“At what age is a dog too old to learn new tricks?”
A woman stopped me on my way into Chick-fil-a this weekend to ask this question.
My brief, simplified answer (on my way towards a delicious chicken sandwich) was this – there is no official age at which a dog stops learning, so long as they are not actually suffering from doggy dementia.
There are, however, caveats to that statement.
1. Physical limitations – don’t ask your senior dog to do something he/she is realistically unable to do, or that would cause him/her pain. If you’ve noticed your dog is slow to get up, or your vet has already confirmed some age related joint problems, shy away from teaching physically demanding tricks or tasks. If your dog’s hips are painful for him, don’t teach him a new trick that involves jumping. Gauge your training and your “workouts” on your dog’s abilities and the reactions you observe. Like people, some senior dogs are capable of much more than others.
2. Old habits die hard – don’t expect your older dog to easily give up habits that have been lifelong. If you’ve allowed him on the couch from puppyhood, don’t expect to teach him new furniture boundaries overnight. Remember that patience and consistency are key when trying to change a current behavior.
On your quest to teach your old dog new tricks, remember to set practical goals that are attainable for your senior dog and his/her physical/mental state.