Have you ever had a conversation that went something like this?

Grandfather:    Hey buddy! What’s that newfangled contraption you’re playing with?

Grandson:       It’s my new phone, Grandpa! Want me to show you how to use it?

Grandfather:    I don’t know. It looks complicated.

Grandson:       It’s not! Let me show you how to send a text message.

Grandfather:    OK. You can try, but I’m not sure I’ll understand it.

Grandson:       Why not?

Grandfather:    Well, you know what they say: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

You’ve probably heard that saying before: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But what does it mean? And is it true?

This popular old saying means it can be difficult to teach an older person — or animal! — something new. The assumptions behind the saying are that it can be hard for older people to learn new things and that it can be difficult to get someone to try something new if they don’t have any experience with it or have always done something a certain way.

For example, it’s sometimes more difficult to teach an older person to use a computer — or any kind of new or advanced technology — than it is a younger person. Why? Younger people have grown up with advanced technology and are more comfortable with it. Older people have less experience with it and might not have the same basic understanding of how things work.

The saying has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, some historians trace it back to a 1523 book about how to take care of animals by an Englishman named Fitzherbert.

Does that mean that an older person can’t learn new technology? Not at all! These sayings just represent what some people believe is true of most older people. As you’ll learn, though, old dogs certainly can be taught new tricks.

Whether you’re talking about older people or older animals, it’s true that it often takes longer for them to learn new things. However, with patience and a motivated learner, older people and animals can indeed learn to do anything a youngster can do.

Motivation is often the key. If someone wants to learn something new, there’s usually nothing that will stand in their way. If they don’t want to learn, then there might not be anything that can make them learn.

If you’re trying to teach someone something new, it’s important to be patient no matter how old they are. Give them all the information they need, demonstrate “how to,” and then let them try things on their own.

Be encouraging and don’t get frustrated if they don’t understand on the first attempt. Repeat explanations, demonstrations and practice until they have the hang of it. You never know when an old dog will pick up a new trick that will lead to a new hobby or a better quality of life!

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    • We’re glad that you have been WONDERing with us today, Delaney W! Thanks for sharing your comment– it’s so fun to learn something new! :)

    • We’re so glad you liked our Wonder today, Ivy! We like your positive attitude, too! If you put your mind to it, you really can learn something new! :)

  1. Hey wonderopolis when I heard the words “Old Dogs” I thought about you guys. You want to know why it is because you guys are old but very smart to teach us these new things YYYYYEEEEEEEEHHHHHAAAAWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

    • Thanks for thinking of us, Wonder Friend W! We have Wonder Friends of all ages here at Wonderopolis, but no matter how old we are, we can always try to learn a new thing or two! We are glad you’re here! Enjoy! :)

    • We hope you can pet a furry friend in the future, Danielle! We bet a family member or neighbor would love it if you helped them with their dog! That way, you can learn what fun, and hard work it takes, having a dog can be! :)

  2. Hi I have a dog and he is border collie and dalmatian mix he is soo cute but he can be little rascal but he is very smart. He is 7 years old and his name is Teki; when we got this pet we were so busy because I have to take him to walk and my sister has to feed him and my dad has to clean his poop and my mom has to clean his toys and his fur is all over the house! Having a dog is a huge responsibility! But I am glad to have Teki!

    • Monkey Geek, we’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! Teki sounds like a WONDERfully terrific pet! Thanks for sharing your story with us, too! Taking care of a pet is a very big responsibility, but it sounds like your family is doing a great job of pitching in and caring for Teki! That sounds like a great plan! You’ve got one happy hound! :)

  3. It be cool if you could. However, older also means that to tend to be able to do less and move slower.
    (I like the video)

    • You’re right, Tyler! As you get older, it can be difficult to do the same things at the same pace. However, with some practice, patience and the right attitude, you really can teach someone something new! :) Thanks for sharing your comment! Happy New Year, Wonder Friend Tyler! :)

    • We bet you’re doing a great job, Caleb K! It might take some time, but we bet your dog will enjoy spending time with you (even if he doesn’t get the tricks right away!) :)

    • Great question, Mackenzie! We think it’s possible to train an older dog, but teaching a young pup might be a bit easier to do! However, training a dog takes lots of time, energy and patience! :)

  4. I don’t think you can teach an old dog how to do tricks. But I would love to try to teach an old dog how to do a trick.

    • Hi there, Laila! We’re glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today! HOORAY! We bet you can do it… please let us know what trick you’re going to teach! :)

    • We’re so glad to hear that you enjoyed our animal Wonder today, Fedniose! It sounds like you’re quite the animal lover– we are in the same boat! Thanks for sharing your comment and WONDERing with us today! :)

    • We hope you’ll try it out, Wonder Friend Kelsie! Dogs are smart animals, but it takes time and patience for anyone to learn something new! :)

  5. I love dogs and the joke at the top was funny I have 2 dogs and there names are Josie and the other dog is named Max and I teach my old dogs new tricks all the time.

    • You’re right, Hannah, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks! It might take a lot of time, patience and practice, but it’s possible! We Wonder what kind of dog you have? :)

  6. One of the questions was What new tricks would you like to learn? I read it but I don’t know the answer can you help?

  7. I can teach my dog tricks! His name is fluffy and he is made out of fake fur and foam. My mommy said he’s a “stuffed animal”.

    • Hey Brooklyn1881! Thanks for visiting us and sharing your comment about dogs! Some of our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis have dogs– one has a pug, another a black lab, another is a mix of breeds. We Wonder if you have a dog to care for at home? :)

  8. This is my second time posting on Wonderopolis.

    I have two dogs, and one is old. I taught him how to beg, stay, sit and lie down. But how old does a dog have to be to be considered “old”?

  9. I have an old dog myself and he is a black lab, he is 8 years in human years and he could never do something like that.

  10. That dog was amazing it’s cute and funny. I never knew you can teach old dogs tricks thanks wonderopolis.

    • Thanks for sharing your comments, Keedyn and Ethan! We are glad you liked this pet-tastic Wonder today! We Wonder if either of you have a pet… and have you taught him or her tricks? :)

    • We’re glad you enjoyed this Wonder of the Day, Kaytlin! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis! Have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Thanks for asking, Abbie! We think the answer is yes, you can teach a young dog old tricks! What are your thoughts? We’re really glad you’re WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
  • Why is it sometimes more difficult for old dogs to learn new tricks?
  • What new trick would you like to learn?

Wonder Gallery

Old DogVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to put this old myth to the test? In this case, the old dog is going to be you and a friend or family member. Even if you aren’t very old, it can still be a challenge to learn something new. The older you get, the harder it can be.

So find someone willing to learn a new trick and sit down with them to discuss something that the two of you have always wanted to learn. It could be a new sport. Maybe it’s something artistic, like how to sculpt. It could even be a new language.

Whatever it is, give it some thought and then make a pact to learn something new together. The support of another person will help you overcome any fears or obstacles you may encounter. With a friend by your side, learning will be easier and much more fun.

So whether you’re an old dog or a young pup, set your mind on a new goal and achieve it! When you’ve reached your goal, we’d love to hear about it. Post your story with pictures to Facebook for all your Wonder Friends to enjoy.

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Geographical Dog Show lesson, children learn the theories of how dogs were domesticated from wolves.

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Oh my! What big teeth tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day has!

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