How to teach “an old dog” new tricks?

If you started reading this post to get tips&tricks to teach your dog, you are wrong 🙂 I got Ben 4 years ago and we started with individual obedience training, then with search training. Firstly just to have fun and later I thought that I can give something back to a community (but I was wrong 🙂 We’ve done basic agility training and different obedience seminars. Due to we have worked with many dog trainers and lately I’ve heard many dog owners to get comments like “It is not you the problem, it is ___________ (choose from: your dog, your breed, your left leg, your head, your jacket, your dog collar and leash, etc. 🙂 from their dog trainers, I decided to write about the topic that was my challenge for two years (and then I met my perfect dog trainers 🙂

On one hand you can imagine agility trainers – extremely happy, loud, jumping like they already won a gold medal. I exaggerate on purpose 🙂 On the other hand total opposite – the most typical search and rescue trainer has poker face, he or she is serious and loud just when a dog steps on a wrong leg 🙂 almost all of them have one in common: they have great working dogs and they understand their dogs (more or less).

And then there are many dog owners who have a passion, relatively enough time and of course a challenging dog (from a dog trainer point of view) who feel they are not good enough to do agility, rally obedience, search and rescue training, nose work, man trailing etc. And then they change a dog trainer and wow a new world opens – dog handler/owner becomes more confident and a dog gets new energy. Familiar?

It happened to me – not once, but many times. And I am more than happy to get all those lessons because I’ve learned to listen to my own gut. On one hand I wish all those unmotivated-to-work-with-me dog trainers would tell me that I was no longer welcome on training, but on the other hand, I’ve learned the difference between good and unmotivated dog trainers for teaching.

Most of us who want to work with dogs we sacrifice other free time activities in our life. Most of us don’t do it because it is fancy to talk about it to our friends or to find a boyfriend. We do it because we love or like it.  And it is a pity that dog clubs and societies loose dedicated people just because then don’t fit into a stereotype of “a girl who do agility with small and fluffy dog” or “a man who does search and rescue with golden retriever”.

Probably it was unmotivated dog trainer who started with an idiom “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick” – it has been proven many times that also an old dog can learn new tricks if it is trained in a right manner. I just wish the same idiom wouldn’t be applicable to dog trainers 🙂

If you read this as a dog trainer I just want to say that it is not the end of the world if your trainee doesn’t agree with you – try a new trick 🙂 as Albert Einstein said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

If you read this as a dog owner with bad experiences in dog clubs – keep learning 🙂 it is the only way to find a dog trainer who will understand your way of approaching new tricks.

At the end of a day, it is important that you and your dog enjoy the training and that you leave with a smile and a motivation for a next meeting. If you don’t, you waste your time and you make your dog unmotivated.

Published by Vesna

Hey, I am Vesna. Marketing, events, digital campaigns have been driving my days for the last 15 years. The last 10 year I am a freelancer working on a wide-range of marketing, communication and digital campaigns in field of sports, social responsibility, environmental affairs and nature preservancy. I am a certified mountain bike guide (Cycling Association of Slovenia) and certified facilitator (The Slovenian Association of facilitators). Big part of my life is dedicated to explore nature with my best friend Ben, an irish setter who loves mountain biking more than cheese and the finest chunk of meat!

2 thoughts on “How to teach “an old dog” new tricks?

  1. tnx! We still do search & rescue and it took a lot of time to find a good dog trainer. I think it is also important that you as a dog handler never stop exploring new ways of training, dog psychology etc. With new knowledge and additional seminars you get a lot of new ideas how to work with different dogs.


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