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Just because your dog is getting up in years doesn't mean he has to be stuck with his old habits. As with people, it can take longer to learn something new, but it is possible.
The key to teaching any dog is consistency. Dogs have the beneficial combination of being creatures of habit and wanting to please their people. This is a recipe for success in training, even when the dog is past his puppy years. Patience on your part is the added ingredient when working with an older dog.
Begin by capturing the behavior in your dog when he does it naturally. For example, if your dog has the bad habit of jumping on people when they enter the house, make a point to reward him when he keeps his feet on the floor upon someone’s entrance. You can do this with a small treat or a hearty petting and a “good dog!” The key is giving him that reward immediately. Capture that behavior as soon as the person sets one foot inside, before he even has the chance to jump. This will also serve the purpose of distracting your dog from the newcomer. He will become more likely to direct his attention to you whenever someone enters in the hopes of being rewarded for it. You can practice this behavior by attaching a leash to your dog and having him sit at the door. When someone walks in, step on the leash to prevent him from jumping. Once he starts making no move to jump when someone enters, reward him with the treat or attention.
This method can be applied to almost any behavior – sitting, lying down, and keeping off of the furniture, even tricks like closing doors and getting the paper. However, you have to make sure that everyone in the household rewards the proper behavior whenever it is displayed - consistency.
Giving the dog any kind of attention when he misbehaves only serves to reinforce the bad behavior. This is where your patience comes in. When someone knocks on the door or you know another family member just pulled into the driveway, get your dog on a leash and sitting by the door before they come in. Where a younger dog may learn the proper behavior in a week or two, a dog who has been free to jump for years and years may take a month or longer. So put the leash on every time and lavish the rewards whenever he remains calm and seated.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|