The Training Success of Older Dogs 

Just the other day, I was speaking with a dog owner who was looking into a training program for her four-year-old Maltese, who was becoming more food aggressive, and had always been known to excessively bark and pull on the leash during walks. As I explained into detail about my reward-based training system here at Bayshore Dog Training, she then inquired if her dog would be “too old” for my training.

“At the age of four?” I asked. “Not at all. Any dog of any age or breed can still learn how to be a good dog.”

“Really? Even with him being a Maltese? Like, his barking can actually be trained out of him?”

“Of course. Just because he’s a smaller dog that doesn’t mean he can’t learn to be calm and enjoy his walks with you.”

She let out an enormous sigh of obvious relief: “That’s so great to hear. My mom was saying my dog is just a typical little dog so I shouldn’t worry about it. Plus, the fact that he’s not a puppy anymore…I got the impression that there was no point in training anymore.”

To me as a professional dog trainer, this is very problematic. This dog owner had NO idea that change was possible for her small breed. In fact, she was fed the idea that small breeds are just “supposed to be” yappy or nippy, when really that idea is just saying that small dogs are just “supposed to be” anxious or fearful. It also really shocked me that she believed that her dog was too old for training. I’ve gotten that from other people with dogs that were nine or thirteen. But at four-years-old?

I do not blame this dog owner though for this line of thinking, because there is this canine theory in our society that, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It is something I heard growing up, before I entered the dog training world.

The truth is though, whether your dog is a four or fourteen, they can STILL learn how to behaviorally improve themselves! Age has absolutely nothing to do with it. Now if an older dog is suffering from some type of disability (physical or mental), then that can make things more difficult. But it doesn’t even necessarily make things impossible. I have trained geriatric dogs and have had to take things extra slow with them, but I have also had to take baby steps with puppies because they were going through heartworm treatment or recovering from some physical ailment. With any dog of any age or breed, if there are any disabilities present, they will ALWAYS be taken into consideration when it comes to training.

Older dogs may need more time and patience, but those should be applied to any dog going through behavior training. If things have to be even slower because the dog is aged and physically weaker, then so be it. But it doesn’t mean the dog is totally incapable of being successful. If the owner puts the effort in and believes their dog can accomplish their training goals, then they will get there in no time!

So, if anyone is looking to sign their older dog up for training: you are both welcome to Bayshore Dog Training. There’s no special program for older dogs, but like all my training programs, we will always customize the training to suit your dog’s personality, needs, and behavioral issues. Because every dog is different and learns differently. But they can still learn, young or old!

To sign up for one of my training programs, make an appointment for the initial consultation at 800-649-7297!