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How Long Should a Training Session Last?

This seems to be the most asked question I have ever heard in my dog training career. Every professional has a pat answer. Clients are always asking this question.

I love it when the professionals make a blanket statement like, "15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night, without fail". Or, "a dog needs a minimum of 1/2 hour per day, without fail", and so on and so forth. The clients are always asking this question because they are trying to set up parameters for themselves and their dog. They either need to schedule the time to be able to do it, or they don't want to make a mistake and under-train, or undeniably so, they are curious. For the clients they should be given leeway with this question because they are the novices and have no idea what is involved and what it takes to reach the end, a finished dog. The "professional" I don't cut the same slack. They are supposed to be all-knowing because they are the ones that are guiding the clients through this. For the professionals who tell you a certain time should be put in, take some good advice, get away from them as fast as possible. In fact, before they even see your dog ask the following question, "Do you set certain time limits or time parameters per training session?".

It is impossible to put a time allocation on a training session. The one who determines how much time and how a training session proceeds as far as what is accomplished is the dog. If you cannot read the dog then you are not going to be a successful trainer, and more importantly you will psychologically hurt the dog. How so?

Here are a couple examples of what I am referring to. Take dog A, he is about to start his first lesson in obedience. We have determined that Dog A has a slight socialization problem and without taking that into consideration we can hurt the dog in training. Dog A is not that sure about this new person in his life, the trainer. Now if the trainer has a rule 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, without fail - and the dog is pressured the dog will be hurt. So instead the heck with the time just become friends with the dog. If the dog shows a positive reaction to you, the trainer, and only three minutes has elapsed, the training session is over. Dog A will come back when the next training session is scheduled with a positive happier attitude and you will be able to win him over. If you have pressured the dog for a definite timing and missed what I just discussed the dog will come back afraid, nervous, unhappy, or all of the above. Clients must be made to understand this concept, it is a moral imperative. They must be made to understand that each dog is an individual, and with that individuality comes negotiations in the training procedures. If clients are not made to understand this they will be hurting their dog.

Dog B has had a couple of lessons under the belt, and knows a release word, and he is now up to the down stationary position. Yet, when testing the dog for his perception of the down position, the dog has stated that he feels insecure in that position. Fine, break off the training session immediately and let the dog run in a very big enclosed field (which by the way the training should have been done there just in case something like this happened). Be patient and wait for the dog to tire himself out. Now when the dog lays down by himself, use the command word, gently stroke his body downward in different areas, praise the heck out of him, and since he knows the release word give him that word. The dog will spring up and then test the down again. Since the dog is tired and he got so much praise for laying down himself he will be more apt to do the deed than when he first started. Notice I did not put a timing on this. Notice who is doing the orchestrating of the training session. For those of you who missed what I am talking about I did not put a time limit on this exercise and the dog is doing the orchestrating of the work being done.

All training no matter how intense should always be done this way. Get your ego out of the way and place the dog first. If you don't have an ego problem and are just inexperienced place yourself in the dog's position and when you feel positive about what you have done (being the dog) break off the session. Remember dogs have feelings to and we would not want to treat them badly either due to lack of experience or lack of knowledge.

Written by Neal Seaman

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Aldo's Acres, Inc.
2810 Wise Road, Conway, South Carolina 29526
Phone: 843-365-5021

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