Most people know that puppies need guidance and training to curb unwanted behavior and learn important commands. Unfortunately, many dog owners overlook the fact that older dogs may need training, too, especially if behavioral issues develop later in life.
“It is never too late to take training steps to improve your dog’s behavior—no matter what their age,” says Nicole Belmore, a dog trainer and owner of the Northern Wisconsin Canine Center in Eagle River, Wis. Achieving good behavior from a canine companion requires dedicated effort. Follow these tips to increase your chances of sharing your home with a happy, well-behaved dog.
Teach (or re-teach) basic commands. Every dog needs to have a basic vocabulary of important commands and phrases, but sometimes dogs fail to respond appropriately. “In my 25 years of experience, the No. 1 complaint among owners with older dogs is, ‘My dog does not come when called,’” says Belmore, who feels that teaching the come command should be a top priority when training any dog. “It’s a simple command that can save a dog’s life,” she says.
Provide a routine. Dogs thrive in a structured environment and benefit from a daily routine. “When dogs have structure and owners become the leader of the home, these two key components can significantly improve a dog’s behavior,” Belmore says. She suggests that dogs be trained to do a simple behavior before being fed. “Request a simple sit, down, or giving a paw, and then the dog gets to eat. This speaks volumes of leadership and structure to your dog,” she says.
Play with your dog. Dogs are no exception to the adage, “All work and no play, makes Jacks a dull boy.” While your position of leadership is important, it’s also vital that you take the time to playfully interact with your dog daily. “Playing with your dog instills a relationship between the two of you,” says Belmore. “And this relationship is the foundation to a better-behaved dog!”
Know when to get help. It’s not always easy to help a dog through a difficult behavioral issue. If at-home training efforts don’t seem to be effective, don’t hesitate to get help. “Most dog trainers are happy to give simple advice over the phone,” Belmore says. “If they have a facility, stop in and ask questions. Dog owners should never feel like they are alone in their journey with their dogs.”