Grey muzzled dog

Old Dog, New Trick

  -12   My Lab Harry is almost eleven and half-years-old. He’s never been a very energetic dog – as I’ve commented to my training classes, his heeling in dog obedience rings was like dragging around a reluctant sack of potatoes!

Recently it’s become obvious that age is wearying Harry even more. Our walks are shorter and if we’re out for too long then I almost have to carry him home.

However, this hasn’t stopped him wanting to play chase back home. Nor has it meant that he’s forgotten his training. And the other day I proved that you can teach an old dog a new trick!

I was brushing Harry after our walk and he was pawing me to hurry up (he gets fed after his brush) when I thought I’d take advantage of the pawing and teach him to Shake. Every time he pawed me, I said “Shake”, grabbed his paw, gave it a shake and rewarded him with “Good dog” praise and pats.

Within only a few minutes Harry was shaking on command and we had another trick to show off at the Club. Okay, okay, I know it’s a very basic trick and that some dogs are born knowing how to do it. But until the other day, Harry didn’t do it on command.

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It may be an old trick, but it’s a new one for my old dog! And it proved fun and rewarding, teaching an old dog an old trick!

© 2007 Robert Fairhead 

Robert Fairhead

A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert Fairhead is an editor and writer at Tall And True, and blogs on his eponymous website,

His favourite pastimes include reading and writing, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son. He is also a part-time dog trainer and runs classes at his local dog training club and through Robert's Responsible Dog Training.

Robert has worked as an electrician, a computer programmer, and a sales and marketing consultant, and he is the principal copywriter at Rocher Communications.

His book reviews and writing on dogs have appeared in newspapers and online. And in 2020, he published a collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story.

Robert has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

This article appeared in my dog club newsletter, PawPrints, in April 2010, titled, “Old Dog, New Trick“. 2015 Update: I’ve just recently taught my adopted four-year-old Lab to shake hands!