By Marika S. Bell, Director of Behavior & Training
When working on a specific training goal for your dog, keep a training journal to help track progress on the behavior you are teaching. Whether the goal is house training, diminishing fear reactions, or cute tricks, a journal will help you track how fast your dog learns by allowing you to follow slow progress, which reinforces that you are training effectively.
House Training Journals
Most puppies or new dogs will house train very easily with rewards and regularly scheduled outings. To help them become completely fluent, keep a journal of when the dog goes out for breaks to start to develop a schedule. As the dog starts to trust the schedule, he will find it a lot easier to “hold it,” because he knows that his break is coming soon. Puppies who don’t have a set schedule and don’t know when their next break is have a much harder time creating good habits.
New Behavior Journals
Dogs learn in three stages: introduction, generalization, and maintenance (fluency).
The Introduction Stage is where you first show the dog what you want them to do. You can lure the dog into position with treats, or you can use “shaping,” a technique with lots of rewards, but no luring required. You can also try to capture the behavior you want with a reward marker.
You can move on to the Generalization Stage when the dog can perform the cue eight to ten times with no distractions or changes to the environment. During Generalization, start to cue the behavior in new locations with minor distractions, or cue the behavior from a different position, such as while you are sitting or lying on the floor. Change only one element at a time, and teach the dog that the cue hasn’t changed even if the environment has.
Once the dog can handle many distractions or changes to the environment, you are ready for the Maintenance Stage. To maintain the behavior, you need to practice it regularly, otherwise the dog may forget.
Keeping a journal, especially if training multiple dogs, will help
you remember which stage of each training behavior each dog is working on.
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