Thursday, January 5, 2012

Record Keeping :: Current system for my dogs.

Because I'm working with multiple dogs for multiple activities and I have to keep tracking of training for students, 4-H'ers, and shelter dogs.... I can't "just remember" everything.  Every few months I change my record keeping system to make it more efficient and more useful.  

For about 24 months I've been fairly diligent and at various points tracked different things as well (time exercising, grooming, crating, etc).  

Right now I have my very favorite system that I've been using for three months now.   Every month I create a sheet for each dog with an outline of the behaviors/aspects we will be working on and a blank column where I will note the date and a tally of the number of sessions on that behavior. There are a few blank spots so I can add in a few more things and for classes where we will be assigned activities. Here's a sample:

(It wants to be can see it here)
These are taped up to the wall. On the dry erase board I make notes about additional skills that I may add to next month's list.

On a daily basis, I update the charts and I make a super-short journal type entry about sessions. I keep these online so that they are easily searchable (unlike written records).  

At the end of the month, the charts allow me to have a great overview of what we've done, what we didn't do, and how to change things for the next month.  If we completely did not work on something I either remove it the following month or break it down into more achievable/specific pieces.    I also do an end of the month short summary write-up for the dogs and this allows me to spend a little longer thinking about what we did and did not do and how on-track we may be for our goals.  

Improvements over the previous system:  Before I was just doing the journal entry and had a running list of things to work on.  Sometimes we would go weeks without working on "important" skills or we would spend hours on behaviors that we don't really need.   The charts are really nice because I can easily have an overview and I can prioritize and see our progress towards goals.   Now I can see it all, first thing every day.

Future changes?:   I feel like I'm always adding more to my "to do" list rather than crossing things off.  I'll want to make a few modifications to be sure we're getting to those things.    I want to simplify the form for my 4-H'ers (who often are doing multiple activities, obedience, showmanship, rally, and agility).  But at the moment, I'm quite happy with how the system is working and how it's focusing us.

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