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How much time for training?

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How much time should you spend training a specific behavior?  Does it matter if you’re problem solving or working on foundation skills?

Not really.

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.

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.

5 responses »

  1. ServiceDogNY

    Reblogged this on Clicker Training Animals .

    Reply
  2. Great advice – I find that the greatest temptation for handlers to ‘overdo’ training is when they don’t have their own setup of equipment (especially agility) and arrive at a situation where they do. They repeat their problem until they frustrate and slow their dogs. Unless you are a ‘paid instructor’ it can be hard to stop.

    Reply
  3. Cathy Withall

    Thank you for that – I worry that I’m not committing enough time to training with my dog, and our agility training sessions at home often only last 10-15 minutes, and I often think either ‘I should be training for longer’ or ‘I don’t have time to train today because I’ve only got half an hour’ so we will now happily continue 🙂

    Reply
  4. Having just purchased my 1st Malinois pup for IPO, i am going to learn from previous mistake of clumping, or training ‘just one more go’.
    I do tend to get carried away and go for 1 more time, when things are going right. So have now on a plate: 10 pieces of food, for each behaviour im training a link in. and as you say, cycling through those.till the Food’s gone, im done. As ‘my marker’ that its time to stop.

    I am too far away to come visit your school or i would be there. Ive been following you for some time. And anyone willing to train IPO without force, using motivation, is a pleasure to watch these dogs compete, in comparison to force trained dogs. as I can tell what methods have been used, in the end result. and happy to learn from others mistakes re using force thanks.

    I have some weak areas in my dog. She is rather spacial pressure sensitive. She’s 12 inches high, im 6 foot, so i cant blame her. An eg where i see its too much for her, is me luring with food along a wall, she’ll back out of the space as she is uncomfy with me crowding her space.
    Yet this doesnt stop her squeezing into tight spaces, dark spaces, etc on her own, when looking for mischief.

    Do you have any suggestions, on how i can chunk down some spacial exercises, to encourage her and teach its safe, and rewarding to work along side me. Whilst minimizing the pressure for her?

    It is only week 3 of our partnership. and she’s doing grand at settling in. There is a LOT of dog here, and she has been very confident around dogs/people/noise etc. Plenty of prey drive!

    I hear Malinois are a bit sensitive, and dont want to break me new toy!

    Reply

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