Welcome to 2022! I hope that each of you enjoyed a peaceful and refreshing holiday season and are leaning into the new year with a sense of adventure while reflecting on the lessons of the past.
For Beau and me, that means charting a course to our Companion Dog title, advancing in nosework and, possibly, getting a Trick Dog title. In any case, it means I am working on his training calendar to make sure I continue to reinforce what he knows while introducing new skills. Of course, I keep our solo sessions short. Group class is long enough, so we work in short 5- to 10-minute chunks unless we are out for a walk. Then I break it up with focused heels, automatic sits, a few tricks while we wait for the light to change, etc. I do my best to keep it fun and upbeat because who wants to work in drudgery? Not me and certainly not Beau.
Which leads me to the point of this post. Over the weekend, I was browsing a breed-specific forum and responded to a post from someone asking “How long do I have to train my dog?” Below is my answer.
How much training does a dog need? A lifetime of it.
What I mean is that dogs, specifically high-drive working dogs, are never finished training. Sure they mentally mature well after they’ve physically matured and will come to know so many words and commands that you may think they are half-human but they will always need training – training for their minds and training for their bodies.
It does not always, nor should it, have to be go-go-go physical stimulation. A heavy amount of the time should be mental stimulation. Working through commands in short bursts, playing scent games around the house or yard, going on slow sniffing walks (the sole purpose is to let the dog sniff) – all of those will work that brain and tire out the dog.
Another overlooked training, in my opinion, is how to settle (how to calmly exist without being entertained or worked) and just be around the house quietly. I think that is the primary reason many dogs end up being surrendered to rescues. They’ve never been taught to settle.
My boy will be 18 months at the end of January and has settled down a TON in the past year, specifically since July BUT we are nowhere near being “done” and will never be done because he will always need a job and I enjoy the bonding aspect of it. He was a wild child (like most Doberman) and I have worked him a LOT. I did a very rough tally of the training hours we put in since February 2021 and it worked out to be 65+ hours with professional trainers (me taking him to classes – not sending him) and 350+ hours on my own (working on commands, propioception, nosework, etc. in a variety of locations outside my home).
That works out to about 10 hours a week of planned, formal training not to mention the mandatory wait at the door before we go for walks, the automatic sit when we stop walking, the place and stay on his mat when I am making dinner, and all the other little ancillary training that happens from the time we wake up each day to the time he falls asleep at night. (5am to 11pm).
So what do you think, dear reader? Do you agree or disagree with my position? Let me know in the comments and, as always, thanks for stopping by!!