Does age matter when training a dog with behavioral problems?
Age does affect how the training process will look but it doesn’t mean that if you have an older dog they are not capable of changing their ways. This is a common question that we get almost every day and so I wanted to address it a little bit further in this short blog.
When we have dogs come in who are just young puppies under the age of 6 months who have extensive issues like resource guarding this typically points to a genetic propensity to these types of behaviors passed down from past generations. These cases can still be addressed if you have the right trainer who knows what they’re doing but it definitely is a long-term process because you want to think of it like anything that’s genetically derived has an appetite. An appetite can be satiated but ultimately the appetite always comes back and needs to be fulfilled. So for that reason, these dogs need a lot of training for essentially their entire lives if you want them to be like normal dogs.
With dogs that come in between 1 to 3 years of age usually they come in with what we call learned behavioral issues. Essentially these dogs have learned to have behavioral problems because they are bored or frustrated or they’ve seen other dogs act in a certain way and these are much easier to deal with typically because they are not genetically derived and don’t require a lot of long-term follow-up in most cases.
Dogs between the ages of 6 years and above are often disregarded as dogs that cannot be trained especially if they have issues with reactivity or aggression. This is absolutely not the case and we’ve trained over $500 dogs in this age range with those issues including behavioral issues as well with great success. Surely these dogs will need ongoing support but with the right trainer using the right tools and methodologies, they can have great success.
Something I’ve noticed over the years is that I typically find younger dogs need a lot more support than dogs that come in at older ages with behavioral problems or reactivity or aggression issues. I believe that the reason for this is younger dogs are typically more inquisitive. In fact, they have not pissed on every bush, they have not said hi to every person, they have not run in every field, and it’s for that reason that they need more ongoing support as opposed to dogs who are a little bit older and more set in their ways.
The thing that’s very counterintuitive is that when you have an older dog who’s probably been misbehaving for many years it seems very natural to think that it will take that dog a lot longer to change its behavior but from what I’ve noticed that does not tend to be the case. Of course, I can’t try to make it look like those dogs will not need any training but as long as they get the right training consistently they are capable of changing and typically don’t require as much ongoing support as a younger dog who’s maybe in the first few years of their life.
In closing, all dogs can be trained at any age if you’ve got the right trainer who knows what they’re doing and is equipped with an open mind and enough patience to see you and your dog through the process.