Recordkeeping is probably the most overlooked tool in the average trainer's toolbox. It's also probably one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal -- perhaps even more powerful than the clicker! Records are objective. Keeping a record of your training will help you know exactly what you've trained and exactly how your dog is performing.

Possible fields for training records include:

  • Behavior being trained.
  • Date.
  • Session start and end times (or duration of session).
  • Specific criterion for the session.
  • Number of responses/Number of errors.
  • Notes.

This doesn't have to be a time-intensive process. Although taking the time to record your data between sessions does take away from your training time, using the information to evaluate your last session and plan your next, enables you to make your training incredibly efficient. Ultimately, you will progress faster because you won't waste time doing too many reps at one level or backing up because you progressed when you shouldn't have.

The record sheet I use looks essentially like this table:

  • Date: Session date.
  • Criterion: The specific aspect you're training in this session. For example, second of eye contact. The criterion determines when you click.

    The rule is simple: You click when you achieve the criteria. If your criterion is second of eye contact, you click after second of eye contact. If the criterion is 5 seconds of eye contact, you click after 5 seconds.

    In addition to the session criterion, I, personally, make notes in the criterion field. I might note an unexpected distraction, the session duration, or my observations about the rate of emitted behavior.

  • #R/E: Number of repetitions/Number of errors.

    Why count repetitions and errors? Comparing the ratio of repetitions to errors gives you an objective way to determine the reliability of a behavior. When training a behavior, strive for 80% reliability at a criterion before making it harder.

    If you work in sets of either 5 or 10 reps, it's easy to tell when you've reached 80% reliability. Use the following guide:

    • In a 5 rep session, 4 out of 5 correct equals 80%. If you make 2 or more errors, stay at the same criterion.
    • In a 10 rep session, 8 out of 10 correct equals 80%. If you make 3 or more errors, stay at the same criterion.

If you'd like to use the record sheet I use, I saved one in rich-text format here. Save it to your hard drive and make copies.

List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @