One of the biggest pieces of fluff I hear is that old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, as if the ability to learn just shuts off at a certain age. Make no mistake, you most certainly can teach older dogs anything you wish, but you must also acknowledge that if the dog hasn’t been learning all its life it’s going to be a little harder for him to pick up new things. This is never more obvious than those older people who haven’t learned anything since they were in their twenties. Learning is a skill that must be developed and practiced. In other words, dogs must learn to learn!
My dog Rocky still loves to learn new skills because he’s spent almost all of his adult life learning. Some dogs are harder to teach and more set in their ways because they’ve never been asked to learn (or change) before. It’s hard for most people to train their young dog let alone an older one… the key becomes clarity and consistency.
It’s certainly easier to teach a young dog the same way it would be to teach a younger human, but the problem isn’t CAN they learn it’s DO THEY WANT TO? and ARE YOU MOTIVATING THEM?
Here’s a few great examples of “old dogs” learning new tricks (or in some cases, letting go of some bad habits).
Please don’t think your dog is the exception. If you’re being forced to life with problematic behaviour from your old dog because you think he can’t be trained, I would be happy to prove that wrong!
Rocky didn’t learn the skill of focused heeling until he was 5 years old!
6 year old Rosco learning to walk nice at heel (this dog pulled like a train his whole life… at the end of the video he maintains a heel and stops with me while dragging the leash)