The effect of frequency and duration of training sessions on acquisition and long-term memory in dogs

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Most domestic dogs are subjected to some kind of obedience training, often on a frequent basis, but the question of how often and for how long a dog should be trained has not been fully investigated. Optimizing the training as much as possible is not only an advantage in the training of working dogs such as guide dogs and police dogs, also the training of family dogs can benefit from this knowledge. We studied the effect of frequency and duration of training sessions on acquisition and on long-term memory. Forty-four laboratory Beagles were divided into 4 groups and trained by means of operant conditioning and shaping to perform a traditional obedience task, each dog having a total of 18 training sessions. The training schedules of the 4 groups differentiated in frequency (1–2 times per week vs. daily) and duration (1 training session vs. 3 training sessions in a row). Acquisition was measured as achieved training level at a certain time. The dogs’ retention of the task was tested four weeks post-acquisition. Results demonstrated that dogs trained 1–2 times per week had significantly better acquisition than daily trained dogs, and that dogs trained only 1 session a day had significantly better acquisition than dogs trained 3 sessions in a row. The interaction between frequency and duration of training sessions was also significant, suggesting that the two affect acquisition differently depending on the combination of these. The combination of weekly training and one session resulted in the highest level of acquisition, whereas the combination of daily training and three sessions in a row resulted in the lowest level of acquisition. Daily training in one session produced similar results as weekly training combined with three sessions in a row. Training schedule did not affect retention of the learned task; all groups had a high level of retention after 4 weeks. The results of the study can be used to optimize training in dogs, which is important since the number of training sessions often is a limiting factor in practical dog training. The results also suggest that, once a task is learned, it is likely to be remembered for a period of at least four weeks after last practice, regardless of frequency and duration of the training sessions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)228-234
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ID: 40307082