You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Posted on October 12, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: , , |

About a month ago I did a tip of the week on socializing your puppy.  I talked about how important it is to socialize your pets at an early age.  It is so important, but you have to do it safely so you don’t expose your puppy and their undeveloped immune system to diseases.  I wanted to share with you this week about socialization for a dog who is older that wasn’t socialized well as a puppy.

A couple weeks ago my neighbors asked if I would help them with their Cocker Spaniel, Cloe.  She is a great dog, perfect for the family, but didn’t get the socialization she needed as a puppy.  Therefore, she barks and lunges at dogs, snaps, and/or shy’s away from them.  Her owners were concerned because when she lunges and snaps, they are afraid she would bite.  Up to this point she hadn’t bitten any other dogs.  They wanted to get her socialized enough that they could walk her with their friends.

It is possible to “teach an old dog new tricks.”  We started by bringing my lab Moose to their house, I showed her owners how to calm her down using praise and treats.  Once she was calmer we moved to the back yard.  Moose is very mellow and doesn’t mind much when other dogs come running at him.  We worked with Cloe to be calm and accept treats near Moose.  If Cloe snapped, her behavior was corrected with a stern “NO” or if she growled we gently grabbed her muzzle and said “NO.”  Cloe responded very well to being corrected, and calmed down a great deal.  We reinforced her for letting her owners pet Moose and her at the same time.

Cloe did very well considering we brought Moose to her territory.  Dogs tend to be very protective of their space and families.  Next we brought Cloe to my house to meet Moose again and meet my other dog Faith.  We kept if brief, but Cloe didn’t bark or snap at all during the encounter.  Again we used many treats and kept it short.  Cloe was definitely calmer when she was out of her element and in another dogs territory.

My neighbors went out-of-town for the weekend and we have been taking care of Cloe.  We decided to see how she would do if she spent the night at our house.  She was definitely nervous the first night, but cuddled up to me and Dylan.  She slept with all of us on the bed and did great.  She has been with us since Friday now and is still a little shy, but is exploring more and getting closer to the other dogs.  She was a little confused when Moose tried to play with her.

Granted Moose and Faith are only 2 dogs, but this is a huge step for Cloe.  The next step is to do the same socialization techniques with my neighbors friends dogs so they can go on walks together.

It won’t happen overnight, but it is possible to train older dogs.  You just have to use the right techniques and be patient.  It helps to have a guinea pig like Moose to use that is calm.

For more information on teaching your older dog behaviors he might have missed out on as a puppy, contact me at


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