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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 04:15 AM Thread Starter
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Training an older dog

My dog Beau is about 11 years old this year and has never really been trained very well at all.

When my family got him he was a puppy and I was very young and none of us really knew the responsibilty of taking on a dog. Now that I'm older I can actually see how unhappy Beau is and I would really like to improve his quality of life.

As I have no idea on how to train a dog, let alone an old one who seems like he'll never change. For example, when we throw him the ball he chases it then either a)brings it half way, b)picks it up then spits it out as something more important catches his attention, c)or just stands next to it. Nothing I try makes him want to play with us and I know it's not his fault, he's just very confused.

He spends about 5-6 hours a day at home by himself as we are at work, and when we get home we've always been too busy to exercise him. He has never really been socialized with other dogs or alot of people which shows. I've been taking him for walks or playing (or trying to anyway) with him and he seems to enjoy himself, but he's always so preoccupied with something else and he's very disobedient. I'm totally clueless with what to do because I can't train him obedience step by step like you would a puppy, because he seems like he has learned everything a different way.

When he is inside at night with us he listens to me a bit more, but only when I call him because he thinks I have food. It's like he trusts me but doesn't respect me.

Can anyone help me out?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 05:45 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

Actually, training him step by step like a puppy is exactly what you will have to do, because he has no foundation. He doesn't sound bonded to you or anyone in your family, which isn't surprising because you haven't invested much time in him. In order for dogs to form a partnership, they have to understand their position in the group, and have a human (or humans) spend a lot of time with them - training, playing with them, and exercising them. Shepherds especially need a lot of mental and physical exercise, and they were, and still are, bred to be with people. Your fellow, for 11 years, has essentially been on his own - you've been in the house but have ignored some of his basic needs. So no, he probably doesn't respect you - that has to be earned.

No dog however is too old to learn. I don't know how old you are (you sound young) but if you are serious about adding quality to your dog's life, you need to look for a trainer in your area and take him to a group obedience class.This will give him socialization with other people and dogs. You will both learn together. Other members of your family will need to go too -all people must be on the same page. You need to keep up the walks, for as far as he is able to go, not just around the block. Keep playing with him, he will get the hang of it. Dogs, like children, are WORK. But a relationship with one, based on love and respect,can be one of life's most rewarding experiences.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 06:05 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

Meant to add that you are to be commended for recognizing that your dog is unhappy, and wanting to do something about it. I think that if you can get him into a training class, you will both feel better...... Just make sure that the trainer isn't using harsh methods, and that you are having fun with your dog. Good luck!

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 07:14 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

all dogs can be trained at any age. The worst advice I have ever seen was that Victoria loser who told some people that at 11 months their dog was almost too old to change. Paige went back to school at age 3 and it changed everything.

"You can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" -french proverb
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 08:49 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

Good - he is food motivated!!

Grab a clicker, some treats, and get training. I am glad that you are working to improve his quality of life, and I think clicker training (positive methods) would be lots of fun for both of you. His inclination to obey when there's food is very common, and it is a normal part of training to eventually decrease food rewards in order to get the behavior without a bribe. Nothing unusual there.

As has been said, dogs can be trained at any age. Training is just associating one thing with another, which does not shut off when a dog reaches a certain age. In fact training an older dog *might* be easier than training a puppy since the older dog will have less energy and hopefully more impulse control.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 09:08 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

You just need to find what motivates him and like everyone else said you treat him just like a puppy. Work on bonding, I would start taking him on lots of walks and treating him if he pays the slightest bit of attention to you.

He's not particularly interested in playing, but it sounds like he likes food! And don't be afraid to use the good stuff. My dogs are not particularly food motivated, but they like hot dogs, hamburger, and cheese...and if I'm working on something really hard I break out the Sausage McMuffin or the double cheeseburger from McDonalds. Not healthy and not something you want to do regularly...but MAN will it get the job done!

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Training an older dog

I have read about this "clicker" for a while but am not sure exactly what it is or what it does. (Can someone help here?)

I can take him for walks everyday but sometimes avoid it because he is very hard to control especially when another dog comes along. He doesn't necessarily go to attack he just jumps out of his skin as he hardly ever comes in contact with other dogs.

I know the problem isn't Beau it's mine and my families fault. I would really like to learn how to train him properly and connect with him. As I said he has no interest in playing with me and I don't know how to force him.

Thank you for your help everyone
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-14-2010, 08:10 PM
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Re: Training an older dog

Here is a basic video:

http://clickertraining.tv/product.html?item=FREE-01

Assuming your dog already knows some basic commands (whether he does them only for food or not), just tell him "sit" and at the instant his rump hits the ground, click, and give him a morsel of food within a couple of seconds. He will quickly pick up the relationship between the command, his performing of it, and a treat. No perform, no click, and no treat.

And you can google for "clicker" and the specific issue. He is reactive to other dogs; I have a dog that's reactive and I am taking him to our first group obedience class tonight, just to build his confidence around other dogs.


You may want to consult a trainer or an obedience class for that, or maybe if you have friends with dogs who will work with you patiently. You can get some work done just running into leashed dogs at random, but he will learn much quicker if you can gradually and systematically increase his exposure in safe (controlled) conditions, as a trainer would offer.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-16-2010, 04:28 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Training an older dog

I'll look into buying a clicker. I've been walking and running him everyday and doing about half an hour or so of training. He can sit and will heel to my left side without a leash ONLY when he knows I've got food. I can't simply say heel without food otherwise he completely ignores me.

Will he start following my commands all the time if I keep at it?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-16-2010, 09:33 AM
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Re: Training an older dog

No, probably not ALL the time, don't expect that and accept the best he gives you. He sounds normal. You just need to strengthen the association. If you don't want to use food, you might try something equally interesting such as a tennis ball you're about to throw.

And in your beginning work, you must set the dog up to SUCCEED, meaning help him as much as you can to do the behavior you're asking of him as many times as possible. This would include a leash connecting you, tasty treats, and minimizing distractions.

You may also want to read the establishing dominance thread, and practice leadership strategies with him including random downs throughout the day, and having him yield to you by telling him to move out of the way as you walk through where he's standing. I have used these techniques and they do seem to keep the pack structure organized in my favor

One more thing, look for opportunities to successfully get him to obey commands in daily life. For example, if he wants to go out, make him sit or down first. Want to throw a tennis ball, sit first. And of course keep doing it at meal time, but don't over-do it i.e. multiple repeated commands while his food bowl is sitting there full.

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