Tricks for us seniors

Eleven tricks you can teach a senior dog.

The household here in Oregon has a number of seniors, both dogs and humans. And while I’m pretty sure that this senior human is practically past the point of learning new tricks, apparently it doesn’t apply to our old dogs.

So enjoy this recent article that appeared on Mother Nature News.


Teaching an old dog new tricks is not only possible, but a lot of fun!

By: Jaymi Heimbuch, November 30, 2015

Old dogs can learn new tricks with ease! (Photo: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)
Old dogs can learn new tricks with ease! (Photo: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)

The old saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but we know a lot of old sayings are wrong — this one included. Of course we can teach old dogs new tricks! In fact, it’s a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and having fun throughout his life.

One important thing to keep in mind about teaching senior dogs new tricks and behaviors is the dog’s level of physical ability. Many senior dogs are perfectly able, but if your dog is getting achy in the joints or has other limitations that come with age, keep these in mind. Older dogs may have joint pain or arthritis and have a harder time jumping or even sitting for long periods. They may also have dental issues which may limit the tricks they can do using their mouths. And they may also have hearing or vision problems which alter not only what kinds of tricks you want to teach them but also the way in which you teach them. So it’s important to know what your dog’s physical limitations are when you’re thinking up new tricks, and not push him to the point of possible injury.

While your dog may be past the days of learning to jump through hoops or leap over walls, there is a huge range of tricks that keep mobility issues in mind, and which senior dogs will have a lot of fun learning. Some of the tricks listed here build on each other and gain complexity, so you can keep things interesting for your dog for weeks at a time while training.


This is such a great trick to use as a foundation for other tricks, from flipping light switches on or off to coming back to your side. And it’s incredibly easy for your dog to learn and do. This is great for older dogs because you can make it really simple at first and build complexity into it after your dog has it down. To start out, you train your dog to do hand targeting. Here’s a video that shows not only how to train your dog to touch your hand, but many of the uses of the behavior:


Teaching your dog to yawn is all about “capturing behavior” with clicker training. It’s much like training your dog “touch” but this time, you have to wait for your dog to offer the behavior and capture it when it happens. Click — or say a key word like “Yes” — whenever you catch your dog yawning, and then reward him with treats or a game with a toy. After awhile, your dog begins to associate the yawn as being a trick that earns a reward. Here’s a video that demonstrates capturing different behaviors that you can turn into cute tricks, including yawning on command:

Put toys away

Even when you’re a grown-up, you have to pick up your toys when you’re done playing. Teaching your dog this tidy behavior will keep him or her a little more active in a low-key way, and thus help loosen up those stiff joints and muscles without putting a strain on their body. Plus, it’s a fun game that you can play over and over, not just on clean-up duty.

Names of objects

Stretch your dog’s mental abilities by teaching him the name of different objects or toys. This is a great way to teach your dog to fetch certain items from the toy box or even various objects from around house. You can start off with a few items from the toy box or simply get rolling with items you may want him to fetch for you, including hats, keys, shoes, blankets and so on.

Though it may take a while for your dog to truly grasp the name for each item at first, soon he will catch on to what the name game is all about and will likely grasp names faster when introduced to new objects.

Here’s a video that shows how to begin teaching a dog the name of an item, and how to add more items into the mix:

Ring a bell to go out

Your senior dog may be house-trained, but is he also trained to tell you precisely when he wants or needs to go out? You can give your older dog a great tool to tell you what he needs by teaching him to ring a bell as a cue to go outside. This video shows the progression of teaching a dog to touch the bell, and then eventually transition to learning that ringing the bell means their human opens the door for them.


The balance of this fascinating article comes out tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “Tricks for us seniors

  1. Love this Paul. I never did get any of my guys to put away their toys … but I put sleigh bells over the back door knob, so that they could ring the bell when they wanted out. 💛
    I also love the new look!


  2. Farley is looking at me from his bed, all comfortable and tucked in, and I think he’s wondering if I’m going to make him learn something new today. He looks pretty happy being a couch potato right now. Maybe I should let him relax and try some of these trick later.


  3. Never had that problem with my cats lol.. They would let you know very clearly when they wanted to go out.. lol.. 🙂 And my Dad had a cat who would fetch lol.. just like a dog.. 🙂 Loved reading the list of tricks And on this post the video’s appeared as links, but when pressed took you too them. 🙂 as I noticed what you had said to Val about them..


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