how the animal was previously raised and treated. This will impact how long the process is, as it will require more time to develop that relationship. Once you have established a strong bond, transitioning into training will be easier. 


Having patience for your pet is the biggest key. Even with puppies, teaching dogs tricks and different skills requires a lot of time and patience. Luke Stevens with Puppy Joy recommends waiting until puppies are a few months old to try potty training them. You need to make sure that they will have the cognitive understanding to remember where to use the washroom. However, with older dogs, patience is equally a necessity as old dogs tend to have certain behaviours already ingrained into them. If they do not respond to certain calls, requests and demands, they may be lacking the training you want to teach a dog at a young age. Even dogs who have been trained will require time to have to learn new or different commands, especially if it comes from a new owner. 

Learning Where To Begin

There are many factors that will help you understand where and how to approach training. An older dog may have already had some training and need to be retrained. It is key that before you begin teaching any tricks, to learn and establish what they already know and how they will respond to training. Getting a baseline of their knowledge will allow you to understand how to approach your own training and what tricks you can teach them. If your pet doesn’t know the basics of “sit” or “stay” and doesn’t twitch at the sound of the commands, you will know that you need to start at the beginning.

Additionally, with some older dogs that do know some commands, you might still want to go over the basics with a few lessons to not only ensure that they understand but also to retrain them. You want your dog to be comfortable with your voice or your body gestures and assuming they know tricks already doesn’t mean that they will listen to you.

Treats And Rewards

Positive reinforcement is the most beneficial and effective method of training a pet. This is important to note, as you want to ensure that you reward your dog for not only good behaviour but the tricks and commands you wish to teach them. Giving your dog treats, pets, or even taking them on walks or drives conditions the behaviours you wish to impart on them with positive emotions and feelings. Old dogs may already have certain predispositions and likes and dislikes. Learning your older dogs personality is important to do in order to be able to best cater to their motivations. 

Length Of Training Sessions

The length of training is important when training an animal. You must remember that you are working with an older dog, and unlike a much younger puppy, their energy won’t always be in the ideal place for you to be able to teach it. Old dogs may get bored with what you want to teach them and prefer to do their own thing. Keeping your teaching sessions short is a great way to engage them with your training but ensure they do not get bored. 

The relationship with your pet, as previously mentioned, comes into play here, as you want to be able to see and acknowledge signs that your dog is tired and exhausted, or bored and disengaged. An uninterested dog will not only not care for the lesson at hand, but also hesitate to interact with you if you try and teach them at another time if you created a negative experience. Keep your lessons short, and then playing or engaging with them afterwards will also encourage them for next time.

Focused Training

When teaching pets, similar to teaching in general, you always want to start at the beginning with the basics. It is important that you only focus on one trick at a time, ensure that you do not overstimulate your furry friend. Trying to teach multiple tricks can be tough because multiple commands can be confusing, as the dog will not always understand what they are being rewarded. You must be clear in the practice and as mentioned, be patient with your dog. Emphasize and enunciate the commands so your pet gains full understanding of the verbal cues, gestures, or even objects associated with your tricks.

Progressive Training

Once you begin to get confident in your dog’s ability to perform basic tricks that you have been working on, you can begin to move on to other tricks. Ensure that when you are teaching certain commands, that you do so in a progressive manner. There is no point in trying to teach certain tricks without teaching other fundamental tricks. For example, you can’t expect to teach your dog how to come before you teach them how to stay. Some lessons require a development of smaller, simpler tricks and you need to prioritize those before trying to teach more complicated ones. This will save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run.

No matter the age, your dog can always learn another trick. It will just require a lot of patience, and maybe a few bags of treats. It is always great to be able to grow and learn, and your furry friend is no different.

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