Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks? | PetFirst
Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?
Pet Fun

Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

by Sabrina Sebastian
2 years ago

Chances are you have heard the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,”  often referring to people’s unwillingness to break away from old habits and routines.

However, does it hold for dogs?  A wealth of information indicates otherwise.  

Instead, continued learning at any age keeps your dog’s mind alert and sharp, just as learning new things does for humans.  Mental stimulation can be credited with improving the quality and length of life.

Whether you have been training your dog since he was a puppy or you’ve never taught him a single command, you can start now!


Tips for training older dogs

Start with simple tricks

Remember your dog enjoys his time with you.  Any time spent together strengthens the bond you have with your dog, which in turn will lead to better overall behavior.

Be clear and patient

Speak slowly and clearly.  You want your dog to be successful.

Often a dog’s inability to be successful is due to something the human is not communicating clearly.

Set your dog up for success

Do not combine several tricks at one time.  Let your dog master one task before moving on to the next.

Reward small steps

Learning is not a race to the finish line.  Slow down and enjoy each small accomplishment.

Reward these accomplishments with generous praise and a few tasty treats.  The happier you are, the more your dog will want to please you.

Build on success

It’s best to start slowly.  However, once your dog succeeds feel free to move on to more complex tricks.

Use interactive toys/puzzles as training tools

Interactive dog toys are a great way to keep dogs’ minds active.  

They also have a built-in reward system.  Several toys dispense treats or kibble once your dog has figured out the correct way to move the toy or place the puzzle together.   

Both the SPOT Ethical Pet Interactive Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Bone Toy Puzzle and the Interactive Dog Ball by FurryFido keep dogs mentally occupied and moving around.

Interactive toy puzzles offer dogs an excellent low impact exercise which helps keep joints loose.

Things to keep in mind

Learning new things can keep your dog having fun throughout his entire life.   However, as he ages, he may have physical or cognitive limitations that require you to make adjustments in training to avoid injury and frustration.

Physical limitations – Some older dogs have difficulty with vision or hearing.  If this is the case, talk to your veterinarian for suggestions.  PetFirst Pet Insurance is proud to offer its policyholders Routine Care Coverage which helps with everyday costs related to vet check-ups and other proactive health visits.

You can certainly continue to train a dog with vision deficits in a safe, fenced-in environment or on a leash.

If your dog has difficulty hearing, consider using hand commands.  Make sure your dog can see you when you are giving commands.

Some older dogs have joint pain or arthritis which can make certain movements such as jumping and sitting uncomfortable.  Teach tricks that don’t require repetitive motion.

Cognitive limitations – Older dogs can become more forgetful or anxious.  They may not recall previously learned behaviors as quickly.  

Be patient.  The key is to make ongoing training a fun and positive experience for both of you.

Tricks to try

As long as your dog is safe and having fun, he has nothing to lose by continuing to learn new things.

Teach him some of these:

  • Speak
  • Shake or “Give paw.”
  • Give “other paw.”
  • Kiss
  • High five
  • Walk backward
  • Get your leash
  • Get your ball (bone or another favorite toy)



As you and your dog progress and feel up for a challenge, try out some of the following tricks:

Why not discard the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and replace it with a new one.  We like the following:

  • Age is only a number
  • Every dog is a lifelong learner!

As your dog ages, his or her health needs change.  You can make sure that your pet is covered with PetFirst Pet Insurance. Get a quote today

Ready? Start your free quote


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