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Old dogs can learn new tricks

There is always a common saying, ‘Old dogs can’t learn new tricks,’ but in this article, it says otherwise. Bear is a Shih Tzu, which I adopted from an ex-colleague 12 yrs back, and he will be 14 yr old this coming September. We had a tough and confusing learning journey to begin with, and Bear has Separation Anxiety when I adopted him at 13-month-old. Bear will start to feel insecure when he is alone in the house, and he will start to bark till I come home or will start to be destructive around the house.

Back then, as a first-time dog owner, the internet is the common source of information, and so that began my journey on how to train a dog out of Separation Anxiety. After weeks of researching, it sums up dog training can be easy as ABC. A= Ask for the behavior, B=Behavior display, C=Consequence of the correct behavior. So how does this work? Well, let me break down the whole concept.

One of the ways to tackle Bear’s separation Anxiety is by introducing crate training to him. The plan is to introduce him to the crate and make him comfortable in the crate that it became his ‘safe den.’ Well, how do we start from here? Well, as usual, I will prepare his meal, and instead of serving his food at his usual feeding spot, I now place the bowl of food at the end of the crate purposely show him. On my other hand, I hide a few pieces of treats. Bear saw where his dish was placed and he entered the crate and started having his meal. After finishing his meal and he remains inside the crate, I praised him and gave him a piece of treat.

Now how does ABC present in this simple training process? My placing of food dish into the crate and purposely showed him is a signal to ‘asked Bear to enter the crate’ - this is A=asked for the behavior. Entered his crate, start having his meal and remain in the crate after he had finished- this is B=Behavior display. Praising him and giving him the treat- this is C= compliment the correct behavior. With the consistent of using this ABC method, it came to a stage when I say ‘crate’ he understands he is to go into his crate and stay there.

With this ABC method, Bear was able to learn the trick of ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ ‘salute’ and ‘paw.’ So, I will say old dogs do can learn new tricks with the correct positive training method. From here, I would say stay positive and enjoy the training journey with your furies!

Lyn Tan

Assistant Dog Trainer

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