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How Long Does Dog Training Take?

We live in a society where everyone expects things now. We have little patience in nearly every aspect of our lives. When we order food, we expect a quick delivery. When we send a message, we want an immediate response. If we are having DIY done in the house, we ask how quickly it can be completed. We are so impatient, we even get frustrated when we see the buffering symbol on our screen.

Technology has definitely sped life up but there are still some things in life that require time and patience. As dog trainers, we are regularly asked how long will training take? What is your success rate? Can you guarantee this behaviour will be resolved in so many sessions? This places a lot of pressure on dog trainers, especially since it’s not possible to give an accurate time frame or guarantee. Why is this the case?

Well, when a person is learning to drive, can the driving instructor tell them how long it will take to pass their test? Or when someone is learning a new language can they ask the tutor how long it will take to become fluent in that language? Of course not. Why? Because the time frame for progress is very much dependent on how much time the student is willing to commit to study and practice. Not to mention everyone learns at a different pace, meaning some students may need more practice than others. It's unfair to expect the teacher to determine how long it will take when they have no control over the student’s willingness to practice.

"Training often fails because people expect way too much of their dog and not enough of themselves. " - Bill Bailey.

The same can be said with dog training. We are training the guardians more than we are training the dog, hence training success is dependent on the amount of time and effort the client is willing to put in. We can provide as much advice and support as possible, but as a trainer you have no control of the client’s commitment to training, which can make the job incredibly difficult at times.

Every client will have a unique set of circumstances that can also impact the time needed to address behavioural issues. Some may work full time and have limited time to dedicate to training. Others may be unwell or disabled, so certain training isn't attainable on their own. A person's attitude and belief in their dog is also a huge factor in training success. If the client is pessimistic about their dog’s abilities they are unlikely to even try training their dog. If they expect failure, that is likely going to be the result because they have already decided that the training isn't worth their time.

Each dog is also an individual, so even if you were to refer to past case studies to estimate the time needed to address similar behavioural issues, you still couldn't determine the time it's going to take to train this particular dog. Each dog has a unique personality just like humans do. Similarly, dogs have their own strengths and weaknesses. They may struggle in some areas of training but be incredibly skilled in others. Each dog will have their own learning pace and needs, therefore training has to be tailored to the individual dog.

"Its not magic it's science." - Jay Gurden

Sadly the media has had a negative impact on client expectations. Unfortunately, dog training shows are designed for entertainment rather than education, thus people are quick to believe training results are instantaneous. They see footage of the dogs deeply rooted behavioural problems and within the hour the dog is magically trained.

Home improvement programmes do a similar thing. They show a dilapidated property that is going to require weeks if not months of work, but within the hour they show an amazing renovated property, the difference being no viewers believe that all that work was completed in such a short time. Despite this magical transformation, viewers recognise that the footage has been heavily edited, which makes DIY look far easier than it really is, but the same can't be said about dog training programs.

Dog training isn't magic it's science and it takes time. There is no way any trainer could fully resolve aggression or anxiety in one session. When this is seen on the TV, it is often behaviour suppression rather than behaviour modification. We wouldn't believe that a person's anxiety or depression could be solved after one therapy session, so why do we believe this would be the case with our dogs?

Although it's understandable to question how much time and effort is needed to address certain behavioural issues, there's no accurate way to determine the answer. As you can see, there are so many factors that influence the time needed to address behavioural issues and there are far more than have been mentioned in this article.

So when a client asks, "How long will it take?" discuss the factors that influence the time required so they have reasonable expectations of both you as the trainer and their dog. They may feel despondent and overwhelmed with how much time they will need to dedicate, therefore it's critical to create a training plan that is attainable.

Rather than dwelling on how long the training will take, discuss ways they can speed up the training. Doing this will help them feel that they do have a level of control and will make them eager to train. In addition, agree on small training goals they want to achieve with their dog and record their achievements. This will help them to forget about time scales and solely focus on making progress, one step at a time.

Holly Leake is a dog writer, ISCP tutor and canine behaviourist who runs her own business in Staffordshire UK. Learn more about dog training with the ISCP click here:


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