Some dogs get along with pretty much everyone. We all wish our dogs were those “happy-go-lucky” dogs who rarely seemed to be bothered or upset by anything. I’ve met a few people like that too. I am not one of them. And neither is my dog.

In our society, it seems we expect our dogs to be happy and get along with everyone all of the time. But how many of us do? We can be our less-than-pleasant selves if we haven’t been sleeping well and are tired, if we’ve had a long hard day at work and our brains are feeling fried, if we haven’t eaten for a while or haven’t eaten anything healthy for a while. There are lots of reasons we are not as happy and easy-going as we are at other times. And the same goes for our dogs.

Have you detected any patterns with your dog as to when s/he might have less patience? My classes are usually an hour long. Do we hold hour long classes because that’s the ideal time frame for dogs to learn? No, definitely not. We tend to hold hour long classes because it’s pretty standard and it’s not terribly cost-effective for everyone to drive to class for 30 minutes and go home again. We stay for an hour to get enough value out of the time it takes us to get everything together, get in the car, drive there, drive home, etc.

If I were setting up a class that was ideal for the dogs and not worrying about the inconvenience to the humans, I would have 30 minute puppy classes and maybe 45 minutes classes for older dogs. While some dogs do fine for an entire hour – I try to make sure we always take breaks of some sort so dogs are not working nonstop for the entire hour – many hit their limit before the hour is up. I have seen some dogs who you can almost set your clock by. When you see them starting to lose their focus, act out a bit, or display behaviors that indicate they are “done” you can tell almost to the minute what time it is. For many dogs, it is right around the 45 minute mark.

Get to know your dog. If s/he has that distinct time limit, don’t be afraid to take a break or use that last part of class to do easier things to help your dog wind down and also be successful. Talk to your instructor and let them know what you’re seeing. They should be receptive to working on the more difficult tasks earlier in the session and doing some easier things later in the session of your dog and probably others are having trouble staying focused.

It also helps to take breaks throughout class so your dog can last longer. We all have only so much focus we can give at any given time. Once we use it up, we’re not trying to be difficult, dominant, stubborn, or anything else. We just need to give our brains a rest!