When you bring a new puppy home, the lure of starting some obedience training is often strong! This is completely understandable, we all want to have fun with our pups, and indeed our grown dogs. However the length of your training session is often something people either aren't sure about, or are inadvertently going wrong with by making sessions too long, or indeed too short.
Now what I'm going to say is going to infuriate you, the length of the training session.....DEPENDS!!!!! Sorry! Not what people want to hear I know. There are varying factors to consider when thinking about how long you should be training for per session.
Firstly, age. The age of your puppy or dog is a HUGE factor to consider. Very young puppies will only last through teeny tiny training sessions, 1-2 minutes at a time. Of course, you can repeat these sessions multiple times throughout a day. As your puppy grows, as will the ability to maintain attention for longer lengths of time and you will be able to up the duration of training sessions. If your puppy is disinterested, distracted, bitey, or not able to perform established behaviours, you could have been training too long!
What are you trying to train? Consider what behaviour you're working on. If this is something incredibly physically tiring, or something brand new, or something already partly established, all of these will effect the length of your training session. Will you be shaping a behaviour, luring a behaviour, is it complex with many different stages, or is it something that will likely be picked up in 3 repetitions. Think about all of these when factoring in the length of your training sessions. Are you working on one specific behaviour? I would think most dogs would struggle to work on ONE behaviour for an hour, how boring!
Reinforcement tools and schedules! Consider how you're reinforcing the behaviours you want throughout your training sessions. Are you using treats? A game? Access to a resource? Verbal or tactile praise? Consider these. If you're using food to train, you may not want to train a brand new behaviour which will require a high rate of reinforcement (every correct response for example), for an hour when your dog has just had his dinner! It is highly likely your dog will be full, disinterested after 5 mins (unless you have a labrador who wants to eat 24/7!), and you'll feel frustrated. Try to think about how you're reinforcing, and the schedule you'll be using, when thinking of the length of the training session.
Your dogs individual personality! Most importantly, consider your dog and it's individual preferences! If you have a hyped up puppy who wants to go go go 24/7 with the attention span of a flea, consider small bite-size sessions regularly, working on gaining and maintaining attention for ever increasing amounts of time in different environments, taking many 'play breaks' throughout. If you have a low-key, chilled, focused, laid back dude (you lucky person if that's you!), consider hyping things up a bit with possibly slightly longer sessions, with high value food or rewards, and a little more excitement throughout.
There are many things to consider when looking at the structure of training sessions. Try and remember that all the time, every day, your puppy is learning, and whilst that sounds a little 'scary' it really isn't. You can set up scenarios for teaching specific behaviours, and you can vary these in intensity and length as much as you wish to teach certain things, however your puppy is learning all the time. Try to consider your interactions with your little ones day to day and bear in mind, you are teaching all the time!!!
Training sessions and how best to plan, structure and incorporate these into your life are covered during my 1-2-1 sessions, feel free to get in touch and book in! :)