by Sierra Hampl
Last week one of my students brought a friend to class and as they were leaving, the friend pulled me aside and asked if her three year old dog was too old to take a class. I can’t even tell you how happy I was to answer this question because the fact is, your dog is never too old to learn new tricks or refresh the basics. This woman sat through class interested and engaged in our teaching methods and left excited with the idea of bringing her own dog to a class.
After my husband and I rescued our dog, Stella, we took her to a basic obedience class and she was always a fine dog with some frustrating quirks but nothing too terrible. She is definitely an opportunist—meaning that anything left on the counter will be snatched when we aren’t looking, but any snatching is ultimately our fault due to lack of management. After we had children Stella’s walks became almost nonexistent because she would lunge and growl at other dogs and I couldn’t manage a toddler, a baby, and my crazy looking dog! Eventually I realized I was doing a disservice to Stella, so I starting reading books on dog training and attempted to implement what I learned. I did many things wrong, but I was also convinced there had to be a way to take an enjoyable walk with my dog. It wasn’t until I took Stella to Kevin’s Reactive Dog class that I began to truly understand my dog. That was just a few years ago when Stella was nine years old.
We spend a lot of time talking about puppies because it is imperative they experience proper socialization and also for the owners to have support in managing puppy behaviors, but our older dogs are just as important. If, for example, you engage in a hobby but set it aside for several months or even years, when you become interested in it again you will probably need to relearn bits and pieces. The same is true with dogs. Just because you taught them to hold a sit-stay as a puppy, doesn’t mean a few years later they’ll be able to hold a reliable sit-stay (unless of course you practice it regularly).
A refresher of the basics is a wonderful way to understand and communicate with your dog. If you have kids and they think your older dog is boring it’s a great opportunity to get them involved in training, and a renewed sense of ownership of the family dog.
Unless you have a dog that is reactive to other dogs or people, our Basics 1 class is the perfect option for any dog six months and older. In Basics 1 we cover loose leash walking, sit, down, stay, leave it, watch, and more. Many people seem indignant that they should re-teach their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down,’ however, we have a very specific method for training reliable behaviors and we ask that all students do their best to follow along and enjoy the process because after all, we’re working toward the same goal of having fun while training, and training behaviors that we can not only achieve in the home, but also when out and about. We encourage our students to trust the process as they will surely enjoy the results at the end of the five week class.
If you do have a reactive dog, our Reactive 1 class is the perfect class for dogs of any age. Not only will you have a refresher of the basics, but you’ll learn how to navigate tricky situations. Whether you sign up for Basics 1 or Reactive 1, not only can your "old" dog learn a few new tricks, but you can, too!