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How Often Should I Be Training My Dog?

You've found a trainer, picked a program, done your classes and homework - now what? Are you just finished? Do you just have a completely trained dog with no worries now? The answer to that question is not as simple as you think.

As much as any trainer would love to say the answer to that is “yes!” (and be cautious of any trainer that does say that), the reality is “mostly.” Why mostly? You paid for training, shouldn't that be that? What is the point of getting a dog trained if you still have to work on it? If dogs were as simple as a computer program, something to be written and run flawlessly, this would be the case. We could program your dog to perform the responses in a given format. Dogs are not computers. They feel, make choices, and have preferences. They have good days and bad days, just like humans. With that will come days better than others - and days worse. With that will come the need to go back and reinforce training in areas that maybe aren’t as utilized in everyday life, or with dogs that are fighting instinct.

Dog grabbing and pulling owner on leash

Our job as trainers is to help build a strong foundation and line of communication between you and your dog. This way, when your dog has those “worse days” you have the tools and knowledge to correct and redirect them back to the right path. Much like raising a kid, if you force your dog to behave a certain way 100% of the time against their will, you are going to have a miserable time and so will they.

So, How Often Should I Work on Obedience?

The answer to that question is going to vary from breed-to-breed, however the general rule of thumb for a trained dog is one to three times per week, a few short sessions each time in the day. Consider training as a gym exercise, while you may need to start out with more to learn a new regiment and build up the muscles. To maintain those muscles is typically much less work, and much less stress - you aren’t trying to up your gains, you are trying to keep what you have.

If your goal is only to keep everything you’ve learned up to this point well used, taking time to focus on

Four Dogs sitting on leash in public setting

the ones that you aren’t already using every day is most ideal. Likely, you are already using leash manners, basic commands, short stays, in your daily life - so continuing to use those will continue to keep those fresh in your dog's minds. However, less used commands - a tight heel, a long distance stay, a place command, may need special attention in specified sessions so that you can keep those up to par when you do eventually need them.

Common mentality is - if you don’t use it, you will lose it. If you aren’t using stays over 45 seconds, your dog is likely not going to comfortably stay in a position for longer than that. With every rule there are exceptions, if there is a command your dog already loves to do, or if they are a breed that is already primed for obedience (such as a border collies, belgian malinois, etc) practice on maintenance can likely be done less, instead focusing on using obedience for fun and mental stimulation!

What About Teaching New Commands?

With new commands, as long as you know how to prime and set up your dog for success, training is recommended to be more often. A few times a day (with rest days!) for 10-15 minutes per session is great for helping a dog learn a new concept. This can be any concept you are trying to teach; a new trick, a further step in obedience (i.e. formal heeling, with a sit when you stop), or just a new life pattern you

Small dog performing tricks with owner

want them to pick up and use on their own (i.e. ringing a bell to go outside). Those concepts, for the general dog, should be practiced more often, because they are not something to recall. It is a problem that they have to figure out how to solve and with that practice makes perfect!

With every dog, learning something new is going to be a little different with how they connect those dots. You know your dog pretty well, you know their motivations. With new tricks it is about using what they love to make exercise sessions fun! You don’t want them too long, because you want to ALWAYS end on that good note, and leave them wanting more!

If you want more advice and introductions to fun tricks to practice and teach your dog, fill out our contact form and we at Final Call Dog Training would be happy to set up a consultation on furthering your experience with your dog!

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