Wednesday, January 21, 2009

29. Planning Training Sessions

Setting monthly goals and planning your training sessions will help you get 'there' in a step by step fashion. You can set weekly objectives too.

1. Create a checklist of tasks/behaviors you want to teach/are teaching and what learning stage you want to work on, where, what aspect of them you will work on. Be realistic. Once you get to know the speed that your dog learns at for a few tasks, you will be better able to realistically set goals. Don't be surprised though if your dog progresses faster or slower as each dog is better at some things than others. This may be a factor of his previous experience with similar types of tasks but could be a factor of his comfort level in each environment or many other reasons. Also consider if you will have obtained any needed equipment or human help for those tasks.

2. Look at how you progressed each month, revise it. What task might your dog need a break from? On what might he need more time spent? Do you want to introduce any new tasks?

3. Look ahead to the next month. What opportunities may present themselves? Are there several outdoor public events you could use as a new training location/increased distractions? Will you be cooped up inside during a winter month and maybe spending time learning new behaviors, then get them to level 2 ready for the spring?
Are there places you can train during bad weather? Or does your city have a list of
public events? If you need to work on other dog distractions, most cities have a kennel club that lists upcoming events that you can use as training venues (start in the parking lot and move in when you dog is ready-just respect competititor areas)

Recording your Training Sessions
You can use a spiral notebook, some looseleaf gathered in a binder, an Ecel spreadsheet designed for that purpose or even an on-line program designed for such as task. The
Training Levels Tracker is a great place to store them online. Making regular back up copies and storing them on your computer ensures you have all the data when you need it (in case a website is down or disappears.)

Some Things to Record:
*number of repetitions you did for each behavior
*how many were unsuccessful
*distance the dog is working away object (such as door or target)
*distance you are working away from dog
*duration of the task (such as a 3 second hold, or a 1 min 30 sec down)
*distraction levels
*time training each behavior
*other details

Remember that if you are planning to certify your dog, you need to keep track of the time spent on each task as well as overall training time to be able to report it.

The great thing about training your own dog is that you can prioritize what tasks you need your dog to do and (unless they require significant previous knowledge) train those first. He is then able to start helping from the time he has learned his first task.

There is no deadline for your dog to perform all the tasks. He will not fail since you can give him all the time he needs to learn when faced with a task that is challenging for him. Whether it takes 6 months or 3 years to perform a specific task reliably, it doesn't matter, as long as you and your dog are making some progress and having fun working together. Creating and regularly revising a training plan will help you achieve that!