Romeo turned 7 years old on June 8, 2016. Each June I take some time to reflect on all he and I have been through together. If you have a copy of Juvenile Delinquent Dogs, you have no doubt read many of the stories of his youth. If you follow our blog, you have read many more stories about his antics, and both of our failures and successes. It is always a learning process, and there is always more to discover and learn.
When people ask how long it takes to train a dog, I sometimes struggle with a short answer. Because there is no short answer. Unless you permit me to use “It depends.” as my definitive answer. Because it does depend. It depends on the dog, how quickly they learn, how easily they are motivated, and other things. But it also depends just as much on the human side of the equation. It depends upon how much time you are willing to put into training. It depends upon how clearly you communicate with your dog when you are training. And when you are not “training” because dogs are always learning, even when we're not being intentional about it.
How long did it take to train Romeo? That depends on what you mean. How long to teach a new skill? How long to proof it through a variety of distractions? How long to keep practicing so that we maintain and do not lose it? There are various stages of training. Romeo learned new skills fairly quickly. Proofing them took a long time because we needed to be able to generalize those skills to any environment and with any distractions happening. The maintenance then is the longest stretch, because if we don't continue to practice what we've learned, we forget it.
I am happy that Romeo is in his maintenance stage of training. But sometimes he wishes we were still in those earlier stages. Because he LOVES to work. He really wishes we could do more. So do I. I would love to get back to more training with him – time is short and things are hectic. So I don't get to spend as much time working with him now as I did when he was younger. But he's still just as eager to learn and work now as he was then. That's one of the things I love most about him.
Happy birthday, Romeo!