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This old dog teaches new tricks

At seventeen years of age, when Max began to slow down, Nancy thought that this was part of the normal process of growing older. She's been delighted that since she got a new puppy, Max has become re-energised, reacting positively to the introduction of new young energy into the house.

Nancy brought the pup into the house in a pet carrier, and after letting Max have a sniff, she opened the door cautiously, allowing the puppy out to meet Max nose to nose. Max was delighted: he danced in front of the pup, hopping from one front foot to the other in excitement.

Within a few minutes, the two animals were running around the house, chasing one another and playing games. Since then, they've spent most of their time together.

From the start, Max has acted as the pup's mentor. On that first day, Nancy saw him show Bear how to go down stairs. Bear was at the top of the staircase, looking down and whimpering in fear. Max heard him, and came bounding upstairs.

He touched Bear's nose with his nose, as if to get his attention, and he then turned around, and went down the stairs slowly, glancing back at the pup. Bear followed him cautiously, but after that first descent, he's run up and down the stairs with no problem.

Max also taught Bear important facts of daily life like the location of the water bowls in the home. Max led the pup up to each of the two water bowls in turn. He went up to each bowl, took a drink, then stepped back, glancing at the pup as if to say: "Your turn."

Max has also taught Bear how to behave outdoors, starting with the basic principle of sniffing: Max went into the back garden, put his nose to the ground, and sniffed a track across the lawn. He then looked back at the pup, and repeated the same thing. This time, the pup followed him, with his small nose to the ground.

Now when the two dogs go out every morning, the first thing they do together is to zigzag the lawn, sniffing together. Max has also taught Bear the pleasure of puddles.

The pup was frightened of water at first, but after seeing Max plunge belly first into puddles, he's started to do the same.

Max has demonstrated some useful skills, like how to walk on the leash calmly. Initially the pup strained and pulled, but after seeing Max walk quietly beside him, he started to do the same.


Another lesson has been in general behaviour around the home. At first, Bear kept rushing around all the time, annoying everyone. Max has shown Bear that if everyone is quietly sitting watching television, dogs are expected to be quiet too. It's a calmer house now.

The lessons have not just been one-way: Bear has taught Max something too.

Max used to rush around when the leash came out for walks, all over-excited. In contrast, Bear has always waited quietly while his leash is attached. When Max noticed Bear getting praise and attention for behaving like this, he started to sit quietly too. Max has proven that not only can old dogs teach new tricks: they can also learn them.

Owner: Nancy Keogh from Bray

Pet: Max, her 17-year-old terrier, and Bear, her Pug puppy

Problem: Max has been teaching Bear some of the important rules of life