Record Keeping

I’ve had a post about “record keeping” in the back of my mind for some time now.  I’ve been through several iterations in that time, mostly because I’ve been trying to find something that really works for me.  I’ve revised my methods at least three times but now I think I’m on to a winner, so will share what I do, in the hopes that it helps some of you with your record keeping.  First, I want to share why I keep records for my dog training.  It’s something that completely passed me by for the first few years I owned dogs, even when I was interested in training them to a high standard (not that I’m not now, but different dogs mean different priorities).  Then I read Susan Garrett’s book “Ruff Love”, in which Susan suggests we should keep records of our dog training to help us be better trainers.  I didn’t immediately decide to start keeping records, but that comment planted a seed in my mind, and the more I thought about it the more I realised that was an accurate statement.

In 2010, when I (technically) didn’t have a dog to call my own, I had some “surrogate dogs” that I would train in classes or one-on-one, and I would write down what had been trained in each session so that I could remember from session-to-session what we’d done, and how well we’d done it.  I also made notes when I spent some time working with the dogs in a local rescue kennels, as then I could refresh my memory about an individual dog’s problems and successes, as well as keep in mind how the “quiet kennel” protocol was progressing.

So, on to how I keep my dog training records now, but remember: just because this system works for me, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for anyone else!  There’s no hard-and-fast rule for record keeping, except that you should definitely do what works for you!

I’ve already shared part of my record keeping with you here, it’s where I note Starr’s brand new and/or amazing progressions, and absolutely nothing more.  The one thing I will say about this is I wish I’d started it sooner, as I’ve probably missed out some things, or added some things that happened before the BoW came to fruition.  Nonetheless I’m glad I have it now, as it helps me to see her progress in areas I wouldn’t necessarily write down in our ‘normal’ records.

For our more every day record keeping, I start off with my Filofax.  The Filofax/diary-in-a-binder system is totally new to me this year, and I only started using it because I couldn’t find a “regular” diary I liked for 2014, and after struggling last year I realised I could make my life much easier if all I needed to do each year was but new sheets of paper to fill a diary/binder I already owned and liked.  If you decide to follow my footsteps, you don’t need a Filofax, just a regular binder would be more than adequate, I was simply trying to make things easy for myself and cut-down the amount of ‘stuff’ I might need to carry around to organise myself.

I set up my Filofax to have a ‘dog training’ section, which I’ve sub-divided into three more sections: long-term training plans; short-term training plans; and temporary training journals.

The long-term sheets are for my longer-term plans, at the moment they cover 2014, you can see Starr’s is really simple, and the most important thing I want us to have “improved” upon this year is Starr’s joy and attitude.  Hopefully in a year or two I’ll be more bothered about her heeling in distracting environments, but let’s not run before we can crawl!

I mainly use my short-term plans for specific activities: response to doorbell is the one I have now, but I want to write one out for ‘hold’, ‘play retrieve’, and ‘formal retrieve’, among other things.

The main section is my temporary training journal sheets: here I make notes on every training session we have during the day.  These (eventually!) get written up into my “proper” training journal.  Alongside this, I also have a “tracker sheet”, on which a sticker is placed over each date we’ve had a day where I’ve recorded a training session.  Not all dates get covered, but that doesn’t mean we did no training, it just means we didn’t have any form of session; I’m a firm believer that every interaction with your dog is training, but what I want to capture in my journal are specific behaviours or activities, rather than every-day-well-behaved-ness.

Overall, I think that keeping records, like this, helps me – helps us – in our training journey, and as time progresses it will be a nice record to look back on, if not a good warning on how to go less wrong with future dogs!

What about you, do you record keep for your dog training, or do you want to record keep and haven’t yet had the right inspiration?