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  • Writer's pictureJaime

How long training sessions can do more harm than good

Honestly, I'm a huge fan of a short training session. 10 seconds 30 times a day can do way more than an hour session a lot of the time. This is because when we implement communication and relationship with our dogs (in ways that don't bore them) into our routine, our dogs tend to be more successful.

We do not want to give our dogs training fatigue which is exactly what happens when we train the same thing over and over, the same way for long periods of time. And what happens when they have training fatigue? They take longer to respond to cues which means the waiting game is longer and they either learn to ignore you or you accidentally teach them to not respond right away. Training sessions that are too long can also take away the value in you and motivation towards the reward as well. They may become less interested in treats or toys as a form of reinforcement. Not to mention the displacement behaviors (e.g., sniffing, yawning, shaking off) will likely be through the roof. You might even accidentally teach them to randomly offer behaviors just to get training over with which really does more harm than good.

So what should you do?

Train short sessions all day long. Let your dog choose to give you their attention and take the time to train short sessions from it. Can you train hour-long sessions? Yes absolutely but there must be different behaviors, different motivators, different reinforcers, and new things for your dog to love problem-solving so that it stays exciting. This is why trainers never teach the same thing, the same way, without mixing anything up, for the entirety of a long session. Oftentimes, even when we are training one thing (for example scent work), for an entire session, we will change things up throughout the game and give breaks, so that the dog stays interested. We will often try to make the environment feel different throughout the session. Remember you can use controlled distractions as reinforcement to a not probable behavior (a behavior the dog doesn't want to give as much). For example, The ball as a reinforcement or reward to a long-stagnant stand stay; controlled distraction or primary reinforcement (play) to a behavior the dog does not always want to give. This is called the Premack Principle.

In all, increase the number of short sessions and spice up your longer sessions so that training is fun and motivating. By doing so, you increase trust and reliability in your handler-dog relationship.

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