5 New Tricks You Can Teach Your Old Dog
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but is that really true? Sure, puppies and younger dogs might learn faster than a senior dog, but many older dogs are still puppies at heart and are just as eager to please. Let's take a look at some new tricks you can teach your senior dog. You'll both have fun in the process and what's more, learning new things is great for mental and physical agility and could even prolong the life of your best friend.
1. Target Training Using Touch
This is a great one for less mobile dogs as it's really simple and doesn't require any agility on their part. The outcome of this trick is to get your dog to touch something with his nose. It could be your hand, a toy or even a light switch if you want to get fancy. The great thing is that you can start off really simple and then add complexity as you and your dog get more confident. Start with your hand as the target. Call your dog and hold your hand out to him. His instinct will be to sniff. As he does so, his nose will come into contact with your hand. At this point, you can use a clicker and small treat to signal he has done a great job. Repeat a few times with the word "touch" so that he understands what you want him to do each time.
2. Putting Toys Away
Even grown-up doggies need to tidy away their toys when they are done playing. It's also a fun game that your dog will love to take part in. Start with an empty box that your dog could easily drop his toys into. If you have a small dog, a shallow tray may be best. Take one of your dog's favorite toys and encourage your dog to come to you to play. Drop the toy on the ground and let your dog pick it up. Move the box closer to him and if he drops the toy near the box, give him lots of praise. As you continue to play around the box, give him lots of praise if he drops the toy into the box, even if it is by accident. Repeat with the command "tidy time" and give your dog a treat every time he manages to put his toy away.
3. Yawning on Command
This is a cute trick that your dog can learn. This one is all about capturing and encouraging behavior using clicker training. It's very much like the target training touch trick, but you will have to wait for your dog to yawn to capture the desired behavior. Whenever you catch your dog yawning, say a keyword like "yes" or "good boy" and click once on your clicker. Reward your dog with a treat or his favorite toy. Once your dog learns that yawning gets him a reward, you can start to encourage him to do it on command. Use a fun command like "take a nap" or "sleepy time" to really take this trick to cuteness overload.
4. Ring a Bell to Go Outside
This is a trick that all owners will love! With the bell trick, you will always know when your dog needs to go outside to play or do his business. Tie a small bell to a piece of string and hang it on your door. The idea is to get your dog to nudge it with his nose every time he wants to go outside. If he's already mastered the touch trick, great! If not, start with the touch trick and gradually work up to the bell. He'll soon learn that nudging the bell brings him the reward of being let outside.
5. Find It
This is a great trick for dogs of all abilities, even those that might be less nimble or have sight or hearing problems. The "find it" trick teaches dogs to use their noses with purpose to find a hidden toy or treat. Start with one of their favorite toys. Don't hide it the first time. Put it somewhere your dog can see it and then say "find it" with enthusiasm. As soon as your dog picks up the toy, give him a treat. Do this a number of times before you hide the toy. Your dog will start looking around for the toy and eventually use his nose to flush it out.
Reveal Your Dog's Inner Puppy
It's amazing how much your older dog can do with a little encouragement. What's more, learning together is a fun and rewarding experience that will benefit you and your dog in so many ways. Above all else, have fun experimenting with your dog, push his limits a little and stop when he's had enough. You'll find his inner puppy in no time!
- Dana S