When my boyfriend and I adopted Sasha, one simple thing that we started doing every day was keep a journal for her. Our “journal” was basically just an informal list about different things that she did every day so that we could see how she was progressing and adjusting to living in our household. When we started doing formal training, especially counter conditioning when it came to seeing other dogs while on walks, we made more detailed reports on how things were going.
The reason I recommend keeping a journal for our dog is that, when bringing a new dog into your house and training them, it can be easy to get frustrated when things go wrong. Dogs have bad days too, and when they do, you can look back at your journal to remind yourself of the bigger picture, and see that your dog really is improving over the long-term. Training can be a slow process, and it is all too easy to forget how far we have come since the beginning.
You can record whatever information that you want in your journal, and make it as detailed or as simple as you want it to be. Here are some of the things I kept track of with Sasha, just to give you some ideas:
- Housebreaking progress: I recorded each day if she had any accidents (or if she didn’t have any!), and the circumstances of each. This can be a great way to notice any trends or patterns in when/where your dog has accidents in order to prevent them in the future.
- General comfort in the house: as Sasha was adjusting to our house, I kept track each day of her comfort level, and recorded any anxiety-related behaviors that indicated that she wasn’t completely comfortable yet. I also recorded the opposite: any behaviors that made me think she was finally getting comfortable and relaxed.
- Leash reactivity: I also recorded her behaviors while on walks. I wrote down how many dogs she saw, whether or not she reacted to them, and how far away from us the other dogs were.
- Behaviors with cats: I kept track of the progress that Sasha and the cats made by recording when the cats came out of hiding and how much chasing/attempting to play that Sasha was doing.
- Behaviors with guests/new people: This wasn’t as important since Sasha adores every new person that she meets, but I still recorded how she did with other people visiting our house. If your dog is shy or reactive to new people at all, this would be a great thing to keep track of.
The list goes on, and you may think of different things that would be important to record for your specific dog. The best part about journaling is that now, 6 months later I can look back at it and say “Wow, Sasha had two accidents in the house in one day?! I can’t imagine her doing that now!” After a few months I stopped keeping such detailed notes, but now that we are beginning a new type of training I am going to start again. It is a super useful tool, and I can’t emphasize enough how much it helped us to stay sane and centered.