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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Old Dog New Tricks

It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! Dillon, the 9 year old rescue cocker spaniel, was on KOLR 10 and KSFX this morning showing how easy it is to teach an old dog new tricks. He demonstarated how easy it is to get a fast name response so you can get your dogs attention.

Once a dog reaches the age of eight they are considered to be a “senior dog”.

Teaching an older dog new tricks and engaging them in training helps to keep them interested in doing things with you not just spending all of their time sleeping. Appropriate exercise keeps their bodies moving and muscles strong.

If you adopt and adult dog or even a senior dog, you may be amazed at their ability to concentrate and learn new things.

Adult dogs are often even easier to train than pups, simply because they have the ability to focus for a longer period of time.

Most adapt fairly quickly to new routines and training with consistency and patience can eliminate nuisance behaviors while improving your relationship.

Lots of people say their dog ignores them and doesn’t come when called.

One behavior that is really important to teach a dog is the name response. It is a base behavior for all training. If you don’t have attention you can’t get the dog to do what you want.

The end result is a dog who flips their head in your direction when they hear their name. You can then give the next cue and your dog should respond because you have his attention.

If your dog has developed a habit of ignoring his name you can train this using a nickname.

Begin teaching this in a quiet area with few distractions. When he gets good in this area, move to a place with slightly more distractions, gradually increasing the difficulty as he improves.

Pair the dogs name with a really good treat. Think Pavlov. Every time your dog hears the sound of his name great stuff happens.

Use a tossed treat as a distraction. Say the dogs name and when his head flips towards you praise and give a treat.

As the dog gets better with small distractions gradually make them harder. When he is smelling around say his name and praise for turning his head towards you.

Practice with a leash on the dog so if he ignores you you can move away from the dog and he will eventually turn towards you. As soon as his head turns begin cheering him on until he gets to you.

After you have a really quick name response you can use it for loose leash walking, come when called, or attention. This same "name game" works with puppies and young dogs as well.

If you are teaching a senior dog there may be a hearing issue. A dog who is mildly impaired can usually hear a whistle. Once your dog is looking at you then you can use hand signals. Choose visual signals that make sense to you and are easy to remember—such as raising a hand, palm out, to indicate stay. Reward your dog for learning them the same way you would reward him for obeying voice commands.

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