The Old Trainer: Easier to teach old dogs new tricks

February 7, 2014 

D ear Old Trainer: My dog Lilly is 9 and I am 11. They said on TV you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Lilly is my best friend, and she is smart, and we play in the yard. Can she still learn tricks?

Madison,

Greeley, Colo.

Dear Madison: Of course she can. Dogs get smarter as they get older, so they learn faster than they did when they were youngsters.

Here is a trick that will prove it. Take Lilly outside to play. Walk to the edge of the yard and turn around. Say “Turn around, Lilly” and walk the other way. Lilly will follow you. Pet her and tell her good girl, then walk the other direction and do it all again. In a few days, Lilly will turn around as soon as you tell her to.

Dear Old Trainer: I am 12 and I want to be a dog trainer and write stories in the paper to tell people how to do it. I have Pete, a really good dog who plays ball with me and sleeps with me. I didn’t train him, my dad did. How do I be a dog trainer who tells people how to train their dog and be good to him?

Evan,

Reno, Nev.

Dear Evan: Writing and dog training require hard work and practice.

Ask your dad how he trained Pete, then you and your dad work together to teach Pete some new things. I emailed you hints on how to teach him to sit, stay and come. Practice on that and watch Pete so you understand how he thinks. The better you understand dogs, the easier it is to train them.

To be a good writer you have to read a lot. There are lots of good books about dogs and kids. Ask your school librarian to help you find them. That way you learn about dogs and writing at the same time.

Dear Old Trainer: I have a good dog named Lucy who is a Weimaraner. She does what my mom tells her to do and never goes to the bathroom in the house. I saw a story on the internet that said Weimaraners were one of the dumbest dogs and it was vets who said it. Is that true? I am in the seventh grade.

Maria,

Thousand Oaks

Dear Maria: No way that story is true, Maria. I know Lucy is smart because the Weimaraner is one of the smartest breeds. Sometimes when you see a list of the smartest dogs, Weimaraners are ranked first.

I’ve never seen a dumb dog of any kind, and I doubt vets really believe dogs are dumb. It’s just that they see dogs when they are at their worst. No dog likes to be separated from the family they love and put in a strange room and touched and examined by people they don’t know.

So thank you, Maria, for raising an important point all dog owners should know. No dog should be examined by a vet without their human present. All good vets know this and invite you in.

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 theoldtrainer@gmail.com.

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