How Long Does It Take To Train A Dog?

No dog is too much for me to handle. I rehabilitate dogs, I train people. I am the dog whisperer – Caesar Milan

Asking any trainer how long it might take to train a dog is like asking them how long a piece of the string is, or whether it might rain next Tuesday. They’re not going to be able to give you a definitive answer, because every dog is different. They all learn at a different pace. Some dogs thrive when they’re put under pressure and some prefer a more relaxed, long-term approach to training that allows them to pick up and master everything that they’re being taught in their own time.

There are other factors that can affect how long it will take them to learn everything that you need, and want them to. This includes your dog’s history and how they interact with other dogs and people as a result of it, and whether or not they have any behavioral issues or problems. Each of these can have an impact on how easily a dog adapts to a training regime.

And there’s the final part of the equation that can determine how long it will take to train a dog: you.

How involved you become in the training process can either shorten or lengthen the amount of time that it takes to train your dog. The deeper you immerse yourself in training your dog, the quicker they’ll learn and the more responsive they’ll be to the process, and the stronger the bond that you’ll both develop will be.

Of course, trying to actually develop a working training timeline, even when you take what we’ve already told you into consideration is impossible, but there are a number of things that you can do that can help to speed up the training process, and make it easier for your dog to know what you expect from him.

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Consistency And Repetition

Woman playing chess with her dog

Dogs learn through repetition and the key element to training them properly lies in being consistent and repeating the same commands and instructions over and over again. If you deviate from the training pattern that you’ve established, it’ll only confuse your dog.

Formulate a training plan that uses a series of easy-to-follow commands and instructions and stick to it like glue. The more focused you are on teaching your dog the same things over and over again, the sooner he’ll learn to follow all of them, and they’ll eventually become second nature to him.

Follow Your Dogs Lead

How long it takes to train your dog depends largely on how quickly they do or don’t learn to adapt to new situations and instructions. How fast they do (or don’t) pick new things up should become apparent early in the training process, and it’ll be up to you to modify your approach to training them according to how quickly they learn.

Putting undue pressure on your dog, or yourself, in an attempt to speed up the training timeline can actually drag the process out. This is because your dog is attuned to you and can read your emotional response. Emotions “go down the leash”, as it’s said, meaning that your pup will often pick up the emotional response you’re having. If this is largely a feeling of frustration at your dog’s “lack” of progress, it will hamper your training efforts. Adjust and adapt your schedule to your dog and, most importantly, relax.

Training should be fun and something that you both enjoy, and trying to push your dog beyond what they’re capable of doing and learning will only slow the process down. After all, it’s all about your dog and helping them to thrive in the world and their new home, so follow their lead and let them set the pace.

Positive Reinforcement

man training a dog on a lakeside dock

You’ve heard the old adage about the stick and carrot, right?  The same thing applies to training your dog. If you reward good behavior with a treat and ignore negative behavior, they’ll soon start to learn that if they listens and do what you want, then they’ll get a “reward”. This reward can be treats, or other positive enforcement like attention. Dogs love being the center of attention, and when they’re given something that helps to reinforce that belief, they’ll respond accordingly.

Never, and we can’t stress this enough, ever punish your dog if they “don’t listen” or don’t obey your commands instantly. Keep repeating the same command over and over until they do what you want him to, and then reward them when they get it right.

If you give your pup a tasty treat, the next time you ask them to do the same thing you’ll be surprised how quickly they respond. Reward and treat-based training is a proven training method that works, regardless of how stubborn or impossible to train you might think that your dog is.

Many training programs implicitly use this idea of repetition and consistency. For example, clicker training first establishes the connection between a click and a treat, then introduces a behavior that results in a click (and then a treat). New commands are slowly built in only after the previous connections (click->treat) are fully understood.

It’s An All-Inclusive Thing

Remember what we told you about consistency? That applies to your entire family. Everyone who lives in the same house as your dog needs to treat them the same way and use the same commands and expect the same response from them as you do. Otherwise, you have the canine version of when a kid asks the more lenient parent for something after the other parent says no.

If any member of your family rewards behavior that you’re trying to eliminate, it’ll make it harder to teach your dog to listen to you. Every member of your dog’s family needs to be singing from the same training hymn sheet, so it’s important to explain the program to your entire family. 

If everyone responds to your dog’s positive and negative behavior the same way, they’ll soon learn what is and isn’t acceptable. Consistency is the single most important thing that you need to remember while training your dog.

The Never-Ending Story

Even though you might think you’ve finished training your dog, and you’ve prepared them to face the rigors of everyday life, just like you, they’ll always have to learn something new. This might be a new fun trick, training away new bad habits (such as digging or biting), or training necessitated by a new home, family member, or other big changes.

The bond that you form with your pup will help you, and your dog to travel down whatever path life has in store for both of you. Not only will training teach your dog specific good behavior and tricks, but will also reinforce that he or she can look to you for guidance and direction. Training is a lifelong process, but it’s one that you should both enjoy every moment of.

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.