Myth 10: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Updated November 29, 2020

old dog treat

If there is there a saying that makes a dog trainer more cranky I’d like to hear it. This myth is responsible for a world of missed opportunities for our senior pets. Take it from us- the only thing stopping our pets learning through life is our own prejudices. 

Note that I said pets. It’s equally untrue for all our pet species, whether cat, ferret, rabbit, rat, mouse, budgie, etcetera. This saying is really about some humans, but not even all of us.

Dog Training Classes: seriously, every age benefits from structured learning, and dogs love going. It’s never too late, and the benefits of an improved relationship with your dog are proven. Reward-based classes like those at Dog Training are probably better for this age.So let’s bury this myth once and for all by giving a few examples of what works. In the comments box at the end,. I’d love our readers to add any others they think of.

Teaching a new trick: This can be a lot of fun, and you can decide what your dog will learn. There are all sorts of examples on YouTube but the best advice is the card above. How do you teach it? The best technique is to teach the trick in easily learnt steps until it is fully formed.

Moving house, going on holiday or getting a new pen or hutch is a good way to see the power of learning. Read this beautiful story of an old rescue dog’s new life at Huffington Post pet adoption story

internet dogs

New toys: make them interactive- don’t throw out cardboard boxes until your cat or ferret has finished with them. Join them together into tunnels or stack them into a high rise condo. Put shelves or platforms up new windows and your cat will appreciate the new perspective. Use toys you can fill or stuff with food and watch their ageing neurons do the rest. Buy the mice a new run or tunnel.

New friends: start a new exercise routine you can take your pet along to. Join a Meetup group or just start taking your dog to the local dog park. As long as he is social he’ll rapidly make new friends and learn to play again. Find out about dog activities such as Flyball, Beagling, Treibball etc.

This year let’s all make a resolution, not just to our dogs, but all our pets. Let’s teach them a new skill.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.