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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

How Long Does it Take to Train a Dog

How long will it take to train my dog? This is a question I get from clients all the time and it is never easy to answer.

Dogs like humans are individuals and learn at their own pace, however it truly depends on how committed you are with training your dog and their individual ability to learn. There are several things to consider when determining how long it will take to train your dog, such as are you working on basic obedience or dealing with behavior modification? Has the dog every had training before? Are they an adult dog or a puppy? Have they been trained with punitive methods or force free methods? All of these things can impact your dogs ability to learn or how quickly they learn.

As a trainer I can teach your dog sit, place, leave it, recalls etc in a couple of weeks but if you are not consistent in reinforcing those behaviors they will remain unreliable and underdeveloped.

While I cannot give you an exact time frame on how long it will take you to train your dog I can give you some tips on what can speed up or slow down your progress.

1. Teaching a new skill is faster than changing a bad habit

Have you ever tried to break a bad habit such as smoking? If you have then you know how hard it is to change a behavior or habit that has been repeated over and over. The same thing goes for our dogs, it is much easier to teach your dog a new trick than to change a bad behavior such as jumping, barking etc. This is because we are dealing with a behavior that has been repeated and reinforced hundreds if not thousands of times. In order to extinguish an unwanted behavior the reinforcer (our attention) has to be completely removed. So not only are we trying to change our dogs behavior we are also trying to change the way we interact with our dogs.

2. Consistency is Key!

You know the saying practice makes perfect, well this applies when training our dogs as well. It is not enough to train your dog once a month or once a week, behaviors that you like have to be reinforced consistently over time. This means daily training, you should be working with your dog at minimum once a day in order to see the results you are looking for in training. Think of this as an investment, you will only see the returns by putting in the effort. Investing in training your dog ensures the safety of your dog, family and the community...What a big responsibility!

3. Everyone should be involved

In order for you to change bad habits for example attention barking, everyone who is involved in your dogs life should be a part of training them. Meaning if you are trying to eliminate your dog barking for attention then everyone has to be on board with ignoring the behavior completely, walking away from the dog etc. In exchange you must reinforce your dog for the behavior you do want instead which would be quiet. Your dog can bark and bark until the cows come home but it will not work to get attention from anyone! Eventually barking for attention will extinguish because it no longer works for them, however if one person gives your dog attention for barking the cycle will never end.

4. Training is life long

Humans never stop learning we go through 12 years of school, then college, and most continue to educate themselves throughout their lifetime, the same applies to dogs. So even after you have taught your dog a fully proofed sit/stay, training is never complete. Throughout your dogs life it is your job to communicate properly with your dog so that you reinforce good behaviors instead of the ones you don't like. Reinforcement whether it be intermittently or regularly will ensure that your dog continues to perform behaviors you want. See we can't just take away reinforcement all together, there has to be a reason for your dog to want to perform behaviors for you. Removing reinforcement all together would be the equivalent of your boss discontinuing your paycheck and expecting you to work for free.

Every being on this earth performs behaviors that are reinforcing to them, for humans one reinforcer is money. Money helps reinforce behaviors because it can be used to acquire things such as food, clothing, and other items we may want.

So my answer to the question of how long does it take to train your dog?... You are never really done training your dog!!

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