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?

Dog Training New Years Resolutions – 2013 Review

This is later than I intended, but I’ve been busy helping a collie get a rescue space.  Thankfully, everything’s sorted now, barr her having a little sleepover at my house before being picked up this weekend.

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Last January, I posted a list of things I wanted to accomplish with Inka and Starr; I called them my “dog training New Years resolutions“.  Before I look at my intentions for the coming year, I want to take a moment to look at how I did with those resolutions.

To review, last year I resolved to:
* Train my dogs more!
* Train because it’s fun!
* Not waste breath and energy on cruel, pushy, aggressive, and ignorant people that rely on those same behaviours to bully animals and other people.
* Do my coursework!
* Be open to new and different things

So, how did I do?  Well, starting on the negative – I didn’t finish my coursework.  Technically, I didn’t even start it, although I do have a lot of notes and plans for what I want to look at for each question, and I do now feel capable of starting it.

However, the good news is that I stuck to everything else!  I didn’t waste my energy on people who don’t want to know, and I did train both dogs more often, maybe not as much as I’d like to, but certainly more than I’d trained Inka in the past year.

Now that we’re starting to get past Starr’s demons, and I’ve been able to give Inka a break (which I feel that he needs as he still holds quite a lot of demons about learning in general from his early days, before he came to us), we’re concentrating on the fun things – Inka’s training has involved things I know he can do, and just having fun with those; Starr’s training has also been fun (like when we played with this box (below)), but she enjoys the learning process, so we’ve also done some more serious things together (like starting to work on her loose lead walking).

I will say, however, that I think part of the reason why I didn’t train more is because I felt a little bit overwhelmed.  I completed Pamela Dennison’s online course, and when the chance arose I signed up to Susan Garrett’s Recallers course – as part of that we got a whole second course for free, I also signed up for Denise Fenzi’s precision heeling course, and then her heelwork games class, and I then got the chance to become a member of Susan’s “inner circle” – so, of course, I jumped at it, and then Puppy Peaks came along, which I wanted in on as well!

Pam’s course had a small amount of material, and a DVD, so that was fine.  Recallers would release one five minute game every weekday for six weeks, and there was *a lot* of accompanying information (I filled a lever-arch ring binder!), Shaping a Difference was time-sensitive, and Puppy Peaks and the Inner Circle both are an amazing resource, plus both of Denise’s courses are full of information; I’ve then been back and forward to the vets a fair amount, alongside work, running a house, and all the regular exercising and bonding with my dogs.

I know, I know – I took too much on.  I’ve learnt my lesson, and (hopefully!) won’t do it again.  Starr & I are re-doing the Recallers games, but at a slower pace; once I get the mechanics down for the really fun ones, I’ll do those with Inka, leaving the “less fun”/more precise ones to later, or not at all if he would prefer not to; and it’ll be the same for Puppy Peaks, and anything that comes up in the IC (I’m desperately saving so that I may renew my membership, after a couple of surprise expenses in December).

Going forward, at least for the moment, I feel that the Say Yes!/Susan Garrett way is a really good fit for Starr, Inka, and myself; it also fits nicely with the ethos of our training instructor and her classes, plus there’s enough information held within it to help me teach many, many behaviours, and to equip me for figuring out almost anything it doesn’t contain specific information for.

So, what are my goals for this year?  Find out in my next post…

Wordless Wednesday 9

OK, I lied – it’s not completely wordless, but I’ll keep it short.  This will be my last Wordless Wednesday post for a little while.  I’ve taken a leap and upgraded to the ‘Inner Circle’ in Recallers, plus I have my coursework, not to mention my job and all the other everyday stuff, so for now something has to take a bit of a back seat.

Recallers

Why of course – how could I talk about anything else!  This is our training, and it’s easily becoming our lives.

I’ve started to realise that in everything we do, be it training, walking, playing, tugging, waiting, we must all be happy and joyful.  Yes, I know how bizarre that sounds – I knew that already!  But I think I’d become so focused on Inka and what he could and couldn’t do and how to manage him so we can do what’s needed, and some of what I’d like to do, I think I’d lost sight of what it’s really all about – fun!
Thanks to Starr and Recallers though, it’s starting to come back for me, and I hope I can bring it to Inka too.

We’re all starting to train in a more effective, and efficient way; I’m learning to actually record-keep for our training sessions, rather than just having a pretty training journal which is more ornament than use, and make ‘mental notes’, which I promptly forget; and I no longer bumble through training sessions, jolting from one exercise to another.  I have a plan (the critical core) and I stick to it!

For someone with OCD in being organised, I sure wasn’t applying it to my dog training!

Recallers proper only started yesterday, but between settling into the community, the pre-course and critical core games, and being excited to begin “real training”, the two weeks since I signed up have flown by.

Here’s a few clips I put together from a video I took this the weekend of Inka & I playing one of the games.  Inka already had a sort-of recall (we’ve not worked on it much lately) so we progressed this quickly from our garden, to the street in front of our house (on a long line), and I thought this would be a good third location for us, as this is somewhere Inka & I have worked before and he has a history of paying attention here.

You can see the speed he’s coming back to me with already, and as I’ve said on the Recallers forum, I’m starting to have the sort of problem I like having, see if you can spot it!

And yes, this is even before the course has really started!  So to the person who found my blog by Googling “do you get money worth susan garrett recallers” – my answer is: absolutely!