ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

On the Number and Length of Sessions

A training SESSION is a group of trials (the animal does something and that is a trial, whether it is wrong or right). A PERIOD is a group of SESSIONS. There can be SUBPERIODS, but let's not worry about that right now. A training period would be that time you allocate for training in a block, say 5 minutes.

Within that 5 minute period you have as many 10 trials sessions, or one-minute sessions, or ? whatever, that you can have - BEING SURE THAT AFTER EACH SESSION, you ask yourself, am I better off now than I was at the beginning of that session (did you meet the new criterion you set for that session). If the answer is yes, you MAY decide to move ahead to the next step, or stay where you are and try again (won't get into that now).

NOW, before THAT session is considered over, PLAN THE NEXT SESSION, even if that session was the last of the period, or even the last of the day. We recommend to our students that training is not over until the next training time is planned (while fresh in the mind).

In a training period, we suggest that it is OK to train more than one behavior, BUT, the trainer should be very careful not to fall in the trap of helter-skelter training, with one of this and one of that, and then one of another - there should be some focus, if not for the animal, then for the trainer. If the training periods are short, say 5 minutes or less, then it might be best to stick with one or, at most, a few behaviors. After the 5 minute period is up, and the next period (at least the first session within the next period) is planned, move on to another dog, or take a one minute break, or ?.

Now, time for another 5 minute period, and another, and another, and another, and ........ What is the limit? That is up to the trainer and the trainer's evaluation of the dog. Just remember, both dog and human have limits. Usually, the limiting factor in dog training is the attention of the TRAINER, not the dog. This is only true if the trainer is giving real attention, or focus. Most trainers think they are training when they are really just playing around and not being effective. Train with real focus for 5 minutes and you will feel DRAINED. Please, just ask someone who has attended one of our workshops what they felt like after a series of one minute training sessions; I think they will corroborate that true focus is challenging; far more challenging than what most trainers recognize. Thus, it is possible to get MANY 5 minute training periods within a day.

Bob Bailey
copyright 2000 Robert Bailey


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