Can My Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

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Dog TricksCan you teach an old dog new tricks?


Popular Opinion

According to popular belief the answer would be no. But in reality, even dogs in their later years can learn new things. Anywhere from basic commands, dog obedience training and behavior modification to fun tricks.  So what is a puppy?  A puppy is a dog anywhere from birth to 6 months.  So what’s a senior dog?  This one’s a bit trickier because there are so many different breeds and sizes of dogs, but generally speaking 8-12+ years is considered the senior years.

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Old Dogs Can Do It Too

Saying an old dog can’t learn new tricks is like telling an “empty nester” there’s no point in trying to get in shape or start reading or stop smoking. These are behaviors we have to learn. Yes, the longer you had been smoking the more difficult breaking that habit will likely be. But with someone there holding you accountable and being your cheerleader along the way you can do it and have a good time along the way. Much of your success or failure is all in your mindset.



With learning any new behavior consistency is the key. You will hear us say this a lot. 😉 If you had your first ice cold refreshing Coke and them immediately after learned the negative effects on your health that sugars and carbonation you might never have another one. On the other hand if you have started your day with a can of Coke every morning for the past 20 years it would take a lot more will power and discipline to make this change.


Physical Limitations

One thing you want to be mindful of when training an older dog is their physical limitations. Even having your dog sit for an extended period of time is not recommended by us because it can be uncomfortable for them. Set them up for success by training in short sessions and not asking your dog to do something that may be physically taxing. This will also keep them engaged and looking forward to your the next opportunity they have to learn from you.


Pups & Papas

The pups may have all the energy in the world but a trait you will find in older dogs is patience. Although they have habits that may need to be broken you typically won’t find them in “squirrel” mode quite as often or quickly as a pup would. This is one reason why it can be very healthy for both pup and your older dog to have interactions. The pups learn a lot from a well mannered older dogs and the older dogs are energized by the vitality of the pups. Always be your dogs advocate. Again, you will want to keep in mind your older dogs physical limitations as they may temporarily forget what pain is while they are playing with a new friend… then pay for it for the next few days.


Bonding Through Training

You may find that the focused interaction your dog has with you coupled with your praise and excitement when they impress you is something for them to get super excited about and look forward to. Like almost anything, it’s all about how you present it and if you make it a positive experience or a negative one. Your dog, at any age, will start to create associations with your behaviors and cues. These associations can be good or bad, that depends greatly on you.


The Sooner, The Better

Although you can train your dog even after they are 10+ years old, why wait? The unfortunate thing we see all too often is families that have accepted their dog’s poor behaviors for years before trying to make a change. We encourage you to invest in your dog as early as possible. Regardless if that is through seeking a professional puppy training in Greenville SC or reading up on the topic or educating yourself with how to videos. Their are plenty of resources out there. Spend more of your dogs time with you enjoying them rather than just putting up with them.


…and if you are trying to break a 20 year habit, there’s still hope for you too. 🙂


Eric Nierman
Owner/Dog Trainer
Dog Psychology and Training Center

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