Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time not so long ago when Eko wasn’t a ninety-five pound, fearless knucklehead.  When I brought Eko home for the first time he was scared of just about everything, but luckily he had a big sister to help him along.  My mom’s dog, Scout, is about as gentle as they come and for months she kept an eye out for Eko whenever they were together.

dog friendly road trip

Best buds

Eko was still a gangly pup when we left on our road trip, but he returned to NJ a seasoned adventurer.  Scout helped teach Eko the ropes when he was just a squirt, so now we’re hoping to return the favor.  Check out our attempt to teach an old dog a new trick!

As you can see, Scout still hasn’t got the hang of the dog door quite yet.  We’ve been practicing for a few days and I hope to have her bounding through the door Eko-style before we head back to Chicago.

Some of the best advice I have ever received about dogs has come from you guys, so if any readers out there have suggestions about how to train Scout please let me know!

18 thoughts on “Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

  1. We just went through this with an adopted shelter dog. We led her through the door with a leash. Ex.: I would pitch the hand end of the leash through, and from the other side, pick it up and give a steady pressure pull. Not actually pulling, but a soft tension. This dog was born in the wild, but picked it up and was doing it without a leash in one day. We are working on the fear of unknown sounds issue now.

  2. I think you are trying the right thing by giving her food but you are going to fast. You could use some hot dogs in small amount and a clicker. Let her stay in or out and if she move towards the door click and treat. Everytime she does this continue to click and treat. She will get the idea. Just dont pull the food though the door that is making it harder for her and your putting more pressure on her. Go slow and it will work out. Good Luck

    • Thanks for the tips Lisa, I think it was definitely a good idea to take my foot off the gas so that Scout can learn at a more incremental pace.

    • Thanks for checking out the video, hopefully we’ll have a new video up soon of Scout racing through the door on her own!

  3. Will… I pinned the door open for awhile so my little Champ could get used to it and one day he just started using the flap. Of course mine is a double so he wasn’t understanding the double flaps.

    Love the name plates in the doors!!!

  4. Well, if it was my Jack Russell terrier, Id just have to put a sign there that says No Dogs Allowed and hed be through it in an instant! I am pretty sure he can read, among other things.

  5. maybe prop the door open so Scout is just going thru opening without having to push door? Idk, my dogs open my back door by their selves without a doggie door. Comes in handy, except they dont close it behind them.

    • Haha, Connie, why use a dog door when you can you the real thing? Despite all our work, dogs always have their own plans!

  6. Can you take the door off? The wood door might be intimidating … you could try taking the door off for a bit and then using a rubber flap/piece of cardboard etc. and work your way up to the wood door. That and just make sure everyone in the house is not acting as a doorman all the time, Scout will figure it out eventually! If all else fails Wyatt can come and get stuck it in and she can duck out between his legs if Sheila wants )

    • Hmm, MA, I think you’re onto something here. And if nothing else it will be hilarious to get some footage of Wyatt busting his way through.

  7. Special Treats and a treat-er on each side of the door. Other than that you are doing all the right things. And yes an older dog can learn new tricks. I have rehabilitated quite a few abused dogs and they came through it just fine.

    • Good thinking, we will definitely try that. Scout went from refusing to go through to daintily going through, so I’m sure with a bit more practice she’ll have the confidence to chase Eko right through.

  8. Looks like you are doing all the right things to teach Scout, the only thing from my observation was that the bottom of the dog door might be a bit too high for Scout, and wood door panel may be too stiff and hard for an old dog to tackle. How old is Scout?

    • Tur, I think you and MA may have hit it on the head. After reviewing the tapes it looks like Scout’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t like the pressure of the heavy wooden door. Scout’s only 5, but its her timid nature not her age which makes her unsure of the door. It’s probably a good idea to start with a lighter flap and work up.

  9. Your already doing the most important thing by letting her watch Eko. I’ve fostered for years and this is by far the most practical way. My other trick requires Eko to not help.
    When Scout is outdoors and wants to come in, peanut butter on the other side of the door usually does the trick in a very few tries.
    Magic, who just past 14 months, learned from the rest of the pack. Now if he would just quit dragging me down the trail when he spots a critter..

    • Haha, Carol, I’m with you on all fronts! Just when I think I’ve got Eko walking really nicely he sees a few deer and then nearly rips my shoulder out when he bolts to chase them. I haven’t tried to peanut butter trick yet, but no dog I know can resist that temptation so we’ll try it for sure. Thanks for the suggestions!

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