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Game On! Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks Through Playful Training

Hey there, doggy pawrents! Ever heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, it’s time to toss that tired old adage out the window. At Little Angels Dog Training, I believe that with the right dose of playfulness and a sprinkle of doggy enthusiasm, you can teach your old pooch some impressive new tricks. Welcome to the world of Games-based dog training, where we turn dog training into a tail-wagging good time!

As your dog ages, some of their senses might start to deteriorate. Just like us hoomums and dads, they start to lose some mobility, sight and hearing. You might even be seeing some signs of doggy dementia like your senior getting stuck in corners, some confusion and barking, and some toileting issues. It’s up to us as responsible dog pawrents to keep their minds active and their body’s as mobile as they can manage. After all, your senior pup has likely given you many years of loyal love and devotion, so the least we can do is offer them some stimulating activities between naps. 3-minute games a few times a day is enough to keep your Sassy Senior mentally enriched and physically moving.

Level 1: The Basics of Game-Based Training

Picture this: Fluffy, our resident “Sassy Senior,” is napping soundly on the couch, blissfully unaware that they’re about to embark on a training adventure. It’s time to introduce them to our first game, the Food Hunt. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but with yummy surprises. You can use some of Fluffy’s daily food allowance by hiding it and watch your dog’s inner detective come to life. Fluffy might be old, but they’re no stranger to the allure of food! Looking for ideas about how to make the Food Hunt fun? Try hiding some food beside the couch: put some food in a toilet roll insert, fold over the ends and hide it somewhere that your dog can easily find: have a Hansel and Gretel like crumb trail around the house to the different hiding spots to help your Sassy Senior learn the game and find their way.

Level 2: Fetching Fun

Even your Sassy Senior dog can catch some serious, well not air, but certainly some gentle movement! Fetch isn’t just for sprightly puppies; it’s a timeless classic. The key is to keep it light and fun. Turn the game of fetch into a low-impact, enjoyable exercise, and let your old mate re-live the glory days when they could chase a ball without joint complaints. Make sure you roll the ball along the ground rather than throw it – we don’t want any injuries. Or you could use a tug as a lure to get Fluffy moving at a gentle pace and then reward with a nice game of tug before using your out cue to start the game again. Be prepared for Fluffy to either keep the ball or just walk away from it leaving you to pick it up. The aim of the game is gentle movement. Keep your training bubble small so that Fluffy doesn’t cover a lot of ground (and you don’t have to keep running to pick up the ball or tug).

Level 3: Puzzling Pooches

Do you know what’s more fun than seeing your old dog figure out a puzzle? Not much! Puzzle toys and games challenge their minds and keep them engaged. It’s like Sudoku for dogs, but with food as the ultimate prize. Who wouldn’t want to play that? You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You could make a snuffle ball (like a big pom pom) using some material you have lying around. Pretend you’re a magician and play find the food under plastic cups, or even “which hand is the food in”. Make a food dispenser from a clean plastic milk bottle with some holes cut in it. There are also commercially available puzzle toys that won’t cost you an arm or a leg. Some food puzzles even help grind your dog’s nails as they scratch at the puzzle to get to the food.

Level 4: Balancing Act

As our dogs age, balance and coordination become more critical. I’ve got a game for that, too. Place some of Fluffy’s food on a stable surface and let them work on their balancing act. It’s like doggy yoga, but with food as motivation. And, trust me, balancing on two or three legs to get that food is a sight to behold. You could lure Fluffy up on a secure step to get them to put their front feet up. Or you could place food up the length of a ramp to their spot on the couch to get Fluffy to walk up a ramp instead of jumping on and off which might hurt their joints. You could also create an obstacle course using boxes and other items you might have lying around the house. Get your dog to walk along the obstacle course, gently stepping up and down onto different surfaces to keep their body moving. I regularly use the contents of the recycling bin to create obstacle courses for my furkids.

Level 5: The Grand Finale

For our grand finale, I have the ultimate game-changer: Simon Says. Yes, you read that right. Play Simon Says, and watch your old dog follow instructions like a champ. “Simon says sit!”, “Simon says lie down!” It’s like watching a master at work. And, of course, Simon also says, “Good dog! Have a reward.” No doubt you have taught Fluffy many cues over their lifetime. Sit, stay, come here, go to your mat, lie down, spin, step up, etc. You can easily play a game of Simon Says using cues that they already know. Keep it at a slower pace so that there’s no risk of injury and run Fluffy through their paces for a few minutes, all while lavishing them with food, or any other thing that they find rewarding, like tug or praise. Be excited for Fluffy’s wins and celebrate them with claps and cheers.

Why Games-based Training Works

Now, you might wonder, “Why should I teach an old dog new tricks, especially with games?” Well, there’s a good reason for it. Game-based training keeps your aging pup mentally and physically stimulated. It strengthens your bond and provides a sense of accomplishment for both of you. Plus, it’s downright fun! Who doesn’t love seeing their old dog embrace a new challenge and wag their tail with delight?

So, there you have it. At Little Angels Dog Training, I’m here to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and it’s never been this entertaining. So, grab your dog’s food, toys, and a sense of adventure. Games-based training is the name of the game for turning your beloved Sassy Senior into a top-notch trickster.

Can you think of more games that your Sassy Senior might like to play? Let me know in the comments.

Game On! Let’s Play!


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