One of the most common questions I get asked is "how much training will my dog need?". My answer is always the same - it will depend on how high of a level trained dog you wish to have. There is no cookie cutter answer for how long dog training takes because each dog is an individual that needs a customized training plan for their particular needs. Many training facilities offer basic courses that cover the basics of sit, down, come, stay and walk on leash within a certain number of weeks. I find that doesn't really do just to the animal or what individual issues the owner is having at that time. After training hundreds of animals, I've come to find that these are the basics of what a normal dog will accomplish if the owners are dedicated and follow the training plan. Keep in mind that some issues, such as fears/aggression, will have no clear cut time line for training and if you are speaking to a trainer that is guaranteeing things on a certain time line without ever seeing your dog, you should run the other way.
Private Training Sessions:
1-2 Lessons are generally recommended when dealing with what I call basic training issues. The most common that people inquire about are jumping, house training, play biting, or getting started on basic obedience like come, sit or down. For owners who are just trying to get a grasp on a few problem behaviors then generally we can get the results they desire in 1-2 lessons.
3-4 Lessons are generally used to advance and build upon the original behaviors. We can begin to add distance and distraction to behaviors like stay or come,, start introducing different locations (going to parks, shopping centers, etc). We can begin adding more advanced behaviors or start novelty behaviors like shake, spin, go get a beer from the fridge, etc.
5-6 Lessons are generally the lessons where we begin starting off leash obedience (again, dependent on the dog and how much time the owner has put into doing their work in between lessons). These are the lessons where we start really putting the obedience to the test. There is no point in having a dog that will only obey in a quiet house with nothing going on. For owners who want their dog to go everywhere, these are the advanced lessons that take your obedience to the next level, sometimes even gearing up for competition training.
Every dog is different and every training plan is different. No lesson series is ever the same and during your private training lessons, anything can be worked on that is important to that owner and dog. As a trainer, I always feel its important to get results sooner rather than later since many owners are at their wits end with their dog at the time they pick up the phone to call a trainer. Unfortunately many trainers try to stretch out training and sign clients up for long, extended training packages where results aren't seen until the very end, if ever.
Boarding and Training is a slightly different approach to dog training, usually ideal for owners who have limited time to do daily training with their dog. Often times I get clients who want to send a dog away for a week and get a finished product back. Unfortunately it does not work this way. Boarding and training is not a quick fix for training your dog. Each week your dog is with me has a private training lesson included to help transfer the training to you. Owners MUST follow through with their private training after the dog goes home if they expect to get any results out of the boarding and training.
Additionally, its unrealistic to expect your dog who's been allowed to jump, playbite, or be disobedient for several months or even YEARS to then suddenly be magically fixed after a single week of training. Changing bad habits in dogs is the same as in humans.... sometimes its a long road of being consistent before you see clear results.
A typical board and train will generally garner 1-2 new behaviors for every week the dog is with me. The longer the dog stays, the stronger and more reliable each behavior is.
1 Week Board and Trains -1 week Board and Trains are the most challenging to get good results. The dog comes and takes the first day or two to really adjust into their surroundings, giving just a few days to really train new behaviors. During the first week, you can expect behaviors to be started but not very strong or reliable. I highly discouraging using 1 week board and trains unless you are doing refresher training, working on basic issues like imprinting a puppy to the crate, or just want something very basic trained.
2 Week Board and Trains - I typically recommend a minimum of 2 weeks of training for any dog just because it gives more time to get results while they are here and it gives you 2 lessons to transfer the training and work on any issues that could not be covered in the board and train. Keep in mind that many trainers will not take a dog for any less than 4 weeks of training, simply because its hard to get strong results. However, in this economy, I feel even a small amount of training will be better than nothing so long as the client understands that the shorter the board and train, the more work that will be on the owner to follow up in private training session.
3-4 Week Board and Trains are typically ideal for most dogs to start breaking bad habits, start basic obedience with added distance and distraction, and perhaps even add in a few novelty behaviors.
4+ weeks of Boarding and Training is where we start to get off leash training, higher level distraction and higher duration. For example at this point, a normal dog will be able to recall from high level distractions, hold a down stay for several minutes, etc. Most often I use longer-term boarding and training for dogs who have very severe issues such as dog/people aggression, or severe fears/anxiety.
With every board and train, I ask owners to write a list of behaviors they want worked on and to prioritize what is the most important to be worked on in training. Some owners make incredibly long wish lists for their dog and then send then for very short periods of time. The reality is its not going to be be possible to train 10+ behaviors in a single week or two. My answer is that I will work on what is a priority and whatever we do not get to in the board and train, or that cannot be replicated in the board and train, can then be worked on in the private training lessons that follow after the dog goes home.
This article is not meant to be an exhaustive answer to how long training will take but should give you a general idea of what results are possible with a normal dog and owner. Remember every training program is completely individualized to that dog so if you have issues you feel are particularly unique, it is best to do an evaluation to find out that is best for you and your dog and whether your expectations are realistic.