I often get asked by dog owners whether they’ve left it too late to start dog training, and I get asked this question by owners with dogs from as young as 20 weeks, to as old as 10 years. So that begs the questions “Can you teach an old dog new tricks?” and “How old is too old for dog training?” and the answer is simple. It’s never too late.
Dogs see every day as a new day, a day that they wish to survive intact along with their pack. Every day they will look at the members of their pack to see how best they can manage this. Who is going to do which job, who is providing the essential leadership which will get them through that day. Unlike in a human environment where someone is either elected for a specified period of time, or they take over in a hositle military coup, canines simply look for the best leader regularly. Up until the point where you seek help, the best leader will have come from within the dogs in your household, because our default human behaviour does not prove us as leaders in our dog’s eyes. It is the belief that there is a lack of leadership from their owners which causes the difficulties which usually force people to seek dog training class or a dog behaviourist. Things like pulling on the lead, aggression, barking, separation anxiety, jumping up are all due to dogs not having clear leadership from their owners. But every day they give us another chance, they look to us to see whether we are going to start providing the leadership…
This is great, because when you are ready to show your dog that you are ready to be the leader, you are taking leadership in a human world. A world that your dog does not fully understand. Therefore with patience and consistency, using the right signals, you will be able to show your dog that you are a better leader than them, so they will voluntarily step down; regardless of the dog’s age! Sure, the older your dog, the more time it has spent thinking you are not capable of the job, so it may take an older dog slightly longer to be convinced than a puppy. However the older your dog gets the less it wants to be the leader. Puppies can sometimes be stubborn and challenging (like children!) so age doesn’t really come into it.
Ideally every pup would be started off with the right signals, but whether you took your dog to puppy training classes, or socialisation classes will have little impact on the dog it is today. What is most important is the clear and consistent leadership signals that you give it. For more information on what these leadership signals are, keep reading the blogs on this website; or purchase a copy of “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell.