There seems to be a favored method among dog parents and dog trainers alike that training should happen every day. When you hear the phrases “dog training” or “obedience training,” what do you picture in your head?
Is it 5-15 minute sessions, multiple times a day, with complete dog focus and high value rewards, putting them through their paces with obedience commands?
Is it taking them to hour long dog training classes, or leaving them for the day (or several days) at a dog training center?
A 2011 study of 44 Beagles that were trained on a single obedience task for 4 weeks came upon interesting results concerning how often to train, how long the sessions should be, and the rate of retention:
Dogs trained1-2x per week learned better than dogs trained daily.
Dogs trained 1x a day learned better than dogs trained 3x in a row.
Dogs trained 1-2x per week, 1x a day had the highest level of acquisition.
Dogs trained daily, 3x in a row had the lowest level of acquisition.
Additionally, shorter sessions were better than longer sessions.
Some of the thinking behind the results is that with the extended time between training sessions, there is more memory rehearsal time. When a memory has a high value, the memory is “rehearsed and consolidated” during wake and sleep, and then remembered later. Memory studies are showing that rehearsal time is important to memory retention.
This one study is far from definitive and they had other hypotheses about why less frequent training gave such results. But also dogs are individuals and different breeds have different traits. Training isn't something that should just happen in sessions, either. We ask dogs to be obedient in our every day lives, therefore we have to teach them how to be obedient in our every day lives.
Training session = teaching a new task.
Every day life = opportunities to reinforce that new task.
But, maybe if training several times a day every day isn't getting strong results, switch it up to 1x a week, 1x that day. Different contexts for the task do count as training a “new” task to dogs.
How often do you train a task per day/week?