Training An Older Dog – The Simple, Effective Way

January 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Dog Training Tips

In the past, someone who was looking for a dog almost always bought, or adopted, a puppy. But these days it is just as likely that a prospective dog owner will head for the local shelter and bring home an older dog.

As a dog lover, I applaud this trend and hope that it continues to gain momentum, but it does create some new problems. The main one is the behavior and temperament of the adopted dog. With a puppy you know what you’re getting, with an older dog behaviors are already ingrained and may include serious problems, like aggression.

In many cases, the dog soon finds himself back at the pound, and the owner is left with guilt and regret. But it doesn’t have to come to this because, with the right method, consistently applied, just about any dog can be trained.

Before you begin with training though, there are two beliefs you need to eradicate. The first is that the dog needs, or deserves, your pity.

It’s a sad reflection on our society that many of these dogs have been beaten, mistreated and abused, but unfortunately you can’t change that. What you can do is provide love, care and affection. You can show them that not all humans are like those that have hurt them. But pity plays no role in this.

Dogs have an infinite capacity for forgiveness, so address your attention towards creating a home where the dog feels safe and to providing consistent but kind leadership, and gentle training.

The other misconception is that negative training methods are needed to control “difficult” dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of these methods, which include things like shock collars and choke chains, have been proven to be ineffective for dog training, and no reputable dog trainer uses them.

When using these methods on an aggressive dog, or one that may have been previously abused, you have no idea how the dog will respond. He may well attack you. Or you may make the problem worse, or trigger other behavioral problems. So never use negative training methods on a dog.

How then, should you approach training an older dog? Well, for starters, appreciate that dogs are receptive to learning at any age. Start with the basics – crate training, and house training (if needed), then move on to basic obedience work. Above all keep it positive and reward-based.

Be mindful that your results will be less predictable than if you were training a puppy, and that you’ll need tons of patience and persistence.

Also remember that all dogs are different. Some are much more difficult to train than others, with age, breed and other factors all playing a part. With an older dog, whose history you don’t know, there is also the issue of past trauma affecting the dog’s trainability.

Proceed slowly with patience and persistence and you will succeed. If you doubt that, look up Frank Inn on Wikipedia. This famous Hollywood dog trainer found almost all of his canine movie stars at dog shelters.

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Training An Older Dog   The Simple, Effective Way
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