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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

 In General, PPH Blog

Everyone knows the adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but how true is this? Can older dogs learn new tricks? The answer is a resounding, yes! But it might take an older dog a little longer than a young puppy to learn a new skill.


The Clever Dog Experiment, performed by the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, found that older dogs can learn new things. In their experiment, researchers asked dogs to choose between two pictures on a touch screen. By pressing the correct images, a dog would get a treat, but when they pushed the wrong image, they didn’t. The researchers found that older dogs did learn how to tap the correct photo repeatedly. However, it took twice as many tries to reach the same level of expertise as a younger dog. You can read more about the Clever Dog Experiment here.

PPH newborn puppies sleeping
PPH newborn puppies sleeping

Paws for Purple Hearts Puppies

Here at Paws for Purple Hearts, we start training our service-dogs-in-training when they are puppies. Although older dogs can learn new tricks, puppies are like sponges. They are a blank book waiting to be filled.

Our training starts when puppies are only a few days old. Between zero and eight weeks old, volunteers called Puppy Petters, use a precise petting protocol to instill confidence and positive associations with handling in newborn pups. At four weeks old, puppies begin working with trainers, and their blank pages start to fill. By six months old, a PPH dog has been introduced to all of PPH’s over 100 commands.

It costs $35,000 to raise service-dog-in-training over two-plus years. When a PPH Service Dog is paired with their lifelong Warrior battle buddy, they know more than 100 commands. They can perform a variety of tasks that mitigate the symptoms of trauma-related conditions and assist with mobility challenges.

This training can’t be completed without the valuable support from our donors. We are so grateful for our supporters who are committed to our mission of improving the lives of America’s Warriors facing mobility challenges and trauma related conditions such as PTSD and TBI by providing the highest quality assistance dogs and canine-assisted therapeutic programs.


Thanks to our donors, we have deployed 117 dogs to date to help as service dogs, facility dogs, specialist therapy dogs, home helper dogs, or dogs participating in our innovative therapy sessions. Please make a donation to help us continue helping our Warriors in need!

Delta gives Veteran Ben kisses
Delta gives Veteran Ben kisses
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