There are many times where I have seen benefits from training breaks (a few weeks to a few months)! Sometimes not training a behavior for an extended time period can speed up the learning curve in the dog.
I am not exactly sure why this but I remember reading about it years ago and I see it over again. My dog is a great example his recall (“come”) regressed. We took a break from working on “come” for about 2 months. He received much exercise in my yard, from training and during on leash walks. After the break, his recall was 100% at Tanner and at City Creek Canyon even with birds (birds were a number one distraction for him). My hypothesis is that the dogs have time to actually think about the material (integration time) instead of being constantly bombarded with learning material.
Sometimes a break results in a regression in training. So how do you know if a break will be beneficial or not? I have no clear cut answer to this. Generally when I have taken breaks away from training it was never conscious. It was a break due to circumstances that appeared in my life. Then when I got back into training…wow…..progress….just like that!
My insight would be to follow your impulses and intuition. If you strongly feel pulled to take a break follow that impulse. If anything if you back track in training your dog will learn it faster the second time around. Generally impulses and intuition if clearly felt are rarely wrong.
So throw away the guilt about not working with your dog constantly! Remember breaks can be good!
Also another tip. You do not have to train your dog everyday for him to learn a behavior or command. Consistency is the key and daily boundaries. So many of my clients feel guilty when I show up and they haven’t worked enough with their dogs daily. If you are working on a command 2-3 times a week you will see progress. Short training sessions lasting 2-5 minutes are generally best as well.
Take a break around the holidays and be consistent with your dog! Have a wonderful time and may your season be filled with love and light!
Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC