Sep. 19—Gracie Rich, owner of All Paws On Deck, believes old dogs can learn new tricks, but it may take them longer to do so.
"They can learn new stuff, but it may take them longer than a puppy because they have years of unlearning to do," Rich said. "You can teach an old dog whatever you want; you just have to be patient with them. They've gone a long time of doing whatever they want or learning something a different way, whereas with a puppy, everything is new to them."
Rich said the biggest thing someone can do when training a pet — no matter their age — is to remain calm. If the owner becomes frustrated with the pet, Rich said, they will often yell, or jerk the pet's leash, which should not be done, as it only further confuses the dog.
"You have to remember that you and your dog are both learning at the same time, so it helps if you are calm," Rich said. "If you feel yourself getting frustrated, then you can always just take a breath and come back later."
Rich said that when training a pet, it may only take 10-15 minutes sessions a day. Owners can work with their dogs for a few hours each day, but the time needs to be broken up into smaller intervals to keep the pet from getting tired or bored. Rich said when a pet becomes tired, it may become confused and stop listening.
While the lessons need to remain short, Rich said, they should also be fun for the pet. Giving the dog its favorite treat or playing a game are a few ways to keep the canine engaged.
"They're a lot like little kids, so if you keep the lesson short, fun, and you reward them throughout, then they're going to learn quickly," Rich said.
Rich said treats given out during training should be light but also of a "higher reward" rather than just being a piece of dog food. This will help keep he animal engaged and more apt to please.
"You want to use something that is not going to make them full because if you feed them too much, they're going to get lazy. After you eat a meal, you to just go to sleep; the same is with dogs," Rich said.
When starting out a training journey, Rich said, there is no right way. Even though pet owners can start their training at whatever stage they want, Rich recommends dogs begin getting used to their collars and leashes as soon as possible.
Crate training is another area of discipline Rich believes is important, as it helps them to not only learn to control their bladders, but it gives them a safe space in the home. Rich recommended for pet owners to not place any bedding or blankets in a crate if the dog is just starting out its training, which will help to mitigate urine-related accidents or the pet's destroying the material.
"One of the biggest mistakes people make is they leave their dog in their crate for too long, and then they feel like the crate isn't helping," Rich said. "Whenever your first crate training, you only want to put them in the crate for a couple of hours and then over time, extend that period."