obedient dog looking up at camera

Training an Older Dog

4 min read

It’s not just puppies that love the excitement of training, or the emotional bonding you enjoy when they learn new skills. Adult and senior dogs can also enjoy and benefit from ongoing training, especially if life changes a bit.

A well-trained older dog, for example, will make your house move a lot easier, or set an example for a puppy that has just joined the family!

Senior and adult dog training allows you to strengthen your bond together, have fun, and helps your dog stay physically and mentally exercised. And once they’ve learned the basics, you might be surprised by what else you can teach them. Perhaps there is a more fun way of picking up their toys from the garden: you could teach your friend to put them in a box for you! Or why not train your older dog to fetch your slippers or find the missing TV remote?

A well-trained adult dog is also a much safer dog, and they will be more fun to be around for other people. If your dog gets overexcited in public or when a visitor calls it can cause a bit of a scene, but with a little training your dog will be the best-behaved person in the room! Almost every dog can be taught basic obedience and much, much more, regardless of type of breed, experience or age.

Training adult dogs and senior dogs

To start training your adult or senior dog and meet other like-minded owners and dogs, join a reputable, reward-based training club with a variety of training courses on offer for dogs of all ages and backgrounds.

Many dog owners go back to the same club where their puppy first learnt obedience training, meeting the same people and dogs they made friends with the first time around – after all, it’s about having a fun experience as well as an educational one! 

If you need support with how to train older dogs, a weekly training course also gives you a regular time slot to devote to your dog, honing your skills as a trainer and handler and letting your dog practice their concentration skills. Your dog will benefit from the way classes provide structure, while practising the exercises at home will help keep them mentally stimulated as well!

Your dog’s ongoing training will depend on what your objectives and your dog’s skills are: why not discuss it with a professional trainer? Perhaps you need an obedience refresher course or, if your dog is new or from a rescue shelter, some one-to-one training with you or socialising with other adult dogs is more suitable. You could even try a new hobby together and get training in a dog sport such as agility or flyball!

If you don’t want to visit a training club, there are plenty of books available that will help you learn lots about training an older dog at home. Check your local library or search for dog training books online to start your new hobby with your best friend.


Training senior dogs

It turns out that you can teach an ‘old’ dog new tricks – in fact, training senior dogs is just the same as training adult dogs! Challenges are important to keep dogs sharp at any age, and learning new things is vital for maintaining good cognitive function. Think of the brain as a muscle; if it’s not exercised, it can become weaker. And whether you are starting with an untrained veteran rescue dog, or just teaching new exercises to your older family dog, they will relish the time spent learning with you. Correctly motivated and rewarded, they will be a willing student, and if you’ve known each other for years, so much the better: older dog training with someone they love can be as comfortable and enjoyable for your dog as chewing their lifelong favourite toy!


Special considerations for training senior dogs

As with reward-based training for all ages of dog, ensure that any food rewards count towards your dog’s daily food allowance. This is especially important for senior dogs as they have a slower metabolism and can be prone to putting on weight – you want them to stay in peak condition, which means making sure they get the right balance of nutrition.

Dogs are considered senior at different ages depending on their breed size; however, on average, a ‘senior’ dog is any dog over the age of seven (small breeds become seniors later and large breeds earlier).

When training older dogs, cater for any specific health requirements your friend might have. If your dog suffers from arthritis, for example, don’t overstretch their joints with too much physical work and be careful not to train them on slippery wooden floors.

Your senior dog wants to please you and keep having fun, so they may be unwilling to tell you when they’ve had enough for one session. Be careful not to over-tire them, as they might continue stoically doing their best to please you even if they’re ready for some water and a bit of a nap! Training an older dog demands a lot of concentration – and possibly physical exertion – and this can be very tiring. Short but frequent training exercises are far better for him than occasional marathon stints, and they’re more exciting, too.

As long as you keep an eye on your dog’s needs and develop a fun, non-strenuous training plan, you’ll both be having fun in no time – and you might just have the best-trained dog you know! Want to know more about the care of senior dogs? Check out this handy guide.