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Question of the Week: How Much Should I Train?

Most people expect the answer to be "all day" or for 45 minutes like our training sessions are, but that is not the case. After years of experience and meeting lots of dogs and dog owners, I came to an answer that I think dog owners can do; and an answer that is the minimum amount of consistent training the dogs need to show progress.


Answer: You should train 10 minutes in a dedicated training session and do 2-3 training opportunities per day.


You must do both. You must teach and then practice. If you do not teach, then you can not practice or expect good behavior during daily life. If you do not practice during daily life, then there is no point in teaching your dog.


Daily 10

I only ask my dog owners to dedicate 10 minutes a day on training. During that 10 minutes you are working on:

- teaching new commands

- advancing current commands

- removing luring

- randomizing treats


Think of your Daily 10 like school for your dog. You have your treats ready and you are working on all your commands in any and every location. Some more detail below about each aspect of your Daily 10.


Teaching new commands:

If you are training your puppy, your new commands might be general obedience commands like Leave It or Drop It or Come. If you are training your adult dog, you can do new commands like weaving through legs, going through a hula hoop, or a play bow. This part should be fun! Keep your training fun by introducing new tricks to your dog!


Teach new tricks!

Advancing commands:

Remember, it should never be too easy or too hard to earn a treat. So keep making it harder! Examples of advancing commands are:

  1. making Stay longer

  2. introducing new distractions with Stay

  3. practicing Come from farther away

  4. coexisting with an item for Leave It

Removing luring

This is how you advance all your luring commands. Luring commands are Sit, Down, Place, Off, Leash Walking, etc.


You want to remove luring for a few reasons:

  1. You want to get rid of the treat in your hand!

  2. It is too easy for a dog to continue to follow the treat.

  3. It is mentally stimulating to keep making the command harder

  4. It is more lifelike to remove the luring (think of yourself on the couch telling your dog to go to his place, you don't want to get up and lure him there, right!)

  5. You want to advance commands in easy environments so you can save luring for harder environments like outside

Unless you want to walk around with a treat bag like me, remove the luring to get the treat out of your hand!

Randomizing treats

You can randomize treats when a behavior is reliable in a certain environment. You must have these two things in order to randomize treats:

  1. Your dog knows the behavior associated to the command

  2. Your dog thinks he is getting a treat for it

A behavior is reliable if your dog does it 95% of the time (even better, if you only have to say the command once!). Note: a command might be reliable in one environment and not in another. Your dog might be quite reliable during training sessions because they are focused.


Start by giving a treat to your dog every other time they do the command. It looks like this:


Sit ... yes ... good sit (with a treat)

Sit ... yes ... good sit (without a treat)

Sit ... yes ... good sit (with a treat)

Sit ... yes ... good sit (without a treat)

Sit ... yes ... good sit (with a treat)


The third sit and the fifth sit are the ones to look out. Those are the times after you didn't give a treat, so you are thinking to yourself "does my dog do the command even if I didn't pay him last time?". If your dog does the behavior on three and five then you were right to randomize the treat because they are still motivated to work for you because they think they are getting a treat.


Your Daily 10 is your time to teach and your training opportunities are your time to practice.


Training opportunities are during your every day life. Think about the unwanted behaviors your dog does and then practice in the moment. Use treats and meet your dog where he is at. Some examples might be barking out the window, jumping on your partner when they come home from work, eating the kids' socks in their room, etc. Below is a detailed example of how to train during a training opportunity.


Example

Unwanted behavior: mouthing (biting people)


Daily 10:

- Practice your dog's Name

- Practice Gentle

- Practice luring

- Practice Place

- Practice Stay


Training opportunity:

You have your treats and you are ready to train when the moment occurs, because you have an idea it happens every day at 7pm when you sit on the couch. (Ha! That happens, doesn't it?!)


- Your dog starts mouthing your partner. You say "Gentle" and if your dog removes his teeth, you say "yes" and give the treat to your dog saying "good Gentle".

- Your dog goes back to your partner and say his Name. He turns around and you say "Yes!" all excited because you stopped your dog from going back and biting your partner!

- You tell your dog to go to his Place. You might have to lure, you might be able to point. See how good your dog is in real life. When he sits on the bed, you say "Yes" and give a treat to your dog saying "good Place".

- Your dog goes back to your partner and say his Name. He turns around and you say "Yes!" all excited because you stopped your dog from going back and biting your partner!

- You tell your dog to go to his Place and Stay. See how long your dog can stay. Maybe it's three seconds, maybe its fifteen seconds. Again, see how good your dog is in real life. If he fails, try again. If he fails again, meaning he leaves the bed, then make it easier (make him Stay shorter).

- After you found success, see if your dog goes back to your partner. If yes, then do it again. If not immediately, then help your dog redirect its energy with something else to do.


Whew! That was a long post! With so much information! I always want to tell people the "why" so I am detailed because I want you to have the information. You can always come back to use this post as a reminder.

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