Is It Too Late to Train My Older Dog?

Miniature Schnauzer puppy

There is never a time in your dogs’ life when it is too late to train them. Training can and should happen from the moment a dog arrives at your house. The beautiful thing about mother nature is that they don’t hold grudges

You can change the dynamics of the relationship and the dog will respect and honor the switch. Although, it is not ideal to wait for dogs to develop bad habits you may have just adopted a dog or didn’t know what to do a few years ago.

Take this into consideration the dog has been behaving wrong for a long time and now someone is going to challenge them into taking a different approach.

You want to make sure you are patient but persistent on having the dog listen. An elderly dog may fight and resist much harder at the beginning but with some dedication and consistent training drills you will be able to teach them what to do.

What to Expect When Training Older Dogs with Bad Habits?

You should expect for the old to have a way he is used to doing things. That isn’t a bad thing it just won’t work for him anymore. The introduction into taking a direction and leadership will not be devastating to the dog.

When you want to change bad habits, you need to exchange them with new ones. They may be used to barking and doing other activities to deal with not exercising. Now you have replaced that with our exercise program.

Keep in mind this will be a longer process than with puppies, but the same result will happen over time. There are three things you need to figure out when training an older untrained dog.

  1. Exercise Program
  2. Rules you will enforce
  3. What do you need to train?

At What Age Should You Start Training

You should start by training a puppy. If you start when they’re younger that doesn’t mean you will be more successful. Sometimes a senior dog will come to you potty trained and know how to walk on a leash.

The senior dog won’t cry all night because they are weaning either. Remember training a puppy or older dog has advantages and disadvantages. Check out Top 10 Commands to Teach Your Dog for training the basics to any dog.

You want to take those advantages and praise them while training sessions on anything that needs improvement.

Whether the dog is young or old you must put in similar work and stay consistent.

Training Dogs That are 3-5 years


Once we get a dog that is 3-5 years old the first thing, we want to do is drain them out. That can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the energy level. Keep this in mind around this age dog’s energy start to decline.

That means much less exercise than a younger dog around 6 months up to 3 years. The decline will start happening and you can tap into the dog much quickly.

You will know you are tapping into the dog when you see that the dog is displaying the correct body language. Ears back, tail down, and mouth open while out on runs and walks.

Around the time you start implementing the rules the dog will instantly listen to what you are enforcing.

Why is that?

Because you’ve been walking, running or putting them on the treadmill for two hours per day. You haven’t told them anything yet, but they have listened to you for 2 hours per day.

Enforcing Rules

There are different ways to enforce rules. You want to use all of them. Verbal correction, leash correction, off leash correction, positive reinforcement, claiming items, and making a bubble around your personal space. How to Stop Dog Behavior Problems explains how to accomplish this with little effort. 

Most of the time you will be able to tell the dog no and have them sit or lay after. Fantastic! The dog is listening very well.

When the dog doesn’t listen to the verbal you need to snap them out of it with a leash or physical correction. Doesn’t have to be hard, but it must get their attention back on you.

Positive reinforcement can be effective if it works for the situation.

You want to make sure they know some items are yours and during training sessions you want to correct eye contact or body movement towards certain items. After you correct sit or lay of course!

In addition, you want your personal space respected as well. Take the time to invite the dog when you want them and correct them verbally for entering that space unannounced. Set the rules you’re the one in charge.

Although this may seem like a lot it always is when you are training and then everything is second nature and you don’t have to train it anymore.

Training Older Dogs Energy Level

When a dog is older than 5 years there should be very little exercise requirements for the dog. Remember the older they are the less they require. Make sure if the dog is passed out all the time you scale it back. You them to be relaxed of course but you don’t want to exercise them like they’re young dogs, they’re not!

Old dogs may need around 30 minutes to an hour a day. Monitor your dog and make sure you are doing enough to knock the edge off them and promote good behavior.

No need to over work them if you’re accomplishing that already.

Teaching Older Dog to Walk on Leash

Sometimes you will get an older dog that told his previous owner no when it came time to walk on the leash. And got away with it! Now, the only way to teach the dog times have changed you need to stay there until they start walking.

The best method is to put the leash behind the ears at the top of the neck with a short lead. Encourage them to take just one step forward. Try to make sure it is a joint effort. Ultimate Guide to Walk a Dog will teach you how to train a dog on the leash regardless of age.

They walk you release some of the leash. Another step and release the pressure of the leash. Once the dog starts walking give them a treat. Use everything you can to get them walking.

If you have another dog, make sure you have somebody else walk the other dog. This can quickly get them moving forward. Use these three tips and your dog should be walking in no time.

Remember: You must always challenge them and stay there until they get it right. The dog will start respecting you and understanding you’ll stay there all day and night. You’re fighting for them not against them.

The Key to Breaking Bad Habits

The key to breaking bad habits to the find the root cause of it. Make sure the dog isn’t dealing with no outlet. Long as the exercise portion isn’t the issue then you should look at other avenues but that is the first place you look.

Next, you want to make sure you are correcting the dog with proper timing. You can only do that if you create a training session or if you gain high awareness of when an activity is going to take place.

Remember the correction is to prevent the situation from occurring not correcting the situation while it is happening or after the fact.

Lastly, introduce the new habit.

For example, the dog chewed up some shoes in the house. Exercise them 2 to 3 hours immediately. Bring them back to the house and put shoes all over the ground. When the dog looks at the shoes correct them. Take one step towards the shoes correct them. Give them something you would prefer that they chew on. Some type of dog toy.

Can an Older Dog be Potty Trained?

This can be hard to train out of a dog. If a dog is comfortable peeing or pooping the cage or the house, you must break this habit. Potty Training 101 for Puppies has a schedule you should keep in order to start the right habits.

They become very sharp at a few things.

Taking them to the bathroom 4 to 5 times per day. You must get them outside often in addition to exercise once in the morning and once at night. They must know you are going to take them out a lot so that they don’t use the bathroom in the house.

Always try to keep a close eye on them. When the dog is ready to use the bathroom, not during or after, correct them and take them outside. It is difficult to catch them in the act but become hellbent on catching them.

Once you start the exercise, 4 to 5 times per day, and watch them so close you either catch them before the act or you’re watching them so close they can’t use it in the house you will start seeing changes with the dog.

How to Train an Older Dog to Come

Use a lead! Put a leash on the dog and start calling the dog 10 times per session and then stop the session. Keep doing these sessions daily.

You will start to see progression like when you touch the leash, not grab it, the dog gets up and starts following. Next you will need to take the leash off and call them. The dog won’t come so put the leash on.

Continue to show the dog you will ask once and then make them come by leash.

Introduce food and see if they’re food driven. You can get the dog to come by using meat for treats.

In addition, on the dog walk continually tell the dog to come. The dog is already coming but it will start the habit of moving when called.

Try all these together and one or all of them will start to work.

The key here is to not quit and let the dog win. Always win and always stay in the dog’s corner helping them coexist perfectly in the house.

Can You Train an Older Dog Not to Bark?

Dogs will bark. You can stop them from barking excessively but you will need to correct all the way. When the dog starts barking don’t just yell out the window or door. That sets a bad habit of incorrectly telling the dog no.


Training an senior dog is not much different than training a younger dog. You still follow the same principles and routines, but the older dog may have some bad habits. That requires that you spend a little more time and exercise a little more repetition.

Being the dog owner that is stubborn will ultimately get you over the top. Stay with the program and continue to hit the main areas.

You want to create your exercise program and stick to it as much as possible. When the dog’s behavior starts to improve you can start to scale back while still getting them enough to keep the behavior intact.

Make those rules around the house and backyard and stick to your guns. Take the time to really get in tune with what you want and perform the game plan.

You will get adjust as your dog’s behavior improves and you will get better at becoming a dog trainer. The key is to get the basics right and branch off into the type of atmosphere that is fitting for your situation.