We celebrated a big birthday last week.
Zack, my husky/ lab mix turned 13.
I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Zack is a feisty old fella, and he’s starting to drive me a little bit crazy.
Zack has always been a pretty good dog.
He has never been pushy or needy. He was always happy just to be with his family.
He has never been one to jump up on people, chew our stuff, bolt outdoors, or cause any trouble.
He is good with kids, cats, and other dogs.
Zack learned at a young age that he wasn’t allowed on the furniture, so he never tried.
Even when we changed the rules a few years later and started allowing our dogs up on the couch with us, Zack would not climb up.
Zack was off leash trained at a young age, even ignoring people walking past with dogs on a leash or random children running through our yard.
All around, Zack has been an easy dog.
But in these last couple of months, I’ve noticed some changes in my easy-going, old guy.
It's as if he has decided that he doesn't have to follow the rules anymore because he's old.
Lately, Zack has been barking a lot.
He barks at random noises.
Noises that never would have bothered him before.
Often, he barks and runs to the door as if he heard someone knock, but no one is there.
Zack also barks to get my attention to go out - a lot.
He needs to go more often than he used to and he is not as patient about holding it.
Apparently, increased urgency isn't just common in older people. Who knew?
When Zack is out in the yard, I have to call him several times and often I have to walk toward him before he responds.
It’s as if he is completely ignoring me - or he doesn't hear me until the treat bag opens.
He’s never done that before.
And my personal favorite, the other day I walked into the living room to find Zack curled up comfortably in the armchair.
He looked up at me as if he was almost interested in whether or not I cared if he were on the furniture. I smiled at him, and he went back to relaxing where he was.
So, here’s the thing, I can train Zack, so his new behaviors are better - less bothersome.
The old saying, "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," is not true at all.
But one of the first rules in dog training is to rule out medical issues first.
And with Zack, being that his behaviors are new and consistent with old age, it makes more sense to use training with accommodations.
As dogs get older, their hearing changes so sounds are perceived differently.
Zack can still hear, but things don’t sound the same as they used to.
It is essential to be patient with him when reminding him not to bark at strange noises and to come when called.
An important key to dog training is that it should never be cookie cutter.
There are a lot of techniques that work with most dogs, but a trainer should look at each dog as an individual and find a plan that works for him.
I’m going to let you in on another secret.
I act like Zack is driving me crazy, but I love that old guy.
In fact, I have a huge soft spot for old dogs in general. Zack’s geriatric ways bring me a lot of joy.
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