Despite the well known adage, old dogs LOVE to learn new tricks! In fact, dogs of all ages love the mental and physical stimulation that training can bring.
You may find that it breaths new life into your senior dog to get to a training class or learn some new skills. This is especially true if there is a new puppy in the house who is garnering most of the attention. If the pup is going through training, why not renew learning with your old dog? If this is on your agenda, here are a few things to consider that you wouldn’t have to think about with a young dog.
1. Physical capabilities
Most older dogs will do well in a low-key, low impact class like rally, obedience, scent work or tracking. Agility classes could be great as well providing the dog is physically capable of what is being asked. It is definitely important to keep jumps and impact low. Use the Veterans or Performance models from organizations like AAC and USDAA to help you make alterations in classes. Less repetition is something to consider as well. Multiple runs through the weave poles may be too hard for them over time. Also, if you have a large dog, ducking in and out of tunnels may prove difficult. A well versed Agility instructor will be able to help you keep your senior dog safe while still ensuring they enjoy their time.
Just as with people, a senior dog will not have the energy or stamina that a puppy might. Keep this in mind when it comes to both mental and physical exertion. As with any dog, you want to quit while you are ahead. Working any dog to the point of physical or mental exhaustion is counterproductive to ensuring they enjoy training, but this is especially true of a senior dog who may get sore or overtired from too much training. You may need to set a timer to ensure you don’t get caught up in your teaching and end up overtraining your dog (young or old).
Not all dogs are equal when it comes to vision capabilities, but as with people it’s natural for a dog’s eyesight to worsen overtime. Keep this in mind when it comes to the places you train as it will likely change the way your dog perceives motion and environment. Always be aware that your senior dog is capable of working in the light you’ve set up in. Also, make note of any new signs of stress. Check your senior dogs for cloudy eyes and adjust your training plan according to how they are doing in any given environment. A dog who is partially sighted or no longer has perfect vision should not be kept out of training, but do make sure you are adjusting to the needs of your senior dog!
Some senior dogs will love anything you throw at them taking new environments and challenges and rolling with them. Others may be sensitive to changes in their lives. Be sure your old dog is adjusting well to the new challenges you are asking them to face. The last thing you want to do is create stress for your senior pet. This endeavour should be about having fun and renewing the bond you hold with your old dog, not about putting stressful demands on them and possibly damaging your relationship. If they are stressed or not enjoying their time, it’s not time well spent and you should consider moving onto something else.
Our dogs are gone from our lives all too soon. Be sure to take some time to enjoy their senior years. They can be some of the best there are!