Dog Training Strategies – How to Train an Older Dog

Dog training is essential for new puppies entering a new household. However, only a few understand that the same applies to older dogs. As more people in Tampa, Florida, adopt older dogs from shelters, they may face unexpected behavioral issues as their pet adjusts to their new home. 


Unfortunately, many shelter dogs have spent much of their lives fending for themselves or being raised in substandard living conditions before being rescued. As a result, they haven’t learned vital skills that potential fur parents expect in older pets. Even worse, they may have bad habits deeply rooted in their behavior, which could scare away potential adopters. 


The good news? You can teach an old dog new tricks. Any dog can learn and relearn behavior, regardless of their age. If you plan to adopt and know how to train an older dog, you can help your new furry friend gain the skills they need to become a well-behaved member of the family. 


It will require patience, though, so here’s some advice on how to train an older dog and help them integrate into their new home.


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How To Train an Older Dog: Tips for New Dog Owners


Getting Started with Dog Training

At the start of welcoming and training an older dog in your Tampa home, expect an adjustment period. The new environment may make them nervous, mainly if they’ve been in a shelter for quite a while, so you’ll need to give your tail-wagger some time to become accustomed to their surroundings.


In addition, professional trainers suggest preparing for adoption day. Before you bring your pooch home, be sure to:


  • Tidy up your house Nervous dogs can be destructive, so removing any clutter and putting precious objects out of their reach is a good idea. Consider placing valuables and fragile items out of reach. 
  • Grab some supplies  Pet supplies stores sell dog training tools on top of your dog’s usual needs. Head to a pet store and buy a collar or harness, leash and clicker, and other equipment to help with behavior training. 
  • Stock up on treats On top of training tools, don’t forget to buy some quality treats for training. Rewarding good behavior is critical to success with dog training, and you’ll need a supply of tasty treats to help your furry friend learn.
  • Talk to your family Your training attempts won’t be as successful if everyone isn’t on board. Everyone in your home needs to be on the same page regarding training techniques, as consistency is essential for older dogs.


Go Slow and Focus on the Positive

You may not know how your pooch was treated by its previous owner. To strengthen the bond between you and see success with dog training, you’ll want to make learning a fun experience. You may also need extra steps to help your furry friend stay focused.


Professional dog trainers know that the right approach can make all the difference in overcoming behavioral issues and teaching obedience. The team at Unleash Fido recommends that you:


  1. Start with only one command or behavior and only move on when a skill has been mastered.
  2. Find a distraction-free spot for your dog training sessions, as you need your pooch to pay attention.
  3. Watch for opportunities to praise and reward instead of focusing on punishing your pet for improper behavior.
  4. Use a firm voice or a clicker to stop undesired behavior as it happens, but remain calm – and once your pooch does what you want, follow up with a treat.


Find a Quiet Place To Train Your Dog

Even if your dog wasn’t sensitive to sound as a puppy, there’s a reason why older dogs are scared of loud sounds. Like some humans reaching their senior years, older dogs may develop joint pain and other conditions that make sudden movements painful. When they hear a loud noise, they respond with sudden movement. As a result, older dogs associate loud sounds with pain. 


Dogs on edge because of loud noise are less likely to focus on their training. Ideally, you should find a safe space in your home far away from loud sounds. This can reduce the risk of them developing negative associations with your training attempts. 


Follow a Daily Schedule

Creating a predictable schedule can help your senior dog anticipate what you want them to do. You can condition them to prepare for certain tasks at specific times through repetitive behaviors. A few ways to do this include:


  • Set Meal Times: Instead of leaving food in their bowl at all times, set specific meal times. On top of establishing meal times, this practice can also make potty time more predictable. Keep in mind that senior dogs need to eat twice a day.
  • Bathroom Time: By sticking your dog to a regular meal time, you can start to predict when they’ll need to go to the bathroom. This gives you enough time to take them outdoors or lead them to their potty pad just in time.
  • Exercise and Training: Ideally, you or someone in your household should be taking your dog for a walk during a set time. Senior dogs are less active, so a short walk near your home or in the backyard may be enough. For senior dogs that can’t walk due to conditions like arthritis, provide stimulating mental exercises with toys. 


Use a Crate for Potty Training

Just because a dog is an adult doesn’t mean they know how to behave in the house. Potty training issues are a common reason many dogs end up in shelters, so patience is greatly required for fur parents who want to train their dogs on the correct potty behavior. 


Part of dog training includes potty training. First, try conditioning their behavior for the first few days using a crate. Keep your dog in a crate anytime no one is available to supervise. Make sure the crate you purchase is large enough for your furry friend to stand up and move around without difficulty – and get one that is strong enough to keep them from breaking free.


Additionally, make sure your dogs have something to do while caged. Provide water, a chew toy, and soft padding for comfort, and be sure to give them plenty of praise. When you release your tail-wagger, take them outside for a potty break. As long as you’re consistent – and don’t use the crate as a punishment – the house training process should go rather quickly.


Keep Training Times Short

Older dogs don’t have the energy to undergo behavioral training throughout the day, so keep your training sessions short. Limit your exercise to 20 minutes at most before letting them take a break. 


Additionally, it helps to be patient when it comes to training. Older dogs may have less energy and may be easily distracted. While they can learn new tricks and positive behavior, it may take some time to click. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Training an Older Dog


Many first-time dog owners and those adopting older dogs tend to ask these questions:


  • Is it too late to train a dog at a certain age?

    It’s never too late for dogs to learn! Dogs adapt to their environment, so it really depends on how consistent your training is and how patient you are to train them.


  • What’s the difference between training puppies and senior dogs?

    Puppies are essentially blank canvases with no history affecting their behavior. This means how they’re trained in their early formative years can affect their behavior later in life. They’re also more energetic, which can affect your training strategies. Older dogs, however, have already learned certain behaviors based on how they were raised in the past. They’re also less energetic, so they’re more motivated by things like their appetite.


  • How do you train the basics with an older dog?

    It varies between dogs, but the key is repetition, positive enforcement, and patience – a lot of it. Doing these essentially tells a dog what you want them to do, and they will eventually understand.


  • Can I train a dog myself?

    While there are benefits to training your own dog, there are many challenges to overcome. A senior dog’s medical condition, history of learned negative behavior, and overall behavior toward training can vary. If you find it challenging to train your dog, consider contacting a professional to discuss solutions for their behavior. 


Talk to a Professional Dog Trainer at Unleash Fido

The principles of dog training aren’t tricky to understand, but putting them into practice can be a challenge. What works for one pooch may not work for another, and achieving results with dog training can require extensive time and effort. Therefore, working with a professional trainer with a great deal of experience can be the best approach.


If you live in Tampa, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Brandon, Lutz, or one of the nearby Florida cities, Unleash Fido is here to meet your dog training needs. Our professional team has what it takes to teach obedience and overcome behavioral issues, and we’ve helped numerous older dogs learn new skills through positive reinforcement.


Unleash Fido offers a range of dog training options, including private lessons and a board-and-train boot camp. Our trainers work with all ages and breeds, and we can recommend a program that’s right for you and your pooch. For a free consultation and details on dog training in Tampa and the surrounding Florida area, contact Unleash Fido today.