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