People often wonder how long their training sessions should be, whether it’s with a puppy or an adult dog. This reminds me of the old joke that goes, “How long should a dog’s legs be?”
The answer: “Long enough to reach the ground.”
Well, that’s the general idea for how long a training session should be… long enough to teach something. It will depend a lot on your dog’s attention span, and this is related both to the age of your puppy or dog and to the breed.
Here’s a short podcast I made about getting back into dog training after you haven’t been doing it, or if you have never started:
For young puppies, the training session should be very short and should be fun or at least end with some fun. What’s very short? It could even be 30 seconds… in which case, you’d want to have quite a few training sessions per day.
As a dog matures, it can pay attention for longer times but no matter the age, do always end the session on an upbeat note. You can go back to something simpler that the dog already knows, if you want to, for the last thing you do, so that you and the dog both end with success.
Some breeds love to learn things and please you, while others are more independent. When I was training my very independent Basenji, for example, I found that she learned incredibly quickly from the day we brought her home, but that it was always on her terms, when she wanted to. If she felt like playing with the cat when I thought it was time for training, the cat generally won out. (We had a very patient cat at the time.)
On the other hand, the Australian Shepherd we trained (several years before the Basenji) was a much more attentive student, pretty much any time. These breed differences are fascinating to see.
I feel that generally with an older puppy or an adult, somewhere about 15 or 20 minutes is good. You can do a lot of repetitions, have enough rewards, and both be ready for something else by the end of it. If you’re working a lot with a young or new dog, you may do better with three or four sessions a day, and they can be shorter.
But it also depends on how much time you have! One way to get some dog training in on a regular basis is to do a little bit just before you feed the dog.
Here’s a method that takes about 10 to 20 minutes a day and has been used on some famous dogs: