Unique Training Obstacles Facing Senior Dog Adopters

Updated On: Tuesday, February 8, 2022 12:14:48 PM America/Los_Angeles

You know the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? As familiar as that adage may be, it simply isn't true. And unfortunately, this myth may hinder amazing older doggos from being adopted into their fur-ever home. While it may be a bit trickier, it isn’t impossible to train a senior dog. In fact, it may be a lot easier than you think! Here, we discuss some common training obstacles that senior dog adopters may face as they adjust to their new life together. 

Photo by Jairo Alzate 

Can You Train an Older Dog? 

Yes! Senior dog adopters may face unique training challenges, but they also get to avoid some that make training a younger, more rambunctious pup difficult. Older dogs are less distracted. Instead, they are much more patient and as well as have more self-control. They’ve already developed their own habits so even if new skills aren’t picked up right away, they’ll likely display relatively regular patterns. That means less potty surprises for you and less stress for a new adopted dog.

What Challenges Are There to Training Senior Dogs? 

  • Potty training: Though older dogs may be a bit more stubborn, their developed cognitive skills and ability to “hold it” allows them to pick up potty training habits much more easily. Unlike puppies, the challenge in potty training older dogs is less about accidents and more about timing and location. A real grass pee pad like DoggieLawn can guide dogs to their pet potty. Dogs are naturally drawn to the smell of grass, and grass helps dogs designate the pad as an appropriate place to go–especially if they’re already used to taking care of business outside. Because of older dogs’ intelligence, crate training can also be a helpful method. 
  • Socialization: Luckily, most senior canines have probably already been well-socialized. The exception might be an older dog who has been on the streets for a large portion of their life. If you suspect your recently adopted fur baby is under-socialized, help them get settled into their new home before trying to socialize them with other humans and animals. A senior dog who is under-socialized may be a bit more set in their ways and less willing to make new friends, unlike a puppy who wants to be BFFs with just about everyone. Introduce new people or pets one at a time and back off if you sense that these interactions are making your dog anxious or upset. Nurture the bond between the two of you before trying again. 
  • Leash training: Like socialization, leash training shouldn’t be too difficult for older dogs unless they have spent the majority of their years without having to be on a leash. Start by selecting the right collar and leash for your pooch. Baby steps are key here. Think going together to get the mail instead of hitting the trails. Once it’s clear your furry one is comfortable with short distances, you can begin embarking on new, longer adventures together!    

If you feel overwhelmed and uncertain about your ability to properly train an older dog, leave it to the professionals! Enroll in obedience class so that someone who has plenty of experience with dog behaviors and cues can help you along the way. The important thing to note here is that senior dogs are just as–if not more–trainable than younger pups, and older doggos deserve just as much love and patience as the younger ones!