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How to Teach an Old Dog a New Trick

By Colleen Williams
published: December 30, 2014 - updated: April 25, 2022 • 1 min. read
dog tricks

A simple, fun dog trick to teach is the handshake. All you need are some tasty treats and quality time with your pet.

It’s an old wive’s tale that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick—senior pets have just as much to offer as younger pets. However, elderly pets can struggle with more advanced dog training.

If your pet seems to be struggling, take a break and come back to it later. It’s important to avoid frustration for the sake of you and your dog—training should be about having fun!

Dog tricks

Step One
Make your dog sit. Hold a treat just out of reach, saying the command “high five.” Tap one of your pet’s paws.

Your pet should raise its paw, begging for the treat. Catch the paw and give up the treat. Don’t forget the praise!

Step Two
Repeat step one until your dog automatically raises a paw at your “high five” command.

If needed, provide gentle encouragement by softly tapping the inside of your pet’s knee until it bends. Tickle the bottom of a raised paw to bring it even higher.

Step Three
Remember—patience, treats and firm authority are the keys to successful dog training. While repetition and routine are essential to driving a trick home, be gentle yet firm and avoid raising your voice.

Older pets may also be hard of hearing, which can lead to frustration. If a trick won’t stick, try another one! Even if your pet can’t get it down, what’s important is the time spent with your dog.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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