When training dogs, some things happen quickly. Some do not. Some dogs learn things in a few repetitions. Others need hundreds of repetitions. Some behaviors catch on quickly. Others seem like they are never going to happen. Until they do.
Just as with humans, dogs all learn at different paces. In my classes, I try to remind people not to compare their dog to the other dogs in class but to compare to how they were doing last week and last month. This is why I never have set expectations for what a dog should “know” or be able to do by the end of a seven-week class. Everyone most likely started out at a different level and everyone will most likely end up at a different level. And that’s perfectly OK!
But here’s the one thing that does tend to be fairly universal. If you don’t practice it, you will lose it. Some things can take a while to catch on, but it’s far easier to lose the things we do not continue to practice or maintain.
When I was a kid, many of my friends took piano lessons. We had an organ, so I took organ lessons for a little while. Could I play an organ now? Not if my life depended on it. I didn’t do it for long, and I did not keep it up.
For those who follow my blog (or read my monthly newsletter) you know I have (@ March 2014) Zuzu the Greyhound puppy. I have not been spending as much time with Romeo lately because I have been focusing on puppy nipping (Okay, with Zuzu it’s more like puppy chomping) and housetraining and all the other training that comes with a new puppy. So when I go back to work with Romeo on something we have not done in a while, he’s a little rusty. He gets back into the swing of things quickly because it hasn’t been too long. But he definitely is not spot on like he was before Zuzu came along.
So, in addition to progressing with Zuzu’s training, I need to get back to focusing more on maintaining Romeo’s high level of training. He and I have worked very hard the past 4 1/2 years, and I don’t want to lose any of his skills. So we need to use it often enough that we don’t lose it.