Ask the Trainer: They're never too old to learn new tricks

By Nadine Steele

This week's reader's question:

I was also wondering if you could give me any advice.

My partner's dog was hit by a car when he was younger and then started getting aggressive towards people if he didn't want them to touch him when he was comfy or anything like that and the vet told them that that's just how it's going to be so they haven't done anything about it.

When he's comfy on the couch and you need to move him for the seat or anything like that then he will growl and go to bite if you continue to try and move him, I want to get that trait out of him but he's 7 so my partner believes that he's just stuck in his ways.

So my question is what is the best way to go about getting this trait out of him?


The good news is that an old dog is never too old to learn new rules as well as new tricks.

To really get this behaviour under control the house rules need to change.

That means no more up on the couch unless your dog has been invited to join you (the same rules apply to the household bed also). Instead provide your dog a space of their own in the form of a mat or dog bed and teach your dog to go to this place instead.

You will need to lure your dog off the couch with treats or toys so there is a positive reward for them for giving up the space they have claimed.

Avoid any physical touch that will be seen as threatening by your dog and cause it to react with aggression i.e. growling or biting. I would attach a leash to its collar and use this as a gentle guide line to remove your dog from the couch which gives you control without overwhelming pressure which your dog will resist.

While you are luring your dog off with both the leash and treat add a sweeping motion hand signal and the "off" command which will mean in time this hand signal will be all that is needed for your dog to understand and comply with your request.

Then follow through with instructing your dog to go to its mat. The mat will become the "safe" place for your dog where they know they will not be disturbed and can fully relax, this will soon be seen as the "go to "spot for your dog and you will both be able to enjoy your own space without conflict.

The mat needs to be positively reinforced by treating your dog when it is on the mat so it sees it as the best spot in the house.

Paw point of the week

Rewards and treats can be food, toy or affection depending on the greatest motivator for your individual dog.

Contact me for the chance to have your question selected for publication at for further information on Dog Guru visit


- Rotorua Daily Post

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