Written By Briseis Schreibman
We’ve all heard the famous saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This phrase (or versions of it) have been around since at least 1534. The earliest citation of the phrase was included in “The Book of Husbandry” by Anthony Fitzherbert, where readers are encouraged to train their dog young as it will be harder, if not impossible, to do so as they age. Sheesh, with a reputation like that, it’s no surprise that modern-day owners may feel discouraged training their older pups.
Luckily, this bad rep is easily disproved with a little research into dog development stages. Just like babies go through different periods of learning as they mature, so do dogs. During the first months to a year of life, the puppy goes through an accelerated learning course. Naturally, this is an excellent period for age-appropriate training and socialization because they are already in “learning mode.” Their brains are absorbing vast amounts of information, and their personalities are still developing based on their experiences at this time. However, training can be just as rewarding a process when the dog ages.
As dogs grow older, they become set in their ways, and their personalities begin to solidify. This “stubbornness” may initially deter owners, but I encourage you to push through that discomfort. Training provides structure and mental stimulation that will help keep your dog sharp late into their life. And of course, keep your goals realistic. Setting expectations for both yourself and your dog will make training fun for everyone!