How to Keep Track of your Dogs Progress

It’s very important to log your dog’s training

Keeping track of how your dog is progressing is an invaluable tool for both yourself and your mentors.  Often a problem is the cumulative effect of several trainings and may only come to light if it is written down.  There are many ways a handler may track training.  Here are the many I have used.

Paper Logs

They are portable and easy to use. All you need is the log and a pen.

Journal

The simplest is an inexpensive lined journal.  Simply write all that happened during each training session.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • portable
  • unformatted – freedom to write anything

Cons:

  • subject to weather
  • unformatted – hard to track progress and find what is important in the text
  • difficult to remember what is important to write down
  • difficult to share with others
  • bad handwriting
  • cannot be backed up easily

Formatted Log Forms

You can use any word processor to create a training form.  Simply print them out, punch holes in them, and put in a binder.  Concentrate on making the important information easy to see at a glance using check boxes and the like.

Pros:

  • Easy to scan for important information
  • Standardized – use one form for the whole team
Cons:
  • limits amount of room for long notes

Drive Log

These are most useful with younger dogs, although I still work on drive with my operational dog. Notice how you have the ability to see the important information.

Search Logs

Everything you need to keep track of is easy to see with a form like this.  Remember to KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid!) Make things easy on the eye and simple to scan for information quickly.  The idea here is to see patterns and catch problems.

On the reverse side, I write down information to help me remember exactly what happened so I may easily recall that day’s particulars.  These logs were written nearly two years ago, but my unique comments bring back the memory in full.

Categories to include are:

  • Details of the search exercise.  Explain how the problem was set up and exactly what the dog did.
  • Comments from your mentor or team mates – they will see things you do not.  Dog problems are typically caused by things the handler does.  Many times you do things without realizing it!
  • Comments from the handler – What did you see?
  • Things to work on – What advice did others give you? How are you going to set up the training next time?

Now, just remember to bring your logs to EVERY training.

Computer Logs

Smart phones and ipads and tablets have enabled us to bring documents with us everywhere.  They also allow us to share that information to our home computer and others with a press of a button.

Pros:

  • infinitely changeable
  • can be backed up
  • shareable
  • ability to link videos and images
  • searchable
  • date stamped
  • don’t have to worry about bad handwriting

Cons:

  • not as easy to use in the field
  • needs a full battery
  • not as easy to standardize – everyone has a different device to use
  • cannot be used by all devices – cross platform concerns (iphones use different software from androids and pcs)
  • privacy concerns
  • must REMEMBER to back up to multiple devices

Since I have my phone with me everywhere and have found videos from that days training may be shot to accompany my day’s log, I have switched to computer logs. I have seen trainers use everything from word processors to excel.

An excellent program available on most all platforms is Evernote.  It is accessible anywhere and can have anything from forms, documents, videos, web links, photos, and more embedded in each note.  I have moved nearly everything to this.

Evernote backs everything up from my phone to the “cloud.”  It is password protected, I may access it with any device, and may share each individual note with anyone through a variety of ways.

evernote for k9 search and rescue logs

My only complaint is I must learn to create a template to use for training logs, otherwise they become as difficult to read as a personal diary. I simply made a template copying the paper training logs above.  Instead of circling each option, I highlight the word and set the computer to underline it.

Pros:

  • infinitely sharable
  • works on all platforms
  • can embed videos, documents, web links, videos, diagrams, drawings, and nearly anything else within each note
  • automatically backs up
  • easily organized with keywords, tags, and notebooks (folders)
  • searchable
  • date stamped – can be searched this way too
  • password protected

Cons:

  • unformatted – must either learn to create a template for easy scanning of information
  • small learning curve
  • not as fast as writing with a pen and paper
  • careful what you share

Blog

Sure, why not use a blog to track your training!  I use the blog along with other apps to track my progress.  THIS blog to be exact.  If you visit the early days of this blog, you will see how.  Since my blog is public, it forces me to really consider what I am writing.  Of course, I link each blog posting to each corresponding personal log in evernote so I may write freely there.

I would write my training in a paper journal each day, then would use that to write each blog post.  This would force me to read and think about what I wrote each day.  It unfortunately caused me to edit out information that needed to be kept out of public eye. (such as choice words used when he ate my new sneakers)

Remember, you are a first responder and your public postings could be used in court.  Think about what information you are sharing before putting it in electronic form!

No matter what you use

to keep track of your training.  Be sure it is easy for you to use.

-and-

Remember to use it

TELL US!

What do YOU use to track your dogs progress?

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