It's Never Too Late to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Whether you have recently adopted an older pet, or have given up trying to correct your pet's bad habits, it is not too late to teach him good manners. From housebreaking to digging and chewing, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) offers tips on how to train your problem pooch or contrary kitty.
"Consistency and positive reinforcement are the key to training a pet of any age," says Link Welborn, DVM, AAHA president. "In fact, older pets may be easier to train than puppies and kittens because they have a longer attention span."
Housebreaking should be a breeze for older pets who have less urgency problems and better control. Keep a close eye on your dog or confine him to a specific area while indoors, then take him out to the same place every time to do his business. Use consistent encouragement and give him plenty of praise afterward. Housebreaking your newly adopted cat will be easier if you use the same brand of litter that she previously used.
Food treats and positive reinforcement will help your pet learn basic commands such as "sit," "stay" and "come." Plan your commands ahead of time and make sure that everyone in your household uses the same commands so your pet doesn't get confused. Say the command once and then physically put your pet in the position you want him in if he doesn't obey.
Toys aren't just for puppies and kittens. Older pets also need stimulating toys and plenty of exercise to prevent them from digging and chewing out of boredom. Chewing in kittens is common, but they usually outgrow it. Consult your veterinarian if your older cat is still chewing; she may need medication in addition to training. Keeping a close watch over your pet so he doesn't have an opportunity to misbehave and using consistent praise to reinforce good behavior should eliminate most behavior problems.
Never physically punish a pet; this may lead to aggressive behavior. Instead, use praise and attention as a reward when the desired behavior is exhibited and ignore inappropriate behavior.
If your pet continues to display unwanted behaviors, visit your veterinarian to rule out medical factors that could contribute to the behavior. Your veterinarian can also refer you to a behavior specialist.
The key to training older pets is consistent, positive reinforcement of the desired behavior. The American Animal Hospital Association is an international organization of more than 29,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals.