When it comes to dog training, we hear all the time about how you need to get to dogs when they are puppies. This advice is understandable because there are no prior habits to undo, and puppies are much easier to mold to your commands.
But plenty of people adopt dogs that are fully grown. Does this mean that they are what they are, and you can’t train them? Is it ever too late to start training a dog?
It’s Never Too Late
There are a lot of misconceptions that come with owning an older dog. Besides, every training guide that you read will undoubtedly say that you should train your dog when it is a puppy. But what are you supposed to do if the dog has already grown up?
The good news is that it is never too late to train your dog. Whatever the reason for not undergoing earlier training, there are plenty of dogs who learn new lessons even after the age of 10. So don’t lose hope, just work on training them the best that you can.
Teach Your Dog “Down” and “Stay”
So, is it ever too late to start training a dog? Of course not! There are certain training methods that you can implement to make them better listeners. For starters, there are two commands in particular that they need to know: down and stay.
With any kind of training, the key is to ensure that you are consistent, patient, and calm throughout. Dogs do not learn from yelling or physical reprimanding. They will instead be scared and anxious, less likely to learn the lessons that you are trying to instill.
Just as important, you need to know that your dog is on the same page. When it is too energetic, it can be difficult to reach the dog, which leads to the first step.
Walking and Capturing
If you have a particularly spastic dog, get some of that pent-up energy out with a walk. Certain breeds are a bit higher in energy than others, so a walk can be a good way not only to burn off that energy but also to improve the dog’s focus.
When you feel confident that the walk has done its job, it is time to implement capturing into the equation. Capturing is when you use certain behaviors in your favor. This is more natural than trying to force a new behavior.
For instance, spending some of that energy might mean that the dog is keener to stay in place afterward. Given you are working on “down” and “stay,” it can present the perfect opportunity to do both of those.
When the dog lies down, say “down” in a calm tone. Introducing a non-verbal cue, like an outstretched hand with your palm facing down, can help your dog learn that this is an action it should be repeating. Make sure that whenever it follows a command, you reward it.
Verbal praise is great, but treats are more likely to get their attention. Have lots of treats available for training time. When you display positive reinforcement, it not only establishes that the dog is fulfilling the desired command, but it also makes the dog happy. Most dogs aim to please, and knowing that they are doing a good job can go a long way.
Don’t Repeat Commands
Is it ever too late to train a dog? No, but training them can be exponentially more difficult if you don’t follow the proper protocols. With commands, in particular, you want to keep it simple so that they can recognize what they are supposed to be doing.
It is also important that you never repeat commands. You want them to do what you commanded the first time, not the fifth time. If the dog doesn’t listen to the command initially, take a break and come back. Make sure to have treats and praise your dog when it does a good job. It takes repetition and consistency for them not only to recognize but also to repeat certain commands.
Don’t Forget the Release
One of the most common mistakes that dog owners make is making a command but not releasing the command. If you tell your dog to “stay,” the idea is that the dog should sit there until you tell it to move. If you forget to release the command, your dog may not get the cue.
Simple release words such as “move” or “ok” should be enough to illustrate the point. Stick with that release word; mixing in any others can confuse dogs and wind up making it more difficult for them to follow the commands you issue.
No matter how old your dog is, it is never too late to start training it. You need to make sure that you implement positive reinforcement, telling it that it has done things right all the way through. Even if the dog gets it wrong, be patient with it and never yell.
Dogs can be better trainees with a little patience and a lot of treats. Before long, you can teach that old dog new tricks. More importantly, you can make the dog into a better listener than you ever thought possible.