The number one question I get asked is – how often should I train my dog? And it is a really, really good question.
Layer on top all of the other questions which feed into this, things like – how often should I be teaching my dog a new skill? How long does my puppy need training for? How do I know when I have done enough training with my dog?
When you Google any of these questions, you are met with a host of answers. People advocating 3-minute training sessions, people talking about hour sessions every week, some people talk about training a puppy within a certain life stage or even some people who advocate not training a dog until they are X many months old… There is a vast amount of information out there and it CAN feel overwhelming when you are starting to train your puppy or dog.
Let me simplify this for you with two things..
The first is short and sweet. When you train with a good dog trainer, they will let you know how often they recommend you work on a particular skill to see progress. Personally, I like to help all of my clients think about ways to fit training into their day to day routine. I want you to succeed with your dog, so we’ll work out a rhythm that is bespoke to you, feels good and lets you see progression.
My second point is – think about this – a skill is not a static thing, is does not stay the same. It is either improving or declining. So, if you are not practicing something to try to improve it, the likelihood is, that skill is getting worse.
If that seems abstract… Let me put it into context for you.
When I was younger, I played piano. I’d always admired my talented cousin who seemed to effortlessly tinkle the ivories, so I begged my parents to buy me a tiny upright piano which we squished into our end of terrace townhouse just behind the dining room table. I would practice every morning and go to lessons every Wednesday after school. Over time, despite me being pretty tone deaf, I was eventually pretty good at playing the piano and passed various grades and exams. I even performed at a few concerts! Fast forward to teenage years – dogs and horses became my life and any other hobby was pushed aside, including the piano. Now I’m in my thirties and I haven’t practiced the skills needed to play for years. Now, when I look over sheet music or pass by my Mum’s dusty keyboard, I can barely find C Major. My skill has declined into all but nothing.
Simply put, I could once play piano and had all the skills to perform. I then stopped practicing and that skillset didn’t remain static. It declined.
Skills and behaviors are not something that we learn once and programme into ourselves – they are constantly improving or declining. It’s exactly the same with your dog!
If you would like your dog to have a rock-solid recall for the rest of it’s life, guess how long you need to practice that skill for? Yup. The rest of it’s life.
If you want to be able to pop your dog on a lead and walk through town without them pulling, yup you guessed it, they need the odd refresher on loose lead walking!
So, when thinking about how often you need to train your dog – think about what skills you want them to have, how good you want them to be at those skills and how often they might need to practice those skills to keep them fresh in their mind.
So – how often should you train your dog? The not-so-simple answer is – training never stops!