It's true that the best time to teach a dog to do tricks is when he's a puppy. That's because he's predisposed to exploring his world through play. But even an older dog can learn new tricks—and it's easier if you know the secret of the 4 Ps: Patience, Praise, Petting, & Plenty of Treats!
The first thing to take into account is your dog's size and ability. Does he even have the capacity to do the trick you're hoping to see? For instance, a St. Bernard should not be trained to walk around on his hind legs. It’s best to stick to tricks that are more appropriate to your dog's size and physical condition.
If you're consistent and follow the 4 Ps while training, your dog is more likely to learn the new trick—and he'll look forward to pleasing you.
Also remember to give your senior dog plenty of love when training him. Use tasty goodies and mega-doses of praise to encourage him to perform. And patience is more than just a virtue, it's a necessity when training a dog.
Three easy tricks to try
Shake hands: Some people will instruct their dog to "give me your paw" or just "paw." However you word the command, use those specific words (and only those words). Show him, gently, how to do the trick. Lift his paw and give the command. Then reward him with a treat. Repeat the whole process over and over. Soon he'll associate the action with the instruction, and want to learn other tricks.
Turn around: Begin with a treat in your hand, facing your dog. Give the command "turn." Then slowly move the treat in a circle. Your dog will likely follow your hand. When he's completed a revolution, give him the treat and plenty of praise and love.
Play dead: The secret to this trick is to teach your dog to lie down and remain still until you command him to get up. Lure him into the prone position with the promise of the treat. Make sure he sees it. When he's still and in the position you desire, give him the treats. When you say "okay", it’s a signal he’s released and the trick is over.
Once you have these tricks down, improvise. Make up some new ones and have fun together. Learning new tricks is a great way to give your dog much needed mental exercise. And it's a great way to strengthen your bond with your old friend.