Looking Back: 5 Reasons to Chart Your Dog Training Progress

Biting Golden Retriever puppy

I’d introduce myself but it’s rude to talk with my mouth full.

I didn’t think I’d survive Honey’s puppyhood.

It was like living with a fuzzy little land shark.

Honey was sooooooo mouthy. She had to put those sharp little razor teeth on everything–my hair, my ears, my hands, my sweater, my bodacious tatas. I swear I spent the first two months of Honey’s life with us in tears.

But eventually the learning kicked in. She got her adult teeth. And today, Honey has amazing bite inhibition.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the beginning and see just how far my little biting monster has come.

Review Where You Began

I’ve checked out two resources for working with fearful, reactive dogs lately. Our trainer lent me the DVD series, TACT: A Training Program for Dogs that Are Fearful or Reactive Toward People. And I picked up Debbie Jacobs’ Guide to Living With and Training a Fearful Dog.

Both recommend keeping a progress journal.

Of course I haven’t done it. But my husband reminded me today how far Cherie has come in the short time she’s been with us. So I began thinking about why I should chart our dog training progress.

Why We Need to Track Our Progress

  • Because our brains are bad historians. Shortly after we accomplish something, our brain moves on to thinking about what we have yet to do.
  • So we don’t get stuck. If a goal is particularly hard to reach, we get bogged down without realizing how much we’ve already done.
  • Earlier progress holds clues to moving other goals forward. If we can see how we reached one goal, we might figure out the key to completing the next step.
  • To be compassionate toward ourselves. When we don’t review our progress, we feel like a failure.
  • To be compassionate toward our dog. So we can appreciate how much they’ve done already.

Yep, that sounds pretty convincing. I need to look back.

Charting Chérie’s Progress

Last Friday we had a low day. But Chérie has made amazing progress. And we need to celebrate how far she’s come.


Before Now
Barked at everyone walking by the front porch Sits quietly when anyone walks by as long as they don’t stop
Took nearly an hour to walk six blocks; frequently refused to move Walks continuously and will follow when I say, “let’s go”
Would not sit on cue Sits on cue where she feels comfortable–in the house, on the porch, or on a walk if she’s on her “mat”
Did not play with toys Comforts herself by chewing on Nylabones
Freaked out by ordinary household sounds–cupboard closing, computer turning on, items going in the recycling bin Ignores many common sounds or recovers quicker with new sounds
Ran away at sight of laundry hamper, trash can, or broom being moved Still shy but recovers quickly and will respond to clicker shaping her closeness to a new object
Did not know her name Responds to the sound of her name, sometimes even on walks
Frequently pulled on leash to go toward the street Ignores the street and walks on the sidewalk

Pretty good, huh? I think Chérie has a lot to be proud of.

And I feel better too.

Have you ever kept a training log? Do you consider your blog or other social media site a record of the work you’ve done?

Hound Mix and Golden Retriever

You have to be more patient with Cherie. Not every dog can be as perfect as me. Now, where’s that anchovy tin I hid?

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  1. I’ve been really bad about keeping a journal/chart although I would argue the blog is a good way to look back and see where we were as opposed to where we are.

    When I feel overwhelmed with Delilah’s training, I think back to that first day and remember just how far we have actually come.

    You’ve done a wonderful job with Cherie (and Honey) and that should definitely be celebrated!

  2. When we first got Hurley, I made a chart listing all the goals I had for him in his first year. Most I accomplished, some I didn’t but taking the time to write everything down and break down how to get each one accomplished really helped guide me through our first year. He’s not perfect but I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished since that bitey, temper tantrum throwing first couple of weeks!

  3. LOL – “Bringing up Bella is a journal of sorts…” Straight out of my elevator speech. 😉

    One of the driving forces to create the blog was to keep track, and share, Bella’s progress over her life. At the time, it was simply to share it with Jan. I didn’t realize others would fall in love with her, too.

    But we also keep a real journal where we keep track of her meds, her diet, her general behavior and mood. It’s not as exciting a journal but I have found it invaluable for working with her and her various trainers, vets, etc.

    Cherie has come a long way and you should be proud and pleased with what you have done for her. Honey, too. :)

  4. Keeping better records is one of the reasons I started the blog. I’ve tried, off and on, to have a little journal for Silas, but I’m terrible at it.

    Obedience class has been our best reminder of how far he’s come. He’s like a different dog in class this time. While there are structural reasons for it–I’m not bringing my husband, the class is smaller, there are some visual barriers up–a lot of it is just that Silas is getting more confident.

    We also have a lot of little lifestyle reminders around. We can have throw pillows on the couch again. We took down the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. When I turn around from getting dressed, Silas is sitting, rather than trying to chew my pants. This summer I can wear my nice clothes (and bare legs!); last summer was all puppy teeth and claws.

  5. This is one of the reasons I wish I had started my blog from the moment we adopted Shiva instead of a year later. I didn’t have the time really and I didn’t know how much of a work in progress she was going to be, but it would be great now to have a record of all we went through. I am awful at record-keeping but blogging does help cement things in my memory, and it gives me something to look back on. That is, if I can rid old posts without cringing. 😛

    Cherié has come very far in just a very short time. You all have a lot to be proud of, I’d say.

  6. wow i might start doing this with Nanook. Funny you’re talking about biting and I just blogged about how Nanook’s getting on with learning not to! (my arm is shredded boo).

    I guess my blog tracks how he gets on, but i like the little before and after comparison you’ve done too

  7. Cherie really has come a long way – and so fast. (It amazes me how many of the same issues Meadow had.) I kept a training log with Toby for years and years, and for some reason, I never started one with Meadow. I don’t really know why not, but I should say,with her I can easily see the progress without a log, where with Toby, I could not see it and still sometimes don’t see it to this day. So maybe that’s why I needed the journal with him and not Meadow? It’s hard to say….

    But back to Cherie….whether you decide to log her progress, chart it like above, or not bother to document it at all – you are obviously doing something right because she is improving amazingly fast. I just wanted to commend you for all of your hard work. Her new owners, whoever they end up being, are so lucky that Cherie found someone like you to foster her and help her past so many of her fears.

  8. The original purpose of my blog was to keep a journal of the things I had done with my guide dog puppy, Stetson for myself, friends, and family. Also, depending on how tough a time I’m having when I first bring home a puppy I will sometimes keep a puppy potty log to help me figure out the best time to take my pups out for potty breaks.

  9. That’s a great idea :) It is often really hard to remember where we started and how far we have come! I remember LOTS of tears when Cali was a puppy. Those teeth are so razor sharp! Great job with both Honey and Cherie!

  10. Sounds like you are doing really really well and progressed very well. Typist is having similar problems with her dogs and sometimes feels that just as she is getting somewhere everything takes a step back, but then when she looks at the bigger picture she see’s how well she has come! She may have to keep on of those journal things to help keep sane (although I think she passed that mile stone a while ago!)

  11. Great idea. It can be rewarding to look back and see how much has been achieved and also fun too. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  12. I wish we’d kept a progress chart of training – it would be lovely to look back on. We kept height and weight charts.

  13. Cherie has done so well in such a short time. We still can’t get Felix to sit quietly while people pass and it’s sooooo embarrassing! You know, it never occurred to me to keep a training journal, but I can absolutely see the value.

    For me, the blog is a great place to look back. I can be a tad scattered in my real life (GASP, I know you’re shocked, right?) The blog allows me to gather the best of our pictures and stories into one spot. I suspect that without an audience, I might forget to record these things.

  14. Wow! You and Cherie have come a pretty long way. Congrats on the progress.

    You’re so right about the importance of looking back at where your dog has been. It can be the thing that keeps you going. I use the blog for that purpose. And, in fact, we never fixed a door frame that Desmond did a number on last year. At first it was out of laziness and lack of know-how, but now I like it that way. It serves as a daily reminder of how improved my pup is.

  15. “Because our brains are bad historians.” – isn’t’ that the truth?!? Of course, we aren’t being trained as kittehs…but Mommy’s working on Faraday’s skittishness. Does that count?

  16. I would put Thunder up against Honey as the worst puppy that was ever a bad puppy any day…lol. But when he turned 18 months all of his bad behavior vanished over night.

    Cheri is just so cute!