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Most pet parents are aware that bringing home a new puppy or dog will require training. However, sometimes when you consider adopting or rescuing an older dog, you may worry about how training will go. You may even wonder if a dog can be too old for training.
Training not only teaches your dog good manners to be an easy companion to live with, but training is an enriching and bonding activity that allows you and your dog to form a closer bond together.
So, the question is – is it ever too late to train a dog?
Training is an important part of your dog’s overall well-being, and the good news is that it’s never too late to train a dog! All dogs can learn new skills and behaviors at any age. So, the truth is that you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Since this is such a complex topic that’s rooted in an old saying that we now know isn’t quite true, let’s unpack how dogs learn and how we know that we can train a dog of any age!
Can a Dog Be Too Old for Obedience Training?
While you may have heard the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” that’s been proven to be just wrong! With good training rooted in reward based methods, a dog of any age can indeed be trained to learn new tricks and behaviors!
When people think of getting a new dog, they usually also think of the training that goes into getting a new dog. It’s always best to start training your dog as early as possible, which is why most professionals recommend starting to train a new puppy as soon as you bring it home.
There will be times, though, when you’re adopting or rescuing an older dog. You may be worried that your dog has some bad habits or behaviors, and you may be wondering if it’s possible to train them at their older age.
The good news is that no dog is too old for obedience training!
When using modern training techniques and methods, like positive reinforcement-based methods, any dog of any age can be trained. In fact, training an older dog has many benefits!
What Are the Benefits of Dog Training?
Consistently training your dog has many benefits for both you and your dog, no matter your dog’s age. Let’s discuss some of these benefits in more detail, so you can start to see how important it is to train your dog.
1. Prevent Bad Habits
When you train your dog, you’ll be teaching them what to do and what not to do. This will help establish boundaries within your home.
Your dog will start to learn what things earn them a reward, and ultimately, they’ll be more likely to continue performing those nice behaviors. As you reinforce good behaviors more and more, your dog will perform bad behaviors less often.
2. Keeps Their Brain Sharp
We’ve clearly established that you can train a dog of any age, but in fact, continuing to train an older dog is incredibly important. Studies are starting to produce evidence that providing regular mental stimulation to our dogs can help slow aging.
While you can always provide mental stimulation in the form of enrichment or puzzle toys, there’s nothing that can replace training!
Training encourages your dog to think, and since it’s an activity you do together, it really helps to deepen the human-animal bond. Keeping your dog’s mind sharp and maintaining a strong bond is incredibly important as your dog ages.
3. Strengthens the Human-Animal Bond
As we just mentioned, it’s important to have a strong bond with your dog. As your dog ages, slows down and sleeps more, it can be difficult to maintain that bond.
Training provides an opportunity to work with your dog to accomplish a goal and celebrate when you reach the goal. Training doesn’t have to be anything serious or difficult. You can train your older dog to do simple things like waving their paw.
The time spent together will give you wonderful memories to cherish, because we all know that our dogs unfortunately don’t live as long as we wish they did.
4. Provides Useful Data
As your dog ages, it’s the unfortunate reality that they will inevitably begin to decline in various ways. When you have a strong bond and train together regularly, you’ll be more in tune with your dog. This will help you notice small, subtle changes that may begin to happen in your dog.
If you notice your dog seems uninterested in training or is slowing down in their movements or seems confused, you’ll be able to schedule a vet appointment and discuss those subtle changes with your vet.
It’s always good to be observant and address any changes or problems as early as possible because this will help lead to a better outcome.
Is 2 Years Old Too Late to Train a Dog?
Many people prefer to adopt or rescue dogs that are 2-3 years old, because this age has a lot of benefits of missing the sleepless puppy nights and puppy teething phase.
However, it’s important to remember that a 2 year old dog is still an adolescent. Dogs at this age can be going through their “naughty teenage years,” so consistent training is particularly important to provide boundaries and to continue establishing good behaviors.
It’s never too late to train a dog, especially a 2 year old dog! While it’s always recommended to start training a dog as early as possible, all dogs will still need training when they’re around 2 years old. Training a dog of this age could even be considered the perfect age for training!
Whether your 2 year old dog needs help with potty training, loose leash walking, or general obedience, the sooner you start training them, the better!
Dogs around 2 years old are also typically considered fully grown and in the prime of their health. This means if you want to do more challenging training, like training in a sport, 2 years old is the age when you can really begin to work hard.
Videos like the one blow can be quite encouraging and useful!
Is 8 Years Old Too Late to Train a Dog?
While it’s possible some dogs could start to slow down around 8 years old, especially larger breeds, it’s still not too late to train them. When training a dog that’s 8 years old or older, you do have to be aware of their physical limitations.
Older dogs shouldn’t be participating in training activities that are overly physical or strenuous and involve things like repetitive jumping since that can be hard on their bodies.
However, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s just as important to keep training your 8 year old. This will help keep their brain sharp and allow you to continue to develop your bond.
While you probably shouldn’t be training your 8 year old dog for serious activities that are hard on their bodies like sports, there are still plenty of options for training!
Scent work is a sport that is especially wonderful for older dogs since there’s little to no impact on their bodies. Other types of training like low-impact tricks or obedience training like the “place” command are great options for older dogs.
Tips for Training an Older Dog
There are some tips and considerations you may want to keep in mind when training an older dog.
Remember that the essence of dog training is teaching your dog to do something entirely brand new, so be patient with your dog! When you’re training an older dog, it’s important to remember that and be patient when asking your dog to do something new.
Even though your dog has years of lived experiences, you’re likely asking them to do something brand new and build new neural pathways. This can take awhile, so it’s important to remain patient.
Setting a specific goal can help motivate and encourage you, and it will give you a sense of accomplishment to be proud of.
However, above all else, training should be fun! Training should be a fun time for both you and your dog, so remember not to take yourself too seriously.
Keep Sessions Short
The famous “quality over quantity” saying that is applicable to a lot of aspects of life is also applicable to dog training! It’s important to keep training sessions short.
Training can be tiring and hard on your dog, and you don’t want them to continue working when they’re getting tired. It’s always best to have several shorter training sessions throughout the day versus one or two longer sessions.
As we mentioned above, there are some considerations to consider when training an older dog versus a younger dog. It’s important to opt for training activities that are low-impact and not very hard on their body.
One in five dogs suffers from arthritis, so it’s important to be mindful of their bodies. Older dogs can be stiff and slow, so choose training activities that are easy on them.
By now you know that it’s never too late to train a dog. Training should always be a fun experience for both you and your dog.
While you should always be considerate of your dog’s age when training, any dog of any age can learn! It’s all about patience and consistency.