Can a 1-2 Week Program Really Transform Your Dog?
As a consumer trying to make the best decision on dog training, it can be quite confusing to sort through all the options out there. When I get calls from potential clients try to find their “perfect match” training program, a common question I hear is, “why are your training programs at The Doghouse 3 weeks when other trainers claim they can train a dog in 1 or 2 weeks?”
Sounds like a reasonable question, especially in today’s culture when convenience and instant gratification is something that we have grown used to. I am certainly guilty of giving in to this! Why would I haul both of my young toddlers into the car, fight traffic, and struggle to find parking at the store when I can just order off Amazon Prime? It’s natural to think that because someone claims they can do a similar task in a shorter amount of time they are the better option; but I am here to tell you that is far from the truth in the field of dog training. Just like weight loss, when it comes to reliable dog training there is simply no such thing as instant results. At least, not if you want the results to last.
I have been running my Full-Service training program for 17 years. During this time, I have continually practiced and researched my craft, including experimenting with different time frames and length of training programs. Thanks to my years of experience, I feel confident in stating that reliable obedience can’t be obtained successfully in just 1-2 weeks. Here’s why:
1 Week Programs: First things first, don’t expect a fully trained dog after just one week! Instead, you will need to continue training them as opposed to simply reinforcing what they learned. A trained dog can understand the commands being delivered, no matter the environment or distractions. It is unlikely that this will happen after just one week. Many dogs won’t even have fully shown their personality and individual quirks until a week into the program. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes: they were just dropped off at a new place, spent a week with a new person, had hardly any time to acclimate to their new environment, and all this occurred as they were being force fed basic commands (often relaying on the use of training tools to make reliability rather than the obedience itself). In these cases, your dog may be able to perform the basic commands when you arrive to pick them up, but as soon as they are placed in a new environment it’s as if the information is no longer in the right context.
In these cases, instead of being able to bring your dog home and simply reinforce/continue with the commands learned and methods used, you almost have to completely re-train them to understand the commands in the environment of your home. This goes far beyond simply having a list of commands in your hands to use. In addition, you must also understand how to correctly use the training tools, or you and your dog will be lost. A lot of these 1 week programs only offer a 1-2 hour go home lesson and you leave right after with your dog. That is a crash course for you, and it doesn’t set you or the dog up for success. A press of a button shouldn’t determine if the dog performs their obedience skills.
2 Week Programs: Even with a 2 week program, expect your dog have some confusion during the transition. Two weeks is just barely enough time for the dog to start understanding the commands, but at this point they are only just becoming ready to practice the commands and behaviors in new environments (such as dog parks, or around town). The dog is still likely to be reliant on the tools and rewards used by the trainer, so you should still expect to continue a strict training regime when you return home. Even after two weeks, you are likely to run into some of the same problems when you return home as you would after the 1 week program options.
Even as a trainer, I would never imagine that I could purchase a dog completely trained for competitions and expect to enter a trial and win. It wouldn’t matter if the dog performed the exercises with the trainer in all the videos, or if I was a seasoned dog handler: the dog might simply not follow the commands when given by me because their previous trainer never had them practice taking commands from others, perhaps they only trained on one competition field and the commands were never generalized, or it could be something as simple as it rained on the day I competed and the dog never trained in rain. To put it simply, dog training is dynamic and there is no such thing as instant results.
Want me to break it down even further for you? Here are the basic reasons why short-term training doesn’t work:
- Dogs are not robots! Just teaching them the basic commands is not enough. Dogs are very situational. If any one condition within their environment changes compared to that which they were trained in, they might not know how to respond. This could be rain, new distractors, or any other factor. This is another reason why a short-term training program won’t work. It takes time to introduce your dog to a variety of environmental factors, which then helps to ensure a smoother transition once they return home to you.
- Your “good” relationship with your dog might not be as good as you think. Yes, our dogs are part of our families. However, they don’t comprehend things the same way that we do as humans. What you may interpret as showing them love, they might interpret as proof that they are in control as opposed to you. Love doesn’t always translate to respect, which is another reason why at the Doghouse LLC, we take so much time teaching you how to earn your dog’s respect and understand their genetics/needs. This step will only better your relationship with your dog in the long run.
- Short term programs can’t generalize the obedience taught. For example; my definition of heeling means to walk on the left side and don’t pull on the leash. If I stop walking, then the dog is to automatically sit next to me. This concept can be picked up quickly by the dog, especially when I am balancing the training with the use of rewards and/or correction. But, that is only the beginning, I then have to take that same dog and walk them in multiple other situations; at the Park, by bicycles, by other dogs, in a pet store, in home depot, over food on the ground, in a field of grass, on the sidewalk, up and down stairs, or on a hiking trail. Only if the dog can perform my definition of the heel command in all those variations (without help from the training tools), I then would say that the dog is “trained” (and understands its job) in the Heel command. Now do the above sequence for every command you want to teach that dog. (Oh yeah, and do it in 1-2 weeks!)
So what do I recommend?
To get your pet to the level of mastery described above, I need approximately 3 full weeks with the average dog. In these 3 weeks, we will teach your dog the desired commands and behaviors in multiple scenarios and environments, with a variety of distractors. They will be handled by 2 trainers, making it more likely that their new skills will transfer when you begin giving the same commands at home. In addition, we will work to address any past specific behavioral problems/concerns. At the Doghouse, we understand that it isn’t just your dog that needs training, but that you will also need to understand how to best welcome them back into your home to ensure that the training transfers. The average it takes my training clients BEFORE their dogs go home with them is 3 lessons with a trainer! We work as a team, and that team includes you!
No dog is sent home until the training completely transfers back to the owner.
Yes, your dog might still test you when they get home. However, it is no different than when a child returns home from being at Grandma’s, or when students are faced with a substitute teacher in their classroom. By attending those final sessions with us, you will ensure that you are prepared for this period of reintegration and will be able to react accordingly. You will become comfortable with the learned commands as well as any training tools that will need to be continued during the transition. We also make an exit strategy for those tools. When you sign your dog up for training at the Doghouse, we know that you are looking for life-long results and not just quick fixes.
But don’t just take my word for it. When selecting a trainer and their programs, always do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for training videos. I believe there is a trainer out there for every dog. As you begin the process of deciding who will work with the four-legged member of your family, take the time to research the different training beliefs and methodologies that exist. Don’t rush into any program, and don’t buy into “quick fix” advertisements.
We offer meet/greets at The Doghouse, to set one up with your dog, call us at 727-201-9790