Some questions commonly asked of trainers is “How long will it take?” or “When can I expect my dog to be completely trained?” or similar thoughts. In many cases, it seems to imply that people think of training their dogs as a limited time process. They arrive with the belief that training will end at some point and the dog will be “trained.”
I really would like to change that perception. Training – or learning, really – is a lifelong process. We most likely have all heard that for humans, it is important to keep mentally active and learning new things into old age. If we don’t, our brains can start to turn to mush. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. Just as we start to lose muscle mass as we get older, our brains will start to slow down and can cause problems for us if we don’t keep them active. Guess what? Our dogs need to be kept active too!
So while the more intensive training process won’t last forever, it is important to keep up your “maintenance” training throughout your dog’s life so that they can maintain the skills they learned early on. If we don’t practice it, we lose it. Any of you take piano lessons as a kid? How many of you are able to play the way you did when you were taking lessons if you haven’t touched a piano in years?
You should not think of training as ever being “done” or no longer needed. But at some point, you should be able to transition into maintenance training mode where you are practicing the skills your dog already has to ensure he does not lose them.