How Long Will It Take To Train My Dog?
When you come home to a yellow puddle on the floor or a new hole in the yard, it can be easy to ask: when will it end? When will my dog finally graduate to the “trained” category? Is dog training a never ending cycle?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as that.
It may hurt to hear, but I’m going to dish it out anyway: you’re never done.
Dog training is a lifelong process. You will need to continue to build your dog’s skills and reinforce behaviors in a positive manner. Dogs are fluid creatures. Their behaviors develop and change. Even if you don’t want to teach your dog any new skills (which you inevitably will), they will develop their own for better or worse.
Owning a pet is synonymous with continued learning.
How to be a Lifelong Dog Trainer
This doesn’t have to be an intimidating outlook on life. Instead, it should be exciting! Just as you strive to learn as you go through life, make it a goal to learn with your dog too.
Simple ways to do this include bringing treats with you to daily activities. This is an easy way to reinforce good behaviors. Another option is to use downtime to develop new skills. Take 5 minutes to dedicate to your dog while the oven is preheating or you’re drinking your morning coffee.
Aim to do this at least a few times each week. Much like your gym routine, some sort of schedule can be helpful and encouraging.
As my dogs develop, I particularly like to address “proofing.” This teaches them to listen to the behaviors they know in increasingly more distracting environments. IT solidifies behaviors and keeps your dog sharp long after he first learned specific skills. I talk more about this idea in my article, here (link: https://journeydogtraining.com/can-you-listen-when/).
That being said, considering normal timelines of learning can help you set goals for you and your pet.
When you get a new puppy, training can be quite daunting. And it’s true: in many ways this is the most labor intensive time with your dog. There’s a lot to learn and puppies are able to soak up information fast. Good thing they’re so darn cute!
Different skills will take varying amounts of time to learn and master. If you work on straightforward behaviors like sitting and staying for 10 minutes or so each day, you should begin to see progress within a week or two.
Remember, even if you develop basic skills, they will need to be improved upon and “proofed” to withstand new and distracting situations.
Tougher behavioral changes like potty training and temperament control can take significantly longer. Expect to invest at least a month and possibly more like four or six.
Like I mentioned, learning is a lifelong process. Even after your dog has been “trained,” maybe you want to begin teaching him specific skills to make both of your lives easier. This can be something as simple as waiting for you to walk out of a doorway first. Or, maybe, your dog has developed some frustrating behaviors like jumping on guests.
There will always be new skills to learn, and teaching them will help you and your dog mature as a pair.
I advocate something called the SMART x50 method. This is a lovely, positive way to encourage certain behaviors from your dog.
It involves rewarding him for “being a good dog.” By having positive reinforcement on hand (in this case, treats), you’re always ready to bolster behaviors that you see as good. It’s a fun way to strengthen your relationship with your dog and begin to notice him choosing positive behaviors himself.
To teach a new skill with this method, expect to invest 5 to 20 minutes (in short, easy bursts) per day for 2 to 10 days, depending on the skill. If you’re interested in this dog training tool, you can read more about it in my article here (link: https://journeydogtraining.com/smart-x-50/).
SMART x50 is great for busy people. It doesn’t ask you to have allocated dog training sessions, but instead encourages continuous and lifelong learning.
Which, for me, is what having a pet is all about!