We all want to train our puppy in the most effective way possible, but often it can be confusing as to how much and how often we should be practicing. Training is something that certainly needs to be done regularly, not only to keep progressing steadily with the behaviours we are teaching, but also to build a bond with your pup as soon as possible. Training helps your puppy understand YOU better, and helps you to understand HIM better, hopefully having lots of fun along the way, learning lots of new things together. We want to progress in the training we do, whilst not overwhelming our puppy (or ourselves!), gaining progression in the reliability of behaviours and seeing a gradual increase in our pups behavioural repertoire.
So, how often should I train my puppy?? It’s a common question, very common actually. You want great results but you’re not sure how much training you should really be doing to gain those results. There’s certainly a balance, we don’t want to be doing too much and for too long, and we don’t want to do too little, both will hinder your pups learning potential. We want to have a perfect balance of dedicated training times, whilst mixing training into your daily routines fairly seamlessly. It’s doable I promise!
As Ian Dunbar once said, every interaction with your puppy is a training opportunity. This is certainly true, but I’m aware people have lives, busy ones, so we want to make training a manageable and enjoyable task for you and your puppy, whilst still seeing great results.
Ideally, you’re looking to dedicate 5-15 minutes to each training session, sessions being around 3-5 times a day, every day. Purely for practical training sessions. Try not to work on too many behaviours at once, keep it simple and keep it steady, really try to establish a behaviour fairly well and work on generalising the behaviours you have established in different environments before trying to teach a plethora of tricks! Start with the basics. Keep training sessions short, very short. Puppies have short attention spans and become tired extremely quickly (remember my post about sleep??). An over tired puppy is a frustrated, disinterested and distracted puppy, not a situation conducive with learning I think you’ll agree. Puppies NEED rest and sleep to learn, so don’t go too over board, little and often is the key.
Of course, there are many times throughout a day you will want to add in other bits and bobs, such as impulse control exercises ie. not barging through doors, or waiting for eye contact before food. There’s MANY opportunities throughout your pups day to mark and reward desired behaviours. Always grab these opportunities! They are easy to incorporate as they are daily occurrences which are going to happen whether you are training your puppy or not, so it makes sense to utilise the opportunity given to build on your little ones manners.
Some examples of great training opportunities include:
- doorway manners – you pup will be going in/out the garden a lot, we don’t want him thinking he can barge through and knock you flying!
- feeding time – food doesn’t have to be in a bowl! Scatter feeding? Interactive toys? Some training using some of your pups daily food ration?
- loose lead walking – you’re walking your pup anyway, so it makes sense to incorporate some training into your walks
- recall training – you’re going to be calling your pup to you many times throughout a day ie. in from the garden, calling from another room, use this to work on recall!
- playtime – we all play with our pups, practice your ‘leave’ or ‘drop’ commands during games? teach ‘retrieves’? Make it fun and like a big game!
There’s many other ways to incorporate your pups training into your daily routines, it doesn’t have to be a strict 15 minutes of training and nothing else around those times. We don’t want our pups to think that they only need to ‘listen’ to us when we go to a training class, or when on a lead. Think of all the opportunities you have? How much you actually interact with your puppy every day? There’s LOTS of times throughout an average day where we can work on training and encourage those desired behaviours.
If you have any questions or would like more information about your training sessions, just get in touch!