Trick training for senior dogs

we've teamed up with animal behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson

A recent survey found that over 40% of pet owners believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but canine behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson demonstrates that not only is it possible, but its beneficial for your senior dog’s body and mind. Why not practice these three simple tricks to your golden oldies.

Take your time with these, spend 5 minutes a day doing some fun trick training - but stop if your dog looks at all uncomfortable. 

Caroline Wilkinson trick training for senior dogs


While your dog may naturally get into a ‘bow’ position (head down, back end in air) to invite play or create space from other dogs, it’s got an added benefit of offering a nice stretch down your dog’s back and neck. Imagine it as there own ‘downward dog’ yoga pose… after all that’s where the name comes from! 

  1. While your dog is standing, hold a treat near their nose and slowly move the treat under their chin and down between their front paws to the floor. By allowing your dog to slowly follow the treat with their nose, you’ll be luring them into position as they shift their weight back into the ‘bow’. When they get into the ‘bow’, say “yes” and give them that treat. 
  2. Repeat ten times. 
  3. Now add in a cue ‘bow’, ‘charmed’, or ‘downward’. Say your word, then lure your dog into position once again with the treat, rewarding them each time they get it right. 
  4. While you’re using a treat to start with, over a few sessions you can swap this out to a finger point or you can even bow to your dog as a visual cue for this new behaviour! 


Leg Stretch 

Most dogs have a ‘high 5’ trick in their repertoire… but we’re going to move this on to become a lovely way for your dog to stretch their own limbs. 

  1. Put your hand out towards your dog as you usually would when wanting them to give you their paw - but don’t say your usual cue for this behaviour. 
  2. As your dog moves their paw up towards your hand, mark them with a “yes” or clicker, but quickly move your hand away so they don’t make contact. Reward them for tapping the air! 
  3. Repeat ten times. 
  4. Now, add a new cue - say “stretch” then move your hand down towards your dog, remembering to remove it quickly before they make contact. 
  5. Over repetitions, you can remove your hand gesture and just simply say “stretch” and your dog will raise their front limb.  

Caroline Wilkinson trick training for senior dogs

Go Sniff! 

A great way to boost your dog’s mood is to encourage them to sniff. Sniffing creates happy hormones in our dog’s bodies.  

  1. Toss a treat a little distance away from your dog, onto the floor, and say “go sniff”. 
  2. Repeat ten times. 
  3. Now as your dog goes to find the first treat you throw, throw a second behind you when their back is turned. As they look back up at you, point towards the floor and say “go sniff” again - encouraging your dog to go and find the hidden treat.  
  4. Build up the difficulty by hiding treats around your home or garden and send your dog to find them with your new “go sniff” cue.  

Find out more about our Do's and Don't for caring for senior dogs or check out our senior dog food range.