English Idioms Daily Blog

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You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks


You can’ t teach an old dog new tricks is a proverb that means it is difficult to change and older person’s behaviour. Here are two sample sentences using this common English idiom:

Isabelle has never been on time. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
He is the way he is. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

One can see where this idiom must originally come from - from the idea that it is easier to train a puppy than it is to train an older dog, but is this idea really true? Is it really that difficult to
teach an old dog new tricks?
According to a recent American Kennel Club article called
Mythbusters: The truth about dogs that appeared in the Miami Herald on 26 September 2011, this idea is false. The article refers to the proverb that you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks as the most common untrue dog saying and argues that it probably stemmed from someone who had difficulty training his dog. You actually can teach an adult dog new tricks states the article such as how to shake hands, speak, and roll over by keeping training sessions short, fun, and using plenty of positive reinforcement including praise and treats.
That’s good news - not only for the dog owners among us but also for older people among us, myself included!
What are your thoughts? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

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