How To Train Your Senior Pets
We all know the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but is it actually true? While the phrase is clearly popular, it is completely false. You can teach an old pet new tricks; in fact, older pets have a few advantages over their younger counterparts in that they have a longer attention span, and are already bonded to you. In a way, it might actually be easier to train your senior pets.
There are quite a few benefits to training your pet in their older years, such as:
- Boosting their confidence
- Keeping them in good shape through physical tricks
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Engaging them socially
- Stimulating them mentally to prevent boredom
- Continual bonding time with their owner
There are a few things you must keep in mind when attempting to train an older pet. Here are our 8 top tips how to train your senior pets!
- Utilize your pet’s existing likes
If your senior pet has been with you their entire life, chances are you already know all their favorite activities and treats. Use their preferred rewards to incentivize them during training. If your pet prefers rewards in the form of play or toys, then that’s what they should be offered.
This also applies to other elements of the training, such as location. If your puppy used to prefer to learn new tricks outdoors in the backyard, chances are they’ll still enjoy it as an older dog. Apply the same tactic when training a cat.
- Keep sessions short
While an older pet has a better attention span than a puppy or a kitten, they are more prone to joint pain and fatigue. Keep all lessons sweet and to the point, and avoid excessive repetition. If your pet seems to be growing tired, take a break and revisit the lesson later during the day when they are more energized.
- Consult your vet before attempting strenuous exercise
Perhaps you want to teach your dog to walk off-leash, or wish your cat would start using the new cat tower. While both those activities might be fun for your pet, they also require a certain degree of physical endurance. It’s best to talk to your veterinarian about your plans for training prior to applying them, as they may prove too exhausting for your pet.
Of course, you should always account for any existing health or medical issues your pet may have. For example, dog breeds with respiratory difficulties should not be engaging in extreme agility training even if they are in good shape.
- Use both verbal and hand signals
Depending on your pet’s age and physical state, they may respond better to either verbal cues or hand gestures. Pets that are going deaf or have difficulty hearing may struggle to listen to your commands, and will therefore have an easier time learning hand signals, and vice versa. Even if your pet is able to respond to both at this time, it’s good practice to teach them both signals in case the need to rely on one arises in the future.
- Monitor your surroundings
Senior pets are more vulnerable to heat and cold than puppies and kittens. While your dog may enjoy a small nap in the sun, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to withstand the heat during a training lesson.
If you are training your pet to sit, stay, roll over, stand, or any other form of physical movement, try to do so on a soft surface. This helps protect their joints and creates a more comfortable setting for learning.
- Use treats wisely
Using treats for every lesson is very tempting, especially if your pet responds well to them. However, many senior pets struggle with maintaining a healthy weight so it’s important to monitor treat intake. You can purchase low-calorie treats or use healthier alternatives such as carrot pieces depending on their preference.
- Incorporate stretches
Stretching is highly beneficial for a senior pet. It strengthens their joints, increases their flexibility, and helps them stay in shape. If you start every training session with a few stretches for your pet, their body will be better prepared for physical activity, and will also become more limber over time.
- Stay positive
To train your senior pets is a great opportunity to spend time and bond with them. Use this time to offer your pet lots of love and attention, and they’ll definitely be happy to respond to your cues.
Senior pets do not need to spend their time just lying around with little to no activity. Incorporating training into their daily routine will help them stay sharp and fit, both physically and mentally.