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Not Busy Enough!

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Most people got the point of my post titled “too busy”; there is a difference between “too busy” and “don’t feel like doing it”.  One is an excuse and the other is an honest appraisal of your situation at that time.

Then I read some really interesting comments in various places.  Apparently, some of you train your dog for one or more hours a day.

Seriously?  What would you do for an hour a day?

I’m assuming what you mean is that it takes an hour to drive to the park, set up, work the dog, and go home.  Right?

Or…maybe that means a class that runs for an hour, but the actual amount of time you have your dog out and working is maybe fifteen minutes.  Right?

Or maybe it means that it takes an hour (or several hours) because your sport involves a club situation where you are helping others with their work, but your dog is not working.  Right?

Because if you’re seriously training your dog for an hour a day, then that’s…… 3600 seconds.

In 3600 seconds, I could do 50 left turns, 36 right turns, 24 about turns, 17 changes of pace, 100 doodles, 15 retrieves over high jump, 9 retrieves on the flat, 9 finishes, 3 sets of scent articles, 8 directed jumps, 5 sets of gloves, and 12 straight recalls

Or maybe some other combination, but I think you get the point.

If you are training in a way that is engaging for your dog, then the exercises flow together at a rapid pace.  You are fully engaged and aware of what your dog needs.  Mistakes are quickly followed with opportunities to do the work correctly.  At this pace, you can take a trained dog through every exercise from Novice through Utility in 15 minutes.  Twice.   If anyone doubts that, then I’ll make a seven minute tape and show you.

My private lessons are 30 minutes long, and believe me, that is more than enough.  My students have had enough of me after that amount of time, and there is a good chance that much of that time was spent with the dog on a stay as we discussed how to proceed.

If you drag training out for an hour, your dog will learn to pace himself, and that’s not a pretty picture.  The goal is to make training time intense, engaging and fun.  If you’re chatting with your friends while your dog sits around doing nothing then you’re teaching your dog that training is dull; an opportunity to find something more interesting to do.

Is that really the association you want to make?

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

12 responses »

  1. Great post! A lot of my time is getting someplace to train, then spending short bursts of time training. Its hard sometimes, though, when you travel to someplace and have to rent space by the hour, not to feel like you should be doing SOMETHING during that whole hour! Even when you know that truly, it won’t be as effective. You’ve probably already seen this post by Bob Bailey: http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2002b/attention.htm

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  2. I think this is so good ! I think obedience classes that last an hour & a half and has 10 dogs in it and we’re waiting all that time for our turn is boring and most dogs fall asleep . This is what most classes are like in the South ! It’s ashame .

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    • it’s not just the South. 🙂 One of my “soap box” topics is why is it most top trainers says to only train for 10 minutes or so, but every group class I have ever attended is one to one and a half hours? I have followed Susan Garrett’s (and I’m sure many other trainers) suggestion of training for very short bursts of time and breaking it off while they still want to do more.

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  3. Steve Shaffer

    Depends. I agree with your points in term of competition skills training. However, training is not only what happens in the ring. As John Lyons (horse trainer) says: You are either training or un-training all the time you are interacting with the horse. Do you expect your dogs to behave while you’re fixing their meals? while you are eating yours? walk on a loose leash? meet (or ignore) dogs in social context or at shows? To us these and the dog’s general manners, social skills are all training. When you take life skills into account, we are training our dogs at least a couple of hours per day.

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    • true, but if I counted all of that then I’d have to account for every moment of the day! I’m specifically referring to skill training for a sport.

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      • Steve Shaffer

        I was wondering if the people you read were training an hour or more were including non sport training time, or maybe they train multiple venues?

  4. Cool, now I don’t feel so bad when I don’t train that much… I do short bursts, 15 minutes or so, at home, a couple times a week. probably not nearly as much as I should do, or as others do… but I definitely don’t over do it. LOL

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  5. My previous dog (a Samoyed) would literally work for an hour or more at a time. We’d play while we trained, and she was always up for more work. My current dogs are done after about 20 minutes. I don’t know if I’m a better (or worse) trainer now, or if Gita just couldn’t get enough working.

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  6. Many competitive obedience classes drill too long in the heeling. Dogs definitely learn to pace themselves in that situation. Only the most driven of dogs go through that experience and maintain any appearance of enthusiasm in the heeling. Plus I found it impossible to not start daydreaming and mentally checking-out myself! Afterall, heeling can only stay interesting for so long.

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  7. Well said:0)

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  8. AMEN!!!

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  9. I find it interesting that you make the conclusion 15minutes here and there is better than an hour or vice verse. Depending on the dog depends on the amount of time I’m going to spend training. I personally train our GSD’s for close to an hour and we never get bored, there’s always something you can teach. Plus training is supposed to be fun and a bonding experience for the person and their dog. I’m currently training a mini australian shepherd that works for 15minutes then you play for 5-10 minutes between sessions and that’s when he does the best. I have a pug puppy in the same class and he just wants to learn the entire time we are in class, so he does close to an hour of work and then plays with the australian shepherd after class. I agree with taking 10-15 minutes out of the day several times a day for people to do training but if they want better results they need to put more time into it. Love doing competition sports and always interested in other points of view on training. Very interesting blog, I’ll continue to check it out!

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