How to Train a Three-Year-Old Dog

Use treats as a reward to train your dog to do tricks.
Use treats as a reward to train your dog to do tricks. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Though some people believe you can only train younger dogs, older dogs, around 3 years old, can learn commands just as well, albeit with a little more time and effort. Maintain control of your dog by training it to respond to some basic commands. Use these training techniques to keep your dog safe in case it gets away from you outdoors and winds up in a dangerous situation. For a dog from a shelter or an unknown background, you may also need to house-train it.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog-training clicker
  • Dog treats
  • Leash
  • Empty can
  • Coins
  • Crate
  • Dog toys
  • Blanket
  • Radio

Teach your dog to associate the clicking sound from the dog-training clicker with a food reward. Use pieces of your dog's favorite foods or treats as the reward. Sit in a quiet room, click, then give the dog a treat. Continue to click and give a treat, varying the time between each click and treat so your dog clearly associates the clicking sound with the reward.

Click the dog training clicker when the dog performs the behavior you want. If you want your dog to sit, hold a treat over its head until it looks up and sits. Click, then give a treat. Say the desired command, such as "sit," followed by the dog's name; once the dog performs the action, such as sitting down, click, then supply the treat. Repeat this action five to 15 times in a row, saying the command only once, followed by the dog's name; click and give a treat only when the dog performs the desired action.

Ignore undesirable behavior, such as jumping or pawing. When you enter your home, if your dog jumps on you, simply turn around and walk away from it, without giving it any type of attention. Verbally praise your dog or "click then treat" when it sits or remains calm upon your or someone else's entrance into your home or when it meets someone new.

Exercise your dog before training. The activity will tire the dog slightly, making it more likely that it will behave obediently with you. After exercise, train the dog for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Only feed your dog after the exercise and training are finished; it will want the food rewards more when it's a bit hungry.

Walk the dog on a leash at least four times a day to ensure it eliminates outside, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When it does eliminate outside, "click then treat" for the behavior. You can then associate this behavior with a command such as "bathroom" followed by a "click then treat" whenever your dog eliminates outdoors.

Distract your dog with a loud noise, such as clapping your hands or shaking a can filled with a few coins, if it does something undesirable. This will momentarily stop the behavior long enough for you to teach the proper behavior to the dog. For inappropriate elimination, calmly take your dog outdoors to eliminate, where you can "click then treat" to reward proper elimination. For excessive barking, once the dog stops, say "quiet"; then click and offer a treat.

Crate the dog or confine it to a small room during the day if it displays signs of destructive behavior due to separation anxiety. Make the area as inviting as possible, giving the dog toys, such as a treat ball filled with dog treats, and a blanket and playing soft music on the radio. Each day, while you're home but in another room, allow the dog access to a larger space for small periods of time -- 15 to 20 minutes -- rewarding good behavior with praise and treats. Eventually, you can increase the length of time your dog is out of its crate or room and not in your presence, which should decrease its separation anxiety.

Tips & Warnings

  • Instruct all family members and friends to abide by your training regimen. If other family members don't reinforce the training, allowing the dog to do whatever it likes (such as bark or jump), the training becomes an exercise in futility. A dog learns from consistent teaching and rules.
  • Stay calm and positive during training sessions to make them fun and enjoyable for your dog.
  • Use an authoritarian tone when issuing commands to your dog to make the phrases stand out.
  • Build upon commands, using one to transition to another. Start with a command like "sit" and use it to transition into "down" (laying down) or "stay" (sitting for an extended period), which are variations on the first command.
  • Don't punish your dog for unwanted behavior such as barking, destructive chewing or inappropriate elimination. Distract it instead with a loud noise and a positive activity, such as a training session.
  • Punishment for your dog only causes it anxiety because a dog doesn't associate punishment with its actions. Instead, it will associate you with the punishment, making it more aggressive.

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