Can you retrain an adult (rescue) dog?

(19 Posts)
Onwardsandsideways Sun 23-Feb-14 09:43:15

O wise experts, in your opinions is it possible to retrain/improve training in a 4yr old dog? Reading all the recent posts about 100% recall got me wondering; poochie (no that's not her real name) will resist all but squirrels when she's off lead and we have a ball in our hand, however if the ball is put away/gets lost, she's not quite so co-operative! Also she's a bugger for jumping up a visitors (everyone's come to play, even the poor Sainsburys delivery man) - even if they ignore, greet humans first, get her to sit, etc, just when you think she's calm & ready to stay hello, launches herself like a sodding jack in the box! Any thoughts gratefully received (but no flaming please, I'm just asking out of interest, not asking for a kicking smile).

We ve had two rescues since 2005. The first one was really just teaching her some manners about jumping up etc, and her recall soon came. However her replacement - we gave up! Super as a house dog, outdoors a nightmare! Spent loads on lessons, training aids etc. No effect. Drafted in a behaviourist, who spent time in the house and outdoors with her on a one to one. She was his only failure ever! We learnt to manage the behaviour the best we could, but even now she cant go offlead as she ll chase squirrels rabbits horses etc. Lovely mutt, but fluff for brains, so I guess it depends whether your dog is like our former or latter example!

Kids2Hounds3 Sun 23-Feb-14 10:13:43

I'm no expert and this is a bit of a ramble!

Don't give up or give in! I have re homed two ex racing greyhounds of 3yrs old and my partner had 3 older dogs when we met.

Greyhounds are not the brightest of breeds, bless em, but I have managed to train them in the basics. Dogs love a confident assertive 'pack leader'. They are also creatures of habit and need routine, that includes using the same commands and being consistent. Dogs are greedy and will respond to small (tiny) food treats. Don't over feed your dog and remember that walks are REALLY important in training. Use the lead (not a flexi) to keep your dog in check ie walking by your side and not in front, stopping to sit or stand quietly till you as pack leader decide to walk on. All training in short bursts. Like kids they know any attention is better than no attention so reward good ignore bad. Unless bad is the nasty type. Try training classes, try to talk to those with same breed. And don't forget you may think the world of your dog but you are the world to him x

Kids2Hounds3 Sun 23-Feb-14 10:17:24

And greyhounds run like the wind off the lead so I used to do recall training within a small fenced in area of park. Food is a great motivator. Didn't go into the wide open areas till I was confident, but saying that, what (muzzled I hasten to add) greyhound can resist chasing a small furry...

cashewfrenzy Sun 23-Feb-14 10:22:49

Of course you can, it's just that some dogs are easier to train than others smile

Kids makes some good points, but I have to disagree with the suggestion that dogs need a pack leader. They aren't pack animals and don't recognise pack leaders amongst themselves so there no point trying to replicate that yourself! They do respond well to force free training and are happiest when they are treated with consistency and patience. Dogs do what works smile

cashewfrenzy Sun 23-Feb-14 10:25:29

You might find Pamela Dennison's excellent book "Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training" to be useful.

eurochick Sun 23-Feb-14 10:26:54

I'd say yes (we had a 5 yr old rescue lab). But it can take a while to change ingrained habits.

daimbardiva Sun 23-Feb-14 10:30:31

It can be very difficult. We struggle d immensely with a rehomed lab for years, even w behaviourist input. But never say never!!

CalamityKate Sun 23-Feb-14 10:33:47

Great that he's ball obsessed!

You just need to tweak things a bit so that rather than his behaviour being contingent on the ball being visible/present, he learns that the appearance of the ball (or any other reward) depends on his responding correctly to your cues first.

Basically you need to switch from bribe to reward.

Oh and what Cashew said; please ignore "pack leader" nonsense.

CalamityKate Sun 23-Feb-14 10:40:36

Meant to say - it's very possible to retrain older dogs to do whatever you want.

When we got our dog a few years ago we ended up bringing her mum home too, who was 7. She was more than capable of learning new stuff and adored clicker training. Older dogs in fact often have a much longer attention span than pups.

As for the jumping for attention, I suggest introductions are managed onlead to start with, again making attention dependent on "4 on the floor". Otherwise, practising the sudden leap will just lead to him getting better at it smile

minkersmum Sun 23-Feb-14 10:52:15

We took on a 4 year old rescue lab/poodle cross. He is huge and bouncey. Rescue had said on his page he wouldn't be rehomed with young children because he was boisterous. We just came across him on a visit to the centre. They agreed to let him meet my dc who had grown up with a Great Dane (not bouncey but defo clumsy!) and collie/terrier. Introductions were successful and here we are 3 years later.

His best points are - super with dc, very patient tolerant and happy to be cuddled, infact he DEMANDS a fuss! Despite being 27" at the shoulder he thinks he is a lap dog.
- Very friendly with other dogs and all people
-clean and non destructive in house.

He has come on leaps and bounds (literally wink)
and has just passed his second stage of obedience training. He does have quirks that are still an issue but we work around them.

He will occassionally just switch off and do something like - take off with his nose to the ground and vanish into the woods for up to 20 mins. Thus he is really only off lead at home where we can be confident there are no cars etc Or for example in my in laws back garden, walled garden so felt confident he could be loose. All fine and calm when suddenly he hops up into a flower bed and over the wall into neighbours garden. He has also hoped over a 5ft wall from a quiet lane into someones garden. This was all in the first year, he has much improved but I don't trust him yet. He is heaps better but its still a journey.

Don't give up. Maybe buy a few balls. Always have a spare on you. I wear a bumbag with all his treats/ball poo bags! Phone the fashion police!!

Good luck!

Onwardsandsideways Sun 23-Feb-14 12:15:15

Thanks all, interesting thoughts. Dorothy - that's so funny! Ours is opposite though - too smart! (she's a collie/springer cross...) She knows when we're heading home on a walk and 'loses' her ball in the opposite direction and won't go back for it, has that sixth sense of knowing if I'm even thinking of taking her out and goes straight to the front door, recognises my dog walking jeans and goes bananas when I put them on, has learnt lots of new words since coming to us (especially 'sausage' and 'cheese') and is currently learning to play 'where's the ball?' indoors - great for practising stay whilst I hide her ball!

Just to add, agree with cashew, there's no need to be a pack leader, dogs will do what works for them, so displaying a sit, for example, will elicit a treat, then they will sit!

Also, have you tried clicker training? Kikopup on YouTube is fantastic and I think most of her dogs are rescue (might be wrong but think so) Have a google. Clicker is such an easy concept once grasped.

Good Luck.

Great to see a thread about this. We have rescue greyhounds and we tend to specialise in seniors but we make sure they all go to appropriate training classes. I've previously taken a 12 year old grey through to KC Good Citizen Gold Award (a very proud day indeed) and two of our girls have got their APDT Foundation Awards at the moment (aged 9 and 10). I'd completely endorse the point about clickers - it's really easy and makes learning fun.

The only thing I'd say about older dogs is that I've found you really need to break down your training into much smaller chunks - they can't sustain the prolonged concentration for long periods, and they find classes tiring (but fun!). Also, our trainer is sighthound friendly so our dogs are not forced to sit (which is an uncomfortable posture for them) and they take a very comfortable bed with them to class so they are not lying on a cold, hard floor. This makes Downs and Stay so much easier.

Onwardsandsideways Sun 23-Feb-14 21:44:30

Scuttle did consider training classes, but as she knows (& mostly obeys!) all the commands I wasn't sure how useful/relevant they'd be. Should I look for an intermidiates class do you think? Same with clicker training Needa, wasn't sure whether that could be used for improving existing skills or just learning new ones, but I shall have a look! Thankyou

Onwards, a lot of the behaviours you mentioned in your OP are covered in class, so personally I'd be in the queue for them. grin

Although there are some awesome resources on line for clicker training, when I started doing clicker, I really wanted the added benefit of a teacher because I wanted to master the physical skill of juggling lead, clicker, treats and dog (and I have no natural co-ordination). Having a teacher who could tell me nicely when I got it right or when my timing was out was immensely useful to start with.

I am also one of those people who thinks you can never stop learning, and really enjoy going to class, soaking up knowledge and constantly trying to improve. If you're one of those lucky people who can do underwater knitting while salsa drumming then you probably won't need it!

Varya Sat 15-Mar-14 17:18:23

Took us a long time but now they know sit, wait and lie down plus coming when called.

Lilcamper Sat 15-Mar-14 18:20:21

With you there Scuttle, I knew all the theory behind clicker training but paid for someone to come show me before I was confident enough to use one. Was invaluable to see it in action. I now use a marker word as I find my dog responds to it equally as well if not better.

And the old saying 'can't teach an old dog new tricks' is quite frankly....bollocks grin

Lilcamper Sat 15-Mar-14 18:20:50

grin even!

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