Grey muzzled dog

Old Dog, New Trick

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

But 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 from wanting to play chase back home. And Harry hasn't forgotten his training.

A New Trick

The other day I proved 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 dog club.

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Yes, I know it’s very basic, and some dogs are born seemingly knowing how to shake paws. But until the other day, Harry didn’t do it on command.

Shake may be an old trick, but it’s a new one for my old Harry! And it proved fun and rewarding to teach an old dog an old trick!

© 2010 Robert Fairhead 

2015 Update: Harry passed away in 2011. I adopted a two-and-a-half year old rescue lab in 2014 ( see A Forever Home). And I recently taught Jet to shake, too! 


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.