Old Dog, New Training?

Where did your sleek body go?  When did you grow that grey hair on your chin?  How come you don’t run around with such enthusiasm anymore?

Prophet, Summer 2013

You can hardly see the gray around Prophet’s chin.

Recently, my good guy and I have come to the conclusion that Prophet may not be the pup he once was.  At seven and one half, he’s slowed down. And this new lethargy can’t be attributed to overdoing it at the dog park. He’s always been good about not bugging us while we work, but now Prophet seems to be more content to be near us while in a prone position.  More and more he’s procrastinating about jumping up into the car for a ride.  This got to be so often that we considered buying a new car with a lower backend entry.  When that didn’t work out, we bought a new liner for the back of the car and a new ramp for Proph to walk up in a stately fashion.

The result? Prophet has more often than not decided to jump up into the back without the ramp.  He still grabs the occasional toy to have me chase him round the house.  Maybe it’s not the dog who’s getting old. Hmm.

Thank goodness spring is just around the corner.  It’s time for both Prophet and me to develop a new attitude. Yes.  Time to put a new spring in our steps.

But can you truly teach an old dog new tricks?  I hope so.  Thing is, what to teach my good boy? I’ve gone through the dog training books again, and honestly the “tricks” like sit, stay, and come, no matter how we nuance them for people, basically boil down to sit, stay, come. Been there, done that. Roll over at this point in Proph’s life, and with his added weight (still on steroids every few days), just seems cruel.  I mean I’m not even thinking about learning to stretch enough to aspire toward splits any more.  And don’t even go to the somersault thing. I’m lucky to be able to stand on one leg. Just keep asking myself, why stand on one leg when I have two perfectly fine ones to use.  If I were meant to stand on one leg, wouldn’t I have been made a flamingo?

And I’ve read how people train their dogs to help with household chores.  Maybe Proph could get involved with that. One woman has her dog give her clothes pins as she hangs the laundry.  No, not sure I want Proph to help me shuffle clean clothes from the washer to the drier. It would be nice if I could show him a recipe and have him make dinner for us all.  But if we did that, then I suspect I’d be the one having a bowl of kibble, while Prophet and my guy would share the grilled steak.

Maybe this spring I’ll train Proph to be better at the front door.  That’s been a tricky wicket for us for some time. For a while he would stay while I opened the door, but that’s consistent only when there’s no new person on the other side. Challenge with this is that the “trick” requires two to three people for the training–one to be with the dog and encourage the targeted behavior, one to open and answer the door while ignoring the dog, and one to be the visitor.  Have you suggestions about how a person can work on this by themselves?

Then again, maybe we’re not talking about Prophet here.  Dog training is more about training the pet parent than about forcing a dog to do new things.  Maybe my procrastination on this project comes not from Proph’s golden aging, but my own.

Think I’ll go have a bagel and walk Prophet at the park. Perhaps he’s too young for a new trick.  Don’t want to push him too hard while he’s still so young. After all, I know when I was seven, I wasn’t ready for a lot of young people tricks.  I was too busy walking the 15 miles to school, and outpacing the horse and buggy every time.




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