Effective training is the key to a well-mannered and adjusted dog. One of the most common questions that we are asked is “How often should I train my dog?” The answer to that question can be both simple and complex.
Common logic suggests that more training sessions would create a better-behaved dog in less time, and many training programs recommend multiple training sessions each day. But is this accurate?
Two studies published in Applied Animal Behavior Science (Meyer & Ladewig, 2008: Demant, 2011) attempted to get to the bottom of this question, and both had similar results. They concluded that weekly training sessions were more effective than daily sessions and that a single training session per day was more effective than multiple sessions per day. However, it’s not as clear-cut as that.
The dogs that were trained only once per day required as little as half of the sessions to learn a task (5-8 sessions) than those that were trained multiple times each day (6-12 sessions). The dogs that were trained more frequently did acquire the tasks sooner than the others but required more sessions and effort to learn them. So, a dog receiving weekly 30-minute training sessions might take 5 weeks to learn the task, but the dog being trained for 30 minutes daily could probably learn it in 2.5 weeks.
It’s also important to note that these were laboratory animals raised in strict conditions to provide a control and were not acclimated to home or family life. They were all the same breed (beagles) and were all housed and kept in the exact same conditions and interacted with the same people each day for the same length of time.
As pet owners with a variety of dog breeds and family dynamics, our dogs aren’t going to have such structured and clinical interaction. We want our dogs to be stimulated and healthy, and to develop a close bond with their family. We also want them to be attentive, responsive, and engaged. To this end, we need to make sure that we are not over-burdening the dog. Pushing the dog too far can lead to boredom and frustration, which can prevent the dog from retaining newly learned tasks. But to develop that bond and responsiveness to us we need to make sure that our dogs are encouraged and interacted with regularly.
At LECA, we believe that keeping the dog engaged and interested is more important than frequency of sessions. Dogs learn when they want to learn and are in the zone to learn. Our curriculum and lessons plans are specifically designed to keep the dogs tuned in and engaged.
So, what frequency is best for you? The answer probably lies in finding the right balance between frequency of training and the quality of the interaction. A good rule of thumb is if both you and your dog are engaged and interested, then keep going. If not, take a break and change it up.
It’s important to remember that training is a life-long process that includes reinforcing positive behaviors anytime they occur, not just during formal training sessions. You can find small opportunities to reward your pet throughout the day, and even playtime can be a time for some relaxed engagement and interaction. The key to effective training is a strong bond so pay attention to your dog and make sure you are both having fun.
Demant, H., Ladewig, J., Balsby, T. J., & Dabelsteen, T. (2011). The effect of frequency and duration of training sessions on acquisition and long-term memory in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 133(3-4), 228-234.
Meyer, I., & Ladewig, J. (2008). The relationship between number of training sessions per week and learning in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 111(3-4), 311-320.