How much time should you spend training a specific behavior? Does it matter if you’re problem solving or working on foundation skills?
Most good training is a few minutes of targeted work, at the outside. Sometimes your best sessions will take place with less than a minute of actual dog training.
A ten minute stretch should cover most skill building sessions, and then some. Three minutes to think about what you want to do and to set it up, three minutes to work with your dog, two minutes to stop and reconsider and two more to apply your changes.
Ten minutes right there. No more. Time to stop. If you want to continue training then work on something new. Better yet, work for a total of fifteen minutes and cover a few skills by rotating through them.
Yeah, I know. You’re not done. You’re excited now. Things are happening and damn it, you’re gonna keep going. Which is fine for you, but your dog is the one doing the learning, and ten minutes is about it for a single skill.
I recently taught a series of 10 minute heeling sessions at FDSA dog sports camp. Three minutes to discuss the issue and offer a plan, three minutes to try it out, two minutes to reconsider, and two more minutes to either adapt or test. Perfect.
I also did a series of 15 minute private lessons on any topic the participant wanted. That was perfect too, because the additional five minutes allowed time to give the handler a plan for moving forwards. In that 15 minutes, most of the teams were able to work on two or three different skills.
If you think that’s too short, then you’re not structuring your sessions very well. Go ahead and videotape your session. How are you using your time? Did you really just do the same shaping behavior thirty times? Yes. Yes you did. Stop it; you’re stressing your dog.
Reign yourself in. Ten cookies in your pocket – use those up. Now move to something else. Or just stop and quit. That’s good too.
A training session is not a marathon. Make good use of your time and you’ll be amazed at what you can do with almost no time at all.