This morning I was reading Dressage Today and came across a factoid that really drove home the importance of training right the first time…
Studies have shown that when learning a new skill it takes 300 to 500 repetitions of a movement before motor memory is developed. When working to change a habit it takes 3000 to 5000 reps to alter the old motor memory.
This was an aha! moment for me even though I already knew this to be true (sometimes you need a reminder to be mindful in your knowledge). When learning something myself or training an animal it’s always faster to do it right the first time. The saying “old habits die hard” is obviously true! When LBD arrives he (or she) will be a clean slate. Anything he learns will be something I allowed him to learn, so it’s in everybody’s best interest to teach him right the first time. It takes 10x as long to relearn an existing behavior as it does to learn a new one!
Another takeaway is that new behaviors don’t happen overnight. If you’re training sit, your dog’s butt needs to hit the floor 300-500 times before he really knows how to sit on command. Sure your dog was born knowing how to sit, but he wasn’t born knowing the human word “sit” means put your butt on the floor. As far as he’s concerned you’re speaking Farsi.