Turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks. There’s no reason why you couldn’t! Still, remember that the physical limits of your canine friend may mean choosing only specific tricks to teach them. Like humans and all animals, dogs may be prone to achy joints and other physical ailments as they get older. Arthritis is common in senior dogs, and dental issues may cause pain for tricks that require the use of the mouth (like catching Frisbees or pulling and tugging toys).
If you’d like to teach an older dog a trick or two, Northern Oaks Bird & Animal Hospital suggests the following fun and basic tricks that are perfect for senior dogs.
Identify Toys and Objects
Before they can do other tricks with toys — including fetching or finding toys and putting them away — you’ll need to teach your dog to identify different objects. It’s best if your dog can sit and stay before starting this trick.
The most important point here is to start small. Take two or three objects from your dog’s toy box or from around the house. Try a ball, a cup (plastic), and a hat, for example. Make sure that each item has a name that is distinct. In this case, ball, cup, and hat work fine.
Space the items out in front of you between you and your dog. Grab some small dog snacks and begin. Start by pointing to one item and saying its name over and over. Pick it up and show your dog while saying the name. Do this with each object.
Next, tell your dog to “Get the ___!” At first, it will be a complete failure, but that’s okay. Keep trying! When your dog does eventually choose the right item to pick up (or even if they go toward the right item), give them a treat and praise them. Continue this, and over time, Fido will get the hang of it.
Ring a Bell or Chimes to Notify It’s Time To Go Out
For this trick, put a bell or chimes on the doorknob where they go outside. Every time they go out from now on, nudge them to ring the chimes or bell or nudge and simultaneously ring them yourself. Give a treat and praise. Continue this, and over time, your dog should begin to nudge the bell or chimes on their own to notify you that they want to go outside.
Come When Commanded
Finally, “come” is a command that every dog should know. Even if your senior dog doesn’t understand or use it yet, it’s something that they can certainly learn.
“Come” is fairly easy. You’ll simply need treats in your pocket, but don’t let your dog know that you have them or they’ll hang around you all day anyway. Either on purpose or randomly throughout the day, tell your dog to “come” when they are far away. If and when they do, they get a treat. They’ll start learning this trick super-fast because they’ll want those treats!
Teaching your senior dog basic tricks and commands is good for them — even if they’ve never been into tricks before. It’s important to keep older dogs who might be less-active interested and mentally-stimulated, and tricks are the perfect solution. They’ll enjoy it, and you will too! To learn more about properly caring for senior dogs, book an appointment with us today!