I get hassled quite a lot for the amount of time I spend training my dog, mostly by new people just starting to explore the sport of IPO.
Sometimes it’s good-natured, sometimes it isn’t.
But for some reason, whenever people see Brody and I work, the subject of “time” always comes up.
So, for Part Six of this series, let’s talk about time, and the amount of it it takes to find success in this sport.
To begin with, I’m really not sure it’s even a question of “time” so much as “commitment”. Whenever someone tells me they don’t have “time” to work their dog enough, it’s often because they are spending that time elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but let’s be clear when we talk about not having enough “time” versus “there are other ways I prefer to spend said time”.
IPO is a time-suck. There is no way around it. Somehow, you have to find time to train tracking and obedience several times a week, each, and somehow also find the time to work protection in there on occasion. Also, your working dog probably needs a daily (or twice daily, in Brody’s case) cardio session to stay sane.
It’s a lot.
And there’s no way around that. No amount of “I have other things to do” will change the amount of time the sport will require of you. Best to accept that now than to be disappointed when your dog isn’t any further along a year from now.
How much time, exactly?
I spend about two to three hours on it a day, seven days a week. Which comes out to about 20ish hours per week. It really doesn’t seem like much to me, but it’s about equivalent to a part-time job.
I sometimes don’t feel like I’m doing enough, either. I don’t track more than two to three days a week, for example (and I don’t always get in even that much).
And before you ask – no – I do not have a regular 9-5 job. I’m fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule, which certainly makes finding the time for dog training easier. But the time would have to be found, regardless, if I expected any sort of progress with my dog.
In addition to the time I spend on my own, I pay for A LOT of training with a professional. In the six-months prior to trialing for Brody’s BH, I was working with my trainer about four times a week. We’ve tapered off a bit now, for Winter, to about once or twice a week, but will ramp back up again come Spring in hopes of trialing for Brody’s IPO1 next Fall.
Even with all of that – time spent daily and with my trainer – it still took us over a year to be prepared for our BH – I’m a new handler, this is my first IPO dog – shit takes time.
I’m not trying to scare you (okay, maybe a little), I’m just trying to be clear about the time commitment this sport requires.
Are there people who find success with far less time invested per day? Of course!
But, for the most part, they are looking at a longer timeline. If you can only spend, say ten hours per week training, you may be looking at 1.5 – 2 years before you are BH ready. And that is perfectly okay! There is no reason to be discouraged if this is you!
There is just no way around the time commitment that this sport requires. No amount of pouting about it will change it.
And, as a newbie to the sport, it’s important to realize this. To understand what you are getting into. This isn’t something to be taken lightly, or that you can pick up and put down as easily as a video game. It requires sustained, consistent effort.
You wouldn’t expect to run a Boston-qualifying marathon if you only trained twice a week, would you?
Of course not.
And just so, you should not expect to take a dog from eight-week-old puppy to IPO1 in the space of two years if you are only doing the bare-minimum training.
I cannot tell you the number of people that only train their dogs on club days, and get frustrated by their lack of progress. These people all inevitably quit coming at all within about six months. I have a hard time sympathizing with them, though. It should be obvious that you have to train more than once a week to get anywhere, but, if it isn’t, I’ll say it again now – you have to train more than once a week to get anywhere!
You have to do your homework during the week if you want to see progress on the weekend.
This isn’t a casual hobby – it’s a grand passion. Something you have to be “all-in” for to do well.
So, before you take the leap, ask yourself, are you prepared to be all-in?