Contrary to the popular saying, teaching an old new tricks is entirely possible. The trick is this - don't ask him to do anything his body can't handle. Michael Hayward explains here that it's all about mental stimulation and older dogs need that as much as young pups when training them to do anything new.
Ever looked across the park at Betty and her dog Reg, where he's all bushy tailed, performing a double front flip with a sideways glance?
Betty takes it in her stride and walks off in the knowledge that everyone has seen the performance. And have you ever felt that a) what a show off Betty is, and b) that your dog could do that if it wanted to?
Well, you needn't fret, because it's never too late to teach that old dog of yours some new tricks. All you'll need is a pack of treats and some patience. Lots of it. So, here come six of the best.
1. Train your older dog to turn around
Start off by getting your dog to face you, standing up. Have a treat ready in your hand, and let them see it.
Then stand very still and say, "Turn around". Once you have said “turn around” try to lead the dog's nose clockwise with the treat as an enticer until they walk a full circle. Once they have completed the manoeuvre, and the dog is back facing you, say “Good boy/girl” and give them the treat.
The trick with this is to be consistent.
Don't lead them round to the right one time and go left the next. Stick to one. After a while let them see their treat, but this time say “Turn around” without leading them. One day they'll get it and be turning as fast as a bullet from a gun.
2. Teach your older dog to crawl
Start off by getting your dog to lie down on his stomach. Hold the treat in front of his nose and say, "Crawl." If they go to stand up, just say "No, down...crawl." Keep the treat low to the ground, pull it away slowly and say, "Craaawl."
If your dog crawls even an inch or two without getting up, praise them and say, "Good dog! Craaawl." Keep repeating the word with the action and soon they'll look like a secret agent, creeping across the living room floor.
3. Train your dog to play dead
Get your dog to lie down on his tummy again. Softly roll them on to their side and say, “Play dead”. As they are on their side, keep their head on the floor, say, “Play dead,” again. Don't give your dog a treat just yet.
Try to make them stay lying down for a couple of seconds. Then say, "Wake up!", and let them stand, giving them their reward. Only give the treat for a completed trick, otherwise, your dog may just go to sleep.
4. Teach your dog to go (walk) backwards
This is an easy one (hopefully), and one of my favourites. Face your dog, standing up. Advance towards them whilst saying, "Go Back", and (hopefully) they will want to get out of your way and instinctively walk backwards.
It is likely your dog won't walk back in a straight line, so try practising against a wall. A narrow hall will do just as well. Once they've mastered that, try advancing toward him only one or two steps. Soon you will be able to stand stationary, saying, "Go Back".
5. Train your older dog to take a bow
This one doesn't require much work on your part, but it does take time. If you see your dog take a big stretch, (you know the ones that look so satisfying that you wish you were a dog), and their head goes down low, quickly say, "Take a bow."
When they get up to give them a treat.
Then every time your dog wakes up and stretches, say, "Take a bow." One day you will be able to say, "Take a bow." and your dog will take a big stretch. It should look like he's bowing to his audience, so leave this trick till last if you really want to impress people.
6. Teaching your older dog to yawn
This is in much the same vein as the last trick. Every time your dog yawns, say whatever command you want to give, such as, "Give us a yawn.", or get creative and say "Are you feeling sleepy?".
If your dog is a big yawner then they should get it quite quickly, if not then perhaps you'll be doing it for years. Be patient, and make sure to really praise your dog when they yawn – make them believe that they are doing something absolutely incredible, and one day they just might be.
So there you have it, a few nifty tricks to show off to Betty and Reg. Don't forget to reward your dog for their patience as well, because sometimes they won't know what on earth you are trying to make them do. Good luck!