Can older dogs be trained? here are my problems.

Posted by ClaudiaI
Feb 10, 2011
I am having major problems with my 5 year old male Malese Terrier.

Its mainly my fault for not doing anything about correcting him as a puppy. but this is my situation and the things i'm having problems with.

My dog doesn't really like wearing a collar which he tries to hang himself with after it's on, so i put a harness on him. He is so slim though that even the xs size doesn't fit him properly and he can get out of it. So i have never taken him for a walk because i'm scared he's going to run off. Therefore he is house bound all the time, and i live in a top floor masionette, so i don't have a garden.

I put puppy pads in a corner in the kitchen where he does go for a wee, but even though he does this, he still does it all over the house. i have 2 children under 3, and if anything is left of the floor it gets weed on. It's driving me nuts, i have to bleach my floors every day. ( oh i remember taking my dog out for a walk once or twice when he was a puppy, i would be out for a while but he would always wait until he got back home before he went to the toilet.)

The other problem i have is that he always barks at my friends when they are round male or female doesn't matter, although males tend to be worse. I have to litterally hold him in my arms the whole time because he won't stop barking, which is extremely frustrating, especially when my 2 kids are having the nap.

If i put him down he just barks at them, he will let them stroke him, if he's close enough, but it still doesn't stop him. and if i'm not holding him when my friends leave, he bites their ankles or trousers quite aggressively when their leaving.

I would love to take him to a training specialist etc. but i'm a single mum who doesn't work and i just can't afford it. But i need to sort this out. Any help would be great.

Thank you
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 10, 2011
Hi ClaudiaI,

It sounds like you are handful with 2 toddlers/infants and an untrained dog.

I think you have the following problems with your dog:

1) Toilet training
2) Walking
3) Socialization

Each needs to be addressed separately. However, having 2 little kids, I don't think you are able to take him for walk, can you? You are not supposed to leave your children alone even when they are asleep so lets forget about 2) for now.

1) Toilet training - you will have to re-train him. I hope he is not marking (is he neutered? If not, please neuter him). Make sure you will praise him and give him a treat when he goes on the pad and reprimand when he goes elsewhere.

2) Socialization - small dogs tend to bark at strangers because of fear and protectiveness. Owners of small dogs sometimes don't bother socializing their dogs with other dogs or people because they can just pick them up like you do when they don't behave well. You cannot do this with big dogs.

One of my dogs is a "barker" and she barks everytime someone at the door. I don't want to totally profibit her from barking since she is doing her work to protect us. Therefore, when I get some visitors, I put her (and other two dogs) in our utility room. The dogs are still barking in the utility room but it's OK. Once the visitors are invited inside and settle down. I will bring the dogs out of the utility room one by one. At this point, if he/she still barks, he/she needs to go back to the utility room. Only calm dog can join our company. They all know the consequense (to be time-out) they behave around visitors.

This time-out method works well. Your 5 yr old dog will learn this only if you are really determined, patient and consistent (no exception). However, he will never learn it if you keep picking him up in your arm, because you are inadvertently teaching him that it's OK to bark by giving him a positive attention (being held by you.

Good luck
Posted by ClaudiaI
Feb 11, 2011
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

Thank you very much for all your ideas.

1) Walking - I could probably push the children in the double buggy while I walk the dog at the same time. So walking won’t be impossible.

2) Toilet Training – I haven’t neutered him yet but i am planning to very soon, I will praise him on the pad, but you said I should reprimand him when he does it elsewhere. What is the best way to tell your dog off? Because you’re not really suppose to shout or hit them. I don’t usually catch him in the act either, it’s usually after.

3) Socialising – Thank you for this tip, i will have to try this one out, but the time-out method sounds good. Fingers Crossed.

Thank you again for all your help, much appreciated.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 12, 2011
Hi ClaudiaI,

OK. So, walking is not impossible... However, I don't think he will walk on a leash properly if he hasn't walked that way, let alone with a stroller

Even a dog with good walking habit, it would be hard to walk him with a stroller or a cart. First you will have to train him how to walk when leashed. Since your dog is so tiny, you can practice this at home when you kids are taking a nap.

If a XS harness is too big for him, look for a cat harness. Have him wear it a few times a day so that he gets used to it. This is a good way to start.

As for marking, I would put him in a confined area if I cannot trust him. Or, tie him to yourself (see my picture on the link) [url][/url]
so that he is always within your reach. When he lifts his leg to pee, catch it at the very minute and tell him "No". Usually, if you catch in time and tell him it's not allowed to release inside the house for a few times, dogs will learn. But neutering should be done soon since he is already 5 yr old.

Hope this will help. Good luck Please be consistent, otherwise your dog will be confused
Posted by KOPCaroline
Feb 12, 2011
Hey Claudia,

I think MHN's ideas for training him to walk are great! Many small dog owners end up using cat harnesses on their dogs. It is important to put it on him and just let him walk around the house with it on so he gets used to the feel. Try to praise him when he acts calm about the situation, and give him a short "no" or "enough" when he tries to get out of it, or try to distract him with a loud noise or something.

Once he's used to the harness you can try walking him with the stroller, since you dont have much opportunity to take him alone. If you start with the stroller then he should adjust to it quickly enough, after all, he's not used to much of anything for walks at the moment. Just give his lead a tug and say no when and if he starts acting up, or have him sit until calmed down and then start walking again.

For the toilet training, it might be less hectic to pick a room to confine him to (preferably a small one, like the laundry) while he re-learns to use the pads and only the pads. If he does have accidents, tell him no, and immediately put him in his pad room. If you find the mess after the fact, you can try bringing him to the puddle, point and say no, then put him in the laundry. This method works for some dogs (my own included, when he was a pup), but others it won't sink in, so if you are going to let him loose in the house, you need to work on keeping an eye on him so you can catch accidents immediately.

For socialization, the time out room tends to work really well. As MHN said, he only gets to come out with company if he's calm. If he starts barking, he automatically goes back to time out until he settles. Just keep on it!

Hope things start to be more manageable soon, good luck!!
Posted by ClaudiaI
Feb 15, 2011
Thank you for all your really great ideas

i will be putting them into motion asap!xx
Posted by kjd
Feb 23, 2011
Hi ClaudiaI!

You've gotten excellent suggestions and I'm not here to add any. I just want to answer the question of your title: Yes, older dogs can be trained!

Shelter dogs of senior years, nine, ten or older, learn new names and the rules in new homes. Families move into new homes or remodel older ones and change the rules the dogs learn them. It may be easier to learn when you are young, but there is no age for canine or human -- past which you cannot learn something new.