How long does it take to train a dog?

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Now this is a question I get asked a lot, and the phrase, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ always comes to mind! 

In reality the answer isn’t a simple one, which is why I thought I’d address it in this blog. 

What do you class as trained?

First of all it depends on what you mean by a trained dog.

For some people this will be a dog who comes back when they call and walks nicely on the lead. 

For others it might be a dog who settles at home, doesn’t steal food and doesn’t jump on visitors. 

Or it might be that the dog needs to learn how to do a specific job such as a gun dog learning to retrieve or a medical alert dog identifying when someone’s blood sugar level is out of normal range. 

The complexity of the behaviours you want your dog to learn will affect how long it will take to achieve them.

Every dog is different

Not only will the complexity of the behaviours you’re aiming to train influence the timeframe, the actual dog you’re training will also have an impact on how long it will take. 

Every dog is different and they all have their own struggles and strengths that are a natural part of their personality.

If you have a dog who naturally isn't that interested in other people or dogs around them and doesn't have much of a desire to chase things, teaching them to come back when called will be easier than with a dog who is very distracted by things in the environment. 

Getting to know your dog and learning their strengths and where they struggle will allow you to be a more successful partnership.

This is one of the reasons I love training with games!

By seeing how a dog plays certain games, we can learn so much about their personality and help to set them up for success in real life. 

If you want to know more, check out my Life Skills classes!

Actually, the training never ends…

So you've taught your dog the behaviours that you’d like and they’re doing them successfully in all environments, you may be thinking that your training is done. Well actually it doesn't end there.

In the same way that it’s possible for us to teach dogs new behaviours, it’s also possible for them to develop new behaviours which we haven't intended for them to learn. 

An example of this happened recently with one of my own dogs, Mango.

Before she even came to us her breeder spent a lot of time getting the whole litter used to travelling and settling in the car. And this is something that we continued to work and build on once Mango came home with us.
She has always been very happy in the car and would often fall asleep within a few minutes of us setting off. However recently life unexpectedly threw Mango a new learning experience. 

I had to brake sharply while I had Mango in the car with me. Don’t worry, she was safe and secure in her crate, however the sudden change in speed gave her a bit of a shock. 

Luckily that experience wasn't enough for her to develop a fear of the car, she's still incredibly happy to get in and she doesn't show any signs of being panicked when in the car, however she no longer settles like she used to.

Although I thought that we were pretty much done with car training with Mango, it’s now very much part of our training schedule again!

And this sort of thing can happen at any time and with any behaviour. You never know what life is going to throw at you and your dog.

In short, your dog's training never truly ends because they’re always learning.
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