Introduction to Teaching My Old Dog New Tricks

I can’t believe that Clara, my puppy, is 10 years old.

Clara in 2011, the night she came into my house

But here we are.

When she was a baby, everything was triage. Tons of classical conditioning and graduated exposures for this puppy who at 10 weeks old knew nothing of humans except to be scared of them.

Joining a household of three other dogs created its own triage, too. She needed to learn things that let the household run smoothly. Things like “switch from this crate to this mat on a hand signal,” or “be able to be called away from harassing another dog” were priorities.

Later, when I saw the variety of things people taught their puppies, I was envious. We were way past her sensitive period by then. Silvia Trkman’s puppy videos made me drool. Why hadn’t I had time to train all those cool, fun things! I always wanted Clara, any dog of mine, really, to have a wide palette of behaviors to choose from. And I wanted to be able to train those. But left to my own devices, I tend to fall into ruts or train one thing for an inordinate amount of time.

Clara needs more stuff to do. I want to hone my training chops. So we are going to learn every trick I can get my hands on, even the ones that are out of my comfort zone. The only exceptions will be those that may be unsafe at her age or with her physique, those I can’t make fun for her, and those that require special equipment.

I won’t be putting everything on verbal or hand signal cue, but I’ll be making a concerted effort to do more of that.

She’s far from an untrained dog. She and I have learned lots of things together. So she’s not being introduced to training as an old dog, although I’ve done that, too, with my rat terrier Cricket.

Since Zani died, Clara’s life has been just a little bit more boring, a little less stimulating. I’ve worked hard to keep her life enriching. But doing some ad hoc training lately made me realize that training is probably the thing she enjoys most of our enrichment activities.

So here we go. I’m making the website for accountability and to share. And I’ll share it all. The successes and the blooper reels. Not just for laughs, but because there’s always something to learn (and the laughs are fun, too).

Copyright 2021 Eileen Anderson

4 thoughts on “Introduction to Teaching My Old Dog New Tricks

  1. Good Morning, Eileen, if I may. I’ve been reading your other blog for years, through my life with two fine dogs who have passed on. I’ve had a new rescue GSD for a couple of years now and I’m thrilled to see your new endeavor. Honey Bunch (~6yo) and I will be joining in.

    I’ve trained my two previous dogs but not to a high standard —and I don’t seem to be especially good at it. HB has some previous training but is very timid in the face of any sort of correction. She is very sensitive to voice tone.

    Anxious to play along as you go, my very best wishes to you and Clara moving forward.

    1. Hi D.D.!
      How kind of you to write. One of the wonderful things about tricks is that they are not “high stakes,” that is, we trainers can just relax and learn our dogs’ little quirks and how best to communicate. This sounds like a wonderful activity for you and Honey Bunch (what a great name!). Please keep me posted about your progress.

  2. I’m so glad you started this blog. Like many, many others, I have been following you for years. My little JRT, Gilligan, loves training but I also get in a rut. I’ll go for days training every day, then stop. It can be months before I go back to it. Then I start from the beginning and work on the same behaviors, never to advance. Gilligan is smart, learns quickly and doesn’t need to begin again. I’d love to follow along and use your creativity to keep me creative. Thanks so much!

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you for this! If you start, it will be very reinforcing to me, as well! Keep me posted, please! What a cute name for a JRT! (If you’ve been following me for years then you know I adore small terriers.)


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