White terrier mix dog standing in a green field with a red collar on

What is a Training Break?

For every 10 – 15 second training set, you will follow up with a 60 second break. I recommend using a timer to create a predictable flow to each training session. 

Here are 5 reasons breaks will improve the quality of your training.

Reason #1:

Breaking up each training set will help your dog learn how to “switch gears.” They will learn that there’s a time and a place to focus on you, and a time and a place to engage with the environment, independently. They will learn that there’s a time and a place to be calm and settled, and a time and a place to have some fun and play. This is a critical skill that will dramatically improve your dog’s ability to focus around distractions, walk on a loose leash, or come when they’re called in later training.

Reason #2:

It will accelerate the speed at which they acquire new information in training. You might find that your dog makes an impressive leap forward in training after each break you give them. A new exercise that proves to be more difficult might come more easily once they’ve been given some “think time.”

Reason #3:

Using a release cue and providing breaks will strengthen your dog’s ability to offer calm, focused behavior on cue because they will learn that each interaction in training will always have a clear end point that will give them time and space to explore, play, chew or get a drink of water. 

Reason #4:

Breaks will give you the opportunity to observe your dog. Be curious. What does your dog choose to do during their break? How does this change depending on the environment you’re training in?

Reason #5:

These breaks can help your dog learn not to;

  • Jump on you 
  • Bark for food, toys or attention. 

If your dog jumps, bites or barks during this 60 second window you are going to quietly look to the ceiling and freeze. As soon as your dog quietly stands with four paws on the ground you can offer a chewy or play item. Make sure that they have all four paws on the floor when they receive the item, and if you are playing with them, keep the intensity of the play low and stay at their level. Once 60 seconds has passed you are going to trade food for the toy and continue with your next training set. Through this process your dog is going to learn that all of their needs will be met, without having to jump or bark to get your attention. 

Initial mat work with the 3 D’s: duration, distraction and distance – will occur in a quiet living room, and for this reason chewies and toys can be used during the break. After you have completed these three weeks of training will begin generalizing the training to different environments, like your yard or a quiet park. When you start training in these spaces you might find it beneficial to leave chewies and toys out of the equation so that your dog is encouraged to use their break time to explore the environment and learn about new or stimulating sights, sounds and smells!

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