How Long Should You Train Your Dog

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How long does it take to train your dog to meet a challenge?

I don’t know how long it takes you but let me show you how long we’ve been preparing Honey to live aboard a sailboat.

Honey the Golden Retriever poses with the keel of a sailboat out of the water.

I heard sailing was all about sitting in the cockpit, drinking margaritas, and watching the sun go down. Where’s the cockpit? Where’s my margarita? And what’s the sun?

Training Excitement

I admit it.

With our lives turned upside down after selling our house and everything we own, I haven’t been working with Honey as much as usual.

Honey the golden retriever lies on the floor.

Living out of boxes is tough. I can hardly wait to unpack. I bet you have all kinds of treats and toys hidden away.

But confessing my big training fail led to some great suggestions from S’Waggers about how I can amp up Honey’s training while we’re looking for our new sailing home.

I’ve dug out my clicker and am figuring out how to make temporary training equipment from stuff in my sister’s garage. And thanks for suggesting videos to watch for ideas on what to teach Honey and how.

But I haven’t always been a slacker.

Training For A Boat (And A Bike)

Way back in 2012, we were already thinking about what it would take to teach our cautious girl to be comfortable with a home that’s constantly moving.

Have you seen her Adventure Dog In Training video?

When we first got the idea of moving onto a sailboat, Honey wouldn’t even walk on a ramp lying flat on the ground. It freaked her out.

We weren’t sure she’d walk on a floating dock or boarding ramp.

But once Honey got used to the wobble board, teeter, and homemade ramp, it was time to take her on an actual sailboat to see how she’d like it.

Honey On Board

Last summer we chartered a dog-friendly sailboat in Kingston, Ontario for a week.

The folks at Solvit kindly gave us a Telescoping Dog Ramp (affiliate) to review and help Honey move on and off the dock.

At first, she’d do anything to avoid stepping on the ramp. Even when I tossed liver treats all over it.

Honey the golden retriever eyes liver on her Solvit Telescoping Pet Ramp.

I smell the liver but I can’t figure out how to get to it.

It appeared Honey wouldn’t tolerate a boarding ramp, much less living on a boat.

But with several weeks of work, she became comfortable walking on the ramp.

In fact, we had to put the ramp away once Honey discovered she could use it to visit the dog-loving sailors in the next slip without us.

How Long Should You Train Your Dog

So how long should you train your dog to meet a challenge?

As long as it takes.

We didn’t know we’d be setting sail when we brought Honey home to live with us in 2010. But we did know we wanted her to be comfortable with a lot of situations and people.

We exposed Honey to every unusual thing we could think of when she was a puppy.

Honey the golden retriever does her own dog sport gymnastics.

Wait, why does this floor move?

And thank goodness we did. Because Honey has enough natural timidity that if we hadn’t socialized her to so many experiences as a puppy, she’d probably never take to it as an adult.

The socialization and training we’ve done with Honey so far have created a good foundation.

With all the great suggestions I got yesterday, I know she’ll be happy in her new floating home.

Now who has suggestions for how to keep the humans from freaking out?

Honey the golden retriever enjoys sailing.

What’s with all the boats? Are you raising me to be a pirate?

Your Turn: My husband and I have thought about doing more videos with Honey. Is there anything you’d find fun to watch for a minute or two?

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  1. Oh my gosh! So awesome! I love your training techniques and the video’s are awesome! Happy Sailing!

    • Actually, seeing it on video makes me realize how much I rely on luring Honey with a treat to do something. That’s kinda sloppy.

      The video is old. Hopefully I’m better today. :)

  2. Sounds like it will be a great adventure!

  3. I think boat videos will be interesting. See how she manages in the small, not so stable quarters.

    • Those might not be terribly interesting videos. She tends to do the same thing on a boat she does at home–cuddling up to us and shedding.

      But I suspect she’ll dig up some awesome finds on the beach.

  4. Margaritas? Now that explains a lot about your plans. Love the videos. Can’t wait to see Honey skippering the yacht.

    • You realize that I’m determined to convince you that this is a good idea, right Jan? :)

      BTW, you should know that most cruising sailors spend 90% of their time at anchor. And most of that time drinking.

      I’m worried we won’t fit in because we like sailing too much and don’t drink enough. :)

  5. I’m glad Honey is now comfortable on your boat! Great advice about being patient with your dog and taking as much time as you need to train. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Well my own experience is that some training will take a lifetime, and progress will be incremental and slow. I guess it depends on what you’re training! Great that you got started early and have been so consistent…consistency is definitely not my strong point with dog training.

    • Consistency is not my strong point either. I stop and start.

      Seeing how much more confident Honey has become when training makes me regret not working with her more steadily.

  7. Amazing! Simply amazing. I’d sooooo love to live on a house boat so naturally I’m quite jealous. As for training, I find that more than 10-20 minutes at a time and Sam loses all focus and undoes everything we covered earlier. I think you’re going about it pawfectly! :) Good luck, matey!

  8. I’ve always felt like training is for life. If you don’t use it you lose it! We do short training sessions and some tricks have taken longer than others. If you do train more advanced tricks, one thing that people tend to forget is some of those tricks take building muscle mass for them to be able to do. It took me a couple of months to teach Zoe to limp. I actually need to work on it now again because she’s lost muscle mass from not practicing it.

    • Interesting point. Honey’s core strength could certainly be a factor in teaching her to do some climbing on the sail boat.

      I do regular training with Honey or boring life skills–recall, stay, leave it. But I’m slow to realize how helpful trick training can be. I’ll definitely look to y’all for inspiration.

  9. It is a bit disconcerting when the ground under your paws doesn’t feel stable. Well done on mastering the ramp, Honey!

    • That’s what Honey’s body language told us. I’m been very impressed at how she has adapted over time.

      You dogs sure are impressive.

  10. For the humans — deep breathing exercises, counting backwards from 10 (or 5 if not too freaked), and lots of laughing at yourselves for being freaked out while Honey looks at you with her “what’s with all the drama?” look.

    Just any video of you two with Honey is fine with me!

  11. I loved both of your videos in this post, so please do post more, especially featuring boats, docks, and water!! Makes me daydream a little :-) I think it’s amazing how proactive you have been in training Honey to adjust to life aboard; I really enjoyed watching her jump in and out of the bike trailer!

  12. Honey looks so comfortable with the ramp. Great job, Mom! I think she’s going to adapt very well to your new life on the water.