Over training is very common in dog training. Many dogs will work and work and work and never show signs of fatigue or unwillingness to continue. As the handler, it is your job to set time and repetition limits so you don't end up deteriorating your dog's muscles, ligaments and joints. On any given day that you are not at performance practice or competition, you training sessions should not exceed 5-15 min. (IMO). I recommend setting a timer (smart phones all have timers). You will be amazed how short 5 minutes is but you will be thanking me in the long run for encouraging you to be more aware. Many handlers do not see issue from over training until the dog is 3-5 years old when “over training catches up with them”. A dogs structure can play apart in these injuries. It is very important to learn to SEE your dog, put your hands on your dog everyday, watch their movement and notice when they are "off".
If you are over training repetitive movement it can cause muscles to fatigue and that will lend to compensations in other parts of the dog’s body. Once your dog starts compensating for soreness, you will have bigger problems that can have a domino effect on other muscles and limbs. The physical ramifications of “repetitive” training can be huge for a performance dog that does not get sufficient rest for their muscles to recover or that over trains during single sessions. I have personally seen over-training injuries such as torn or ruptured cruciate ligament (knee), spinal alignment issues that cause other compensations and lameness, shoulder injury, lumbar/sacral muscle soreness, escalation in reactive behavior, wrist arthritis from jumping, soft tissue injuries and MORE. Soft tissue injury is very hard to diagnose and can take a very long time to heal.
When I teach my online classes, private lessons and workshops, I talk a lot about schedules. Everyone’s schedule is different, that is for sure. It is important to develop a training plan that fits your schedule, your dog’s needs, and the individual goals for that dog, while keeping in mind what is best for the dog with respect to repetition and timed training. If you have multiple dogs in the house, your goals will likely be different for each dog due to age, weight, competition level, behavior issues, your available time etc. Spreadsheets work wonders for keeping track of this stuff!!!
I subscribe to the LESS IS MORE philosophy. When developing a training plan, you have to consider, performance training, strength/stretching and endurance training without “overdoing it”.
Rules of thumb for a healthy adult do
For a young dog before growth plates closed, I recommend training session not more than one minute for every month they are old. (walking or trotting limits, see my previous post “Sustained Trotting” ) Within each training session SEVERAL behaviors should be taught. The attention span of a puppy is very short and you will accomplish more by keeping your sessions short and not creating physical issues with repetition.
Questions and comments are always welcome
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Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, KPA CPT