Monthly Behaviour Tip: Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Teaching old dogs new tricks

The phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is definitely not true!! Although set in their ways, old dogs are having to learn new tricks regularly as their health deteriorates and routines change. For example, as an old dog loses his/her hearing or vision, he/she will learn to ‘listen’ or ‘hear’ in other ways, like hand signals and body gestures. Or as arthritis sets in, your dog will learn new daily routes around the house and yard that are easier for him/her.

When training puppies, their brains are designed to absorb knowledge and experiences. You are starting their training with a ‘blank slate’, so they come across easier to train and more eager to learn than an older dog.

Often a dog’s ‘bad habits’ are learned from previous repetitions being rewarded or not being corrected. When teaching alternate behaviours that you would rather your dog be doing, it may take as long as what your dog has been doing the unwanted behaviour, for the new behaviour to become a habit or routine. This is due to your dog needing to not only learn the new behaviour and remember it for next time, but also having to forget the ‘bad habit’ he/she has been doing automatically until now.

So if you are trying to teach your adult or mature dog a new trick or daily routine, patience is the key!! They may not be as quick to learn or change their habits as a young pup, but with consistency, positive reinforcement and lots of patience your old dog will be performing those new tricks in no time!!


Veterinary Nurse Kirstie Hancock is qualified in animal behaviour with her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services through the Delta Society. She has lots of great tips and ideas when it comes to misbehaving pets. Keep an eye out for her monthly tips on our Facebook page. Also check out her own business Facebook page - Positive Paws.