Duration Work


1. the length of time something continues or exists

2. continuance in time.

In my dog training programs, like to think of duration work as be still and be present.   Observe and process what's going on around you.   Learn how to relax and settle down.   Learn how to just allow things to take place around you no matter how distracting they may be.

A calm state of mind sets the tone for a better quality of life and better decision making.   It is a foundational exercise essential for every dog.

Duration Work in dog training is an important piece of the puzzle that I think many people miss.  Especially, pet parents.   I often see dogs that are highly aroused and adrenalized, all the time.   They have no off-switch.   When you're training they are amped up and primed to moved on to he next thing.   Even when they finally do lay down  -- they have one eye open at the least little sound or movement and are just ready to go-go-go at any time.

  • It's ok to require your dog to settle down and hold command while guests are over, if you don't feel well, while the kids play, etc -- even if he' been crated all day.

  • It's ok to require a dog who is nervous or fearful of strangers, or thunder storms to hold a long command while things go on around them.

  • It's ok for you to require a dog who is typically Velcro-dog to sit across the room from you or even in another room.

  • It's ok for a bratty dog, resource guarder, or other aggressive behaviors to simply be present and watch other dog or people play / eat, etc.

  • It's ok for a dog afraid of small children to sit and observe kids play at the park.

In fact, it's more than ok.  It's beneficial.  You need to have solid control and clear expectations for your dog.  And he needs to learn to just chill.

Why is Duration Work In Dog Training Effective?

This is state of mind work.  It is essential to everything you're trying to teach your dog.   If his state of mind is aroused all the the time, I can assure you he's not going to do his best work and he's not going to make good decisions when it matters most.

You need your dog to reach a state of relaxation that it doesn't matter to him if the doorbell rings, another dog is barking or your kid is crying.    You need your dog to be comfortable in his own skin.  You need your dog to let go of anxiety that worries you're going to get out of his sight -- especially for dogs with Separation Anxiety. 

Duration work isn't hard to do at all.  And it's not even time consuming for you.   You can require your dog to perform a good down-stay or place command while you read, work on your computer, make dinner, etc.   When you first start teaching this you might have a few interruptions to put the dog back on command - - but in time, he gets it.

What can you expect from a stressed out dog

Energy has to leave the body somehow.  For an anxious / insecure dog the act of being still may make your dog very uncomfortable.   He may pant or even tremble.     When this happens, I try to leave them until they lay down and rest.  (Remember with Place they have a choice of positions) Some dogs will fight it and practically fall asleep sitting up.  Others will lay down, but not rest their head, or they will remain quite alert.    Attempt to achieve relaxation.

I'll leave a dog about an hour.  If they haven't achieved relaxation, I may change the command to down and see if that helps.  (Remember if you move them to down -- that's the position they have to hold).   If after about 2 hours we haven't achieved relaxation -- I'll give them a potty break and then send them to their crate.

I will practice this daily.  Each time should get progressively better.  This work can be as hard for the dog as physical exercise.  It's certainly mentally exhausting -- but ideally we're are ultimately relieving the stress they carry.

Set a goal of being able to have your dog hold place or down stay -- anywhere -- for up to two hours.    And under great distractions.  (This exercise is more about requiring the time commitment, than it is about whether he breaks command or not.  If he breaks, just put him back... over and over)

Over time work to achieve high levels of arousal and then move directly to this relaxed state of mind place command.   Duration work can help you achieve that.

Where can you practice?   Everywhere!  And Anytime.

  • Dinner time

  • Doorbells

  • While the family has dinner or game night

  • The park or cafe

  • Around distractions that may make your dog uncomfortable.

  • Just because it's 2:09 in the afternoon and you want him to.

Dana Brigman