The Old Trainer: Adult dogs still can be trained

March 1, 2013 

Dear Old Trainer: At the end of the month I will be moving in with my son and grandson. I have two cats, and we will be taking in my grandson's (he is almost 6) dog. Marley is 3½ and is a boxer. She hasn't had much training. I have never had a dog so I want to learn how to enjoy her. Also, you talk in your columns about how walking a dog is one of the most enjoyable activities for seniors. Please send me your tips for training Marley so she is happy, and I can walk her with my grandson.

-- Dorothy, Merced

A: Just relax and follow your instincts, Dorothy. It is more complex to introduce an adult dog into a new home than it is a puppy, but Marley will learn fast.

First, consider Marley's state of mind. She had a place to live, a routine she had settled into and a pack she was living with. Now she is in a new place with a new person. She wants to fit into her new pack, and she wants to love everyone in it, but she is nervous and not sure what it all means.

You do the same thing you would do with a human in that situation -- make her feel confident and at home in her new surroundings. Walk her around the yard and let her explore on her own. When she comes back to you, reassure her that everything is fine.

Pet her and explain that the two of you are going to be together, and you will be there for her.

Take her inside and show her where she eats, drinks and sleeps. Put a blanket down where you want her to sleep. Take her out in the backyard every hour. On the second trip, leave her out on her own. After 5 minutes, call her. Pet her when she comes to you. She may be unsure of herself for a day or two, but love on her and let her know everything is fine, and she will be happy and confident by the second day.

Before you walk Marley on the street, practice in the backyard until you can control her. Since she has had little training she may exhibit either or both of the two common problems of leash control -- pulling too hard or ignoring you because she is so excited to be outside.

I emailed you information on dealing with both problems. Practice walking her in the back yard. Put her leash on her -- an expandable leash, never a short leash -- and practice several times a day until she listens to your orders and obeys them at once.

If you are tense during training sessions she will be too, but if you relax and have fun so will Marley. Training a dog and walking with one are two of the most enjoyable activities on the planet so you have a lot of pleasure to look forward to.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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