Home training sessions

Latin American man training a dog outdoors making him give a high-five

Home training sessions

At a dog club, the dog owner (or dog handler) and the dog come to learn to work together. The dog handler has to carefully listen to the instructor to understand what the dog is expected to do.  The dog then has to be lured into a desired position by treats and praise to do what is expected. This is repeated under the watchful eye of the instructor in class and then has to be repeated at home. The dog may or may not like what is happening but the owner/handler has to persist with training and also have his dog under control. Similarly, it is also our responsibility as parents to have to make our children socially responsible, obey rules and not run wild.

Dogs learn by repetition and reward and although we try to get the dog and handler to repeat an exercise at least 5 times at the club, it is not nearly enough repetition to master an exercise. Dogs need at least 30 to 100 repetitions to be able to willingly respond correctly and with speed to an instruction.

The following tips should help you with your dog training sessions at home.

What is a Training session?

A training session is a short period of time set aside, a few times a week, to reinforce the training that was done at the club. It can include commands, cues, actions, or behaviours.

When to use Training sessions

You can use training sessions throughout your dog’s life, but they should definitely be used when you are starting any form of obedience training. It is used to reinforce basic commands and other specific exercises.

Keep Dog Training sessions short

Dog training sessions should last no more than 10 – 15 minutes for older dogs. Young puppies or dogs that are easily distracted may need shorter sessions. If you run your training sessions too long, dogs get distracted and bored and there’s a good chance they’ll start making mistakes. When my dog did perfectly what I had planned to do, my sessions often ended after 3 minutes and we started playing.

Stick to one thing

Before going out to train, spend some time deciding on exactly what it is that you want to improve. It may be something that was pointed out at the club meeting. It can be one aspect or more than one. When you set aside time for a training session, plan on working on just one aspect or command at a time. If a session is not going well then you must end by doing something that your dog knows well to end a session on a positive note.

Start with little distraction

When you start a revision training session it should take place in quiet areas with little distraction. Too much activity or noise can make it harder for the dog to concentrate on you and the activity. Start somewhere quiet like your living room then move to the yard, garden and driveway etc.

End on a Positive note

All dog training sessions should always end on a positive note. This is one reason why you don’t want to keep going for too long. A good stopping place is when a dog is rewarded for doing a behaviour he likes. By keeping training sessions short and rewarding, your dog will have fun and learn to love training. If your dog can’t seem to perform the desired behaviour you are teaching, switch to something easier for the last part of the session.

After the training session, ask yourself, “How did it go?” and “What could be better?” or “What must I ask the instructor at the club?”



In all dog obedience training there are three phases you must go through to organize your training properly if you want to qualify in a class and win competitions.

1. Learning Phase:

All dogs must first go through this phase when you                                                               

            * Teach it what it is expected to know

 * Help it as much as possible to learn that particular step

            * Make it as easy as possible for the dog

 * During this phase the dog is never corrected for not performing. Simply say “Nope” and withhold treats. Let’s do it again.

2. Correction phase:

 Now, if the dog does not perform a task that it knows well, it will receive a verbal correction or a sharp tug on the leash to, “Stop doing what you are doing” and do it again. This is where the dog learns that if it does not do what it is told to do, it will get a correction.

3. Proofing stage:

  The dog must now go through the proofing stage to make sure that it follows the commands no matter what happens around it by introducing distractions. A helper can be useful by

  • Bouncing a ball a distance away and then closer to the training
  • Squeaking a toy
  • Rolling a ball or toy
  • Playing music
  • Running around the dog
  • Bringing another dog into the training area
  • Splash water from a bottle etc. etc.

4. 5 – 5 – 5 Rule:

1. Practice a new exercise 5 times consecutively

2. Do 5 rep/sessions daily

3. Do not go on to the next exercise until your dog can do the exercise 5 times without   the need for a correction.

Once your dog fully understands a command at home, it is important to re-teach the command in many different locations. Make sure to practice commands not only in different locations but also on different surfaces. Such as: Cement or tarred sidewalk, grass-covered lawns on sand and on dirt. Training along the centre of a road when there is no traffic is best because there are no smells to distract the dog.

I often have short training sessions in a local hardware store when we heel up and down the aisles. A down exercise has shoppers walk past my dog and even step over him while I disappear for a while.