One of the two main reasons many humans don’t train their own dogs well or stop training after the dog is only partially trained is that training can be BORING.
The other reason is that us humans like immediate results. Training a dog is the exact opposite of immediate. So right away there are two challenges.
Why would you want to work at something over and over when you hate doing it, or find it tedious? You wouldn’t.
There is actually a really good reason to train your dog to learn certain behaviours, so it is difficult to say that you just won’t do it at all. Instead, use a few simple techniques to make things easier for you and your dog.
There are some dogs who will naturally enjoy longer training sessions. For this article, we are talking about certain dog breeds who have a built in high distraction level, one that they default to at the most annoying times. For instance, when you are just about finished the session, or the dog is doing well and you want to end the session on a high note by doing just one more rep.
So, my training tip for purpose-bred or “stubborn” dog breeds is Keep Training Sessions Short. Not only is it crucial to keep the training sessions short, for both your and your dog’s enjoyment and sanity, but it helps prevent your dog from making mistakes during training. This creates an “errorless learning” situation, which in other terms means “setting your dog up for success”.
A short training session is about 10 repetitions. This is an easy number to remember and count to so is a good place to start.
Some dogs need fewer repetitions.
Depending on what you are training though, a session may be less than that. I have done sessions where I can only get in three or four reps. This might be weave poles, some tricks that are difficult to get started with or a particularly boring behaviour such as starting to “heel”.
Almost even more important than short training sessions is keeping your food rewards handy and ready to go.
Well in advance of starting a session, get your food rewards ready in a convenient bag or other container that you can access easily.
For the training session, know what behaviour you are going to train, grab 10 pieces of food (and your clicker if you use one) and do the ten reps. You don’t need to do more than this at one time. If you keep the sessions short, you can do several through out the day and even alternate working on different behaviours. This should keep things interesting but will also get improvements in the behaviour you are working on.
Short sessions help dogs retain information better, especially if you give enough time in-between sessions. It also helps most dogs focus better on the task, and helps you to not worry about how long it will take or that you don’t have time.
Try it and you’ll be surprised at how fast your dog learns.