Teaching an Old Pet New Tricks

training experts provide tips on everything from housebreaking to hunting

photos by Marisa Wojcik

By Mickey Mueller, of Waggin Tails Doggie Daycare; Ann Braue, of Ann Braue’s Canine Training; Karen Rude, of Rude Dog University; Lisa Van Fleet, of Birdstone Labradors; Heather Mishefske, of emBark; and Brad Schindler, of Cutaway Kennel.


• Your pet won’t obey “come” if they weren’t taught what it means.

• It will also not obey if “come” always means something negative. Build desired behaviors (commands such as “come”) by using positive reinforcement such as rewards and praise. 

• There is no need to physically correct a dog. Observe how a trainer/instructor interacts and builds a relationship. 

• Behaviors may fade over time if not reinforced.

• Be consistent. Everyone in a household needs to send the same message.

Barking & Biting

• Treat a puppy like an adult. Don’t let puppies bite, thinking it’s cute or normal.  

• If your pet bites, hold their mouth shut and firmly say “no bite.” Do not give a pet a treat or toy after they bite, as they will come to expect it. 

• If a pet bites out of aggression or fear, a professional is recommended.

• Let a playful-biting dog know early on how much biting can hurt by stopping the activity and saying “no.”

• Don’t roughhouse or play tug-of-war, as it reinforces aggressive behavior.

• Do not immediately respond to a bark, as they’ll learn that it will always get your attention. 

• Be firm in training against barking; use commands and reinforcement, and examine the environments/situations when it occurs.

Staying Off Furniture

• Get a crate and use it. Pets must bond with it by sleeping in it and, yes, they will cry the first few nights. If you take pity on your pet and allow it in your bed, it will go on beds and furniture.


• Dogs are den animals that naturally want to stay clean, so a puppy’s best friend is a crate that is big enough to sleep in and that’s about it.

• You must supervise them when they’re young and they will show you when they need to go (they circle, whine, and carry tail awkwardly).

• Carry around a rolled up newspaper and, when your puppy pees of the floor, hit yourself with it because you weren’t watching it. Watch them all the time!

• If they do go inside, clean it really well because they like to go where they did before.

• Puppies need to learn to go outside, as it is not naturally inherent, so reward them with treats when they do.

• May take a year before a dog can be trusted to be alone and wander the house.

• All dogs want to please their owners, so you must show them where to go.