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Tuesday Training Byte: Can I Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Just the other day I was talking with a woman who was considering adopting a dog since her other dog passed away a few months ago. She was asking about getting a puppy versus a senior dog from the shelter. She really did not want to start all over again with everything that goes along with a pup- chewing, housebreaking, leash training, etc. Yet she thought that the older dog may come with "baggage" and bad habits. For many people, the exuberance and work involved with a young pup can be overwhelming after losing a well-behaved older pet. I would advise to consider the senior or older adult dog. They may have some issues to iron out, but will be very grateful for you getting them out of jail. An old dog can certainly learn "new tricks". Dogs thrive on consistency and a routine. I took in a 6 year old dog many years ago that was a farm dog- never crate or leash trained, much less housebroken. The house breaking was a cinch because the mature dog could "hold it" much longer than a young pup. Crate training was also easy. I pup her food dish inside the crate but not too far away from the door, so she had to put her front feet in to eat. Each meal I just slide the food dish farther back until she went in all the way willingly. Obedience training may be a bit more work if you have to overcome or undo bad habits. But I generally find that the older dog is calmer, more focused, and thankful for some attention than a pup. Plus, the freedom of a 6 foot leash is much preferred to a cramped dog run at the pound surrounded by strange people, smells, and lost of noise.


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