We get this question asked in every group class we teach. If you are taking a training class or if you are trying to train your dog at home, how much time is required to spend each day so your dog actually learns? The standard answer is 15-30 minutes per day. Some trainers will tell you 30-60 minutes per day. That sounds easy enough, right? How many of us know that working out 15-30 minutes per day would be the BEST thing in the world for us? Most of us. So if we know that, how many of us actually work out 15-30 minutes per day??? Hello? Is anyone out there?? I think I hear crickets! This is the dilemma of expectation vs. reality. You will wake up in the morning and say "Ok, I have to remember to train my dog today!". Next thing you know you will be lying in bed trying to fall asleep and sit up realizing "Crap! I forgot to train the dog today!" The other thing to consider is the age of your dog. If you have a pup under 6 months of age, they tend to have the attention span of a goldfish. Getting a puppy to focus on training for 30 straight minutes will most likely end in you being very frustrated.
Our goal is to get you a well behaved, enjoyable dog in as little time as possible while being a realist. The reality is almost no one sets aside time to train their dog each day and of those who do schedule it, most of those people still fail to complete the training session.
Here is our solution. Take 20 pieces of kibble out of your dog's breakfast bowl in the morning before feeding them. Put those 20 pieces in a small bowl as centrally located as possible between the area you feed your dog and where you let them outside. Every time you do something for your dog that you were going to do anyway, grab a piece of kibble and ask them to do a command you are working on. What do we mean by the things you were going to do anyway? Feed your pup, let them outside, take them for a walk, play with their toy, snuggle on the couch, pet them, etc. We all do those things everyday so why not make it a quick training session? Time to let them outside? Ask them to sit first. Dinner time? Ask them to down. Going for a walk? Ask them to wait at the door. They want to get on the couch? Ask them to do a down stay for 30 seconds before inviting them up. Get it? If you get half way through the day and your kibble is already gone, then you can increase to 25 or 30 kibbles if you choose. Just make it a reachable number and try to remember to ask for a command every time you are doing something for your dog.
This way is much more realistic and easy to remember. Not only that, but everyone in the family can participate! When the bowl is empty, you know your dog has performed 20 commands that day. That's pretty amazing! In the beginning your dog may only know sit. That's ok! Ask them to sit each time. Your dog will become a sitting machine. Once your dog is learning a new command, make them do that new command the majority of the time while sprinkling in the commands he/she already knows.
This should allow you to train your dog every day in a way that is realistic, fun, easy to remember and with no pressure on your time or calendar!