Just as taking breaks helps humans be more productive and process information better, dogs train better with short sessions once or twice a week, rather than long sessions or daily drills, a study shows.Photo by Brian Gurrola.
Wired reports that spaced training may be most effective because the brain goes over new tasks learned during sleep, something that’s been shown in humans, ponies and rats previously. Here’s how the study for dogs went:
To find the sweet spot in dog training, Demant’s team divided 44 laboratory-raised beagles into four training groups. Training involved tasks like jumping into a basket, sitting down, and staying put while the trainer moved away and came back.
By the end of the experiment, each dog had the same total number of training sessions, but those taught once or twice a week for a short period performed much better by the final session, than those trained several times a week for a short time, or those trained one to two times per week for a long time. The dogs coached daily in long training sessions fared the worst, the scientists reported June 15 in Applied Animal behaviour Science
Unfortunately, the shorter, spaced training didn’t help in long-term retention. (But, if you’ve ever known a beagle, you might chalk this up to that breed’s stubbornness.) Nevertheless, if you’re about to teach your dog some new tricks, consider giving him/her lots of time to rest in between.