Research on Training Sessions – Frequency & Duration

As many of you know, I’m a big believer in short training sessions. Along those lines, here is the Abstract to a great research article (available from the authors for purchase should you want to read all the details) on this topic.
The effect of frequency and duration of training sessions on acquisition and long-term memory in dogs.


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.

Keywords: Acquisition; Dogs; Massed training; Spaced training; Retention; Long term memory

Article Outline

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Materials and methods
    • 2.1. Subjects
    • 2.1.1 Distribution into the groups
    • 2.2. Training
      • 2.2.1. Initial training
      • 2.2.2. Training schedule
    • 2.3. Test of long-term memory after four weeks
    • 2.4. Statistics
  • 3. Results
    • 3.1. The effect on acquisition
    • 3.2. Retention test four weeks post-acquisition
  • 4. Discussion
    • 4.1. The effect of a differential training schedule on acquisition
    • 4.1.2 Long-term memory
    • 4.2. Mechanisms behind the spacing effect
    • 4.2.1 Consolidation during sleep and while awake
    • 4.2.2 The effect of duration
  • 5. Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
Abstract as well as means to purchase entire article can be found HERE.

Helle DemantaCorresponding Author Contact InformationE-mail The Corresponding Author, Jan Ladewigb, Thorsten J.S. Balsbya, Torben Dabelsteena

a University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Dept. of Biology. Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 København Ø Denmark
b University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Life Sciences, Dept. of Large Animal Sciences. Grønnegårdsvej 8, DK-1870, Frederiksberg C, Denmark

Accepted 17 May 2011. Available online 15 June 2011.

As a 20+ year dog agility coach, I am passionate about producing quality resources for dog agility teams by promoting self-development and delivering clear and specific training solutions that enable teams' to perform with clarity and confidence!

My unique experience as a hands-on trainer and 18+ year dog agility judge led me to create Sequencing For Success and the highly successful 2on-2off Contact Training DVD.

Our household has included Dalmatians, Labradors, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collies and engaging cats.

Contact Lisa via email AgilityOne at (replace at with @ sign)