Trick Tips for Older Dogs
June 9, 2011 -
I've started teaching Kyra a new trick. Yes, she's 10. And yes, an old dog can learn new tricks. In all fairness, she knows the basic behaviors of this trick, but we haven't put them together before in this context. Can you guess what I might be teaching her??? To open the fridge and get me something! That "something" may or may not be a beer!
Since we've been learning this trick (which went amazingly fast, by the way) I thought I'd share with you my must-have training tools. There's not much I need, besides treats, but there are a few items that make the training process much faster.
Treats! Kyra "will work for food" as they say. She won't work for just any ol' food either. The treats we use for training are pretty uniform in size, either because I cut them that way or they come that way. They are also soft (so we don't have crumbs on the floor), smelly (so she'll like them), and smaller than the size of a pea (so she won't get full). Rolled food by Pet Botanics and string cheese (from the grocery store) make a regular appearance at our training sessions!
A clicker! I use a clicker because "it's quicker with a clicker"! The clicker is a small noisemaker that tells Kyra she has performed the correct behavior. She also knows she'll get a treat every time she hears it - and that girl likes her treats :) The reason it works so fast is because the sound is consistent, precise, and not overused. I can teach her things in just a few reps using a clicker.
A bed or mat. I like training with a bed or mat to use as a target. If I need to cut up more treats or move the props around, I can easily send her to the mat to wait while I prepare the next step. This prevents her from offering a behavior when I'm not ready to reward it. She's been heavily rewarded for remaining on her mat so she views that as an equally fun part of the training session.
Those three things are the tools I like most for training, but I thought you might like to know which behaviors I like most for training too.
-Wait: a temporary "hang on" type behavior. It's not as strict as a stay, but VERY useful
-Take: to put something in your mouth when I hand it to you
-Bring it: to bring it directly to me and let me take it from your mouth
-Get it: pick up whatever I am pointing at
-Drop: drop the item from your mouth
-Touch: touch a target or my hand with your nose
-Find X: traveling to X (i.e. my boyfriend, a spot, a particular item)
It's amazing to me how many complex tricks I can teach using the above behaviors: opening doors, closing doors, balancing a cookie on her nose, getting me an item from the fridge, putting toys away, getting the car keys, taking items to other people, etc.
Hope this helps inspire you to train your dog! Remember, they are never too old to learn.