Puppy to Older Dog; What Can My Dog Learn?
I recently got an email from a person considering adopting a 1 year old dog.
They liked the dog, but could it actually “Learn” anything or were they stuck with whatever was sitting there rotting in a shelter kennel.
I think our misconceptions are so silly, and they often just take me by surprise, while putting such a young dog at risk for death simply because of age.
Would you go to an adoption counselor and say, we are considering adopting a 3 year old baby, will he or she be capable of learning?
Doesn’t it sounds silly when you say it in those terms?
Older children and older dogs are capable of probably learning and retaining more than their younger counterparts.
Actually the older we get the more capable we are of understanding and empathy and excelling in our learning. And, older dogs have longer attention spans. Puppies can learn but they have short attention spans and we must deal with them being easily distracted.
A One Year Old Dog is Still a Baby
I used to take dogs out of shelters at 2 years (or so) and I then began teaching them Service Dog skills. How to pick a shelter dog click here.
I didn’t want puppies (they have such short attention spans) and I wanted them to be old enough be fully grown so they could be effectively x-rayed. And, puppies go through developmental stages; sometimes they like people, sometimes they don’t… you can’t get an 8 week old puppy and be sure what you are going to have when they are a year old.
But by the time they are about a year or two old what you see is what you get as far as temperament and who the dog has become; a social dog will probably stay social and a scared dog will probably always have some fears that need to be dealt with throughout life (which isn’t a terrible thing if given coping mechanisms and training).
And with training and a new environment, it is fairly easy to break bad habits.
But I guess I have never seen 1 year old, as being OLD.
Even a 5 or 8 year old dog that is a good dog is like finding a diamond in the rough, already trained, have learned their manners and easy to live with.
Click here for why I especially love rescues.
Dogs are like people, there is no time limit on learning. Did you know the oldest living person to complete college was 95? How is that for too old to learn.
I dare you to say to her face she was too old to learn. Now don’t get me wrong I am sure she had her haters and her doubters but there is no time frame on learning. I’m only guessing she had the highest GPA and probably did the least partying.
The Same Comment Makes Me Laugh About Puppies
They are Too Young to learn…
We begin sending our children to formal school at about 5 years old, but does that mean they get NO LEARNING at home?
Parents never swat them away from open outlets, they allow them to throw fits, they don’t make them give up dangerous items, or teach them not to run witch scissors?
Of course they do; or our society would die out.
Put a baby in a shed for 5 years, feed and water it and see what you have (no seriously don’t do this…. DO NOT do this).
All interactions come with lessons. Lessons about what works, what doesn’t work, what hurts and what feels good. No interaction (ignoring your puppy or constant crating) also comes with learning, but usually in the form making wrong decisions or bad behavioral decisions (like jumping and biting).
Typically we seek what “works” and what “feels good” but we also learn from “what hurts”.
That is why the most important thing to your dog training is rewarding good behavior. If we don’t give our dogs information about what we like and what we don’t, they choose things that THEY like; like jumping up, digging, barking and other “dog behavior” we find undesirable.
For more on rewarding good behavior and the #1 most important thing to your dog training click here.
It Doesn’t Matter
So essentially it doesn’t matter whether your dog is 8 weeks old or 13 years old, he is capable of learning! Just remember your building blocks of training and be patient rewarding good behaviors and being patient with the learning process!
For more on teaching an old dog new tricks click here
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.