Watch For Pain Or Symptoms When Training The Aging Dog
Dogs very often tell you when they are in pain, although not always. Should you find the down placement very painful for your dog, and should he find it painful to lie down apart from his obedience lesson, then it may be more beneficial to dispense with the DOWN command altogether.
These conditions vary with the individual dog, so that ultimately you have to trust in your own evaluation of the situation and then follow your inclinations.
In no instance do we want to obedience-train an older dog at the expense of his reasonably physical and mental comfort. The Down-Stay serves to keep the dog out of your hair, and your company’s lap, for longer periods of time than a Sit-Stay. With an effective Down-Stay, you need not shoo him away in a strategic retreat to the basement or bathroom. Chances are that your older dog is fit enough to pester company. If this be so, then he is certainly fit enough to learn the down.
In obedience training you must behave like a cool, calm machine. You will be able to hold out longer, with less exhaustion, and your dog will learn more easily and more rapidly, realizing that you have the situation under control.
Dogs will take advantage of their owners’ weaknesses, even at an older age, and this will only mean more difficult, resentful training, with more discomfort for both of you. Speak and act calmly, slowly, deliberately, rationally, and consistently if you want to maximize your training potential and the subsequent benefits that accrue both to you and to your older dog.
The older dog is no longer as efficient at regulating his body temperature. Fats are responsible for this. The older dog often tends to lose weight and some of the fatty components of his body. In effect, he is not that well insulated anymore.
So, when obedience training the older dog, you must take care not to work him in extremes of heat and cold. This holds true for any dog, but more so for the older dog.
Constipation and incontinence can also be problems. It is important to allow the dog to relieve himself before and after an obedience session. If a dog suffers incontinence during the course of training, just ignore it and clean up later. Don’t allow a small puddle of urine to interfere with your training session.
It is also important not to feed your dog just prior to or after an obedience-training session. Feeding before can upset his digestion, and feeding after can not only cause indigestion but can be interpreted as a bribe. This we never want to do.
Don’t work your older dog to exhaustion. Several short sessions are always preferable to one long one.