If you’ve known me for more than 10 minutes, you know I am a list maker. I make grocery store lists, Wal-mart lists, to-do lists and Christmas lists. Yeah, I’m a little OCD about my lists.
As Phoenix and I began serious work on Utility, one thing I’ve found helpful is a master training list. I plan to show him in AKC Open in the spring, train like crazy over the summer and be ready to show in Utility in the fall. At least that’s the plan. I have almost as many plans as I have lists.
I was driving myself crazy(er) trying to maintain and improve his Open work while continuing to teach the Utility exercises. It was easy to overwork some skills while totally neglecting others. My attempts at keeping a comprehensive training diary have not met with a lot of success. I either write too much or not enough to be useful. But my training list A) lets me focus on the skills and exercises we need to learn/proof and B) keeps me from forgetting the “little stuff” that really matters, like actually teaching glove turns. Yeah, those do matter. Funny how that works.
My list is keyed into the elements we need to address on each exercise or skill. So it’s not just “recalls.” It’s “build speed on recalls, esp. after the drop, throw food or toys; turn and run, let him chase; only ask for fronts occasionally.” The list is like super condensed seminar notes, highlighting the techniques I want to use for each skill. Otherwise, I end up finishing a training session only to think, “Well, duh, I should have done (fill in the blank with brilliant idea).” See? I swear if it’s not written down I can’t remember it.
I keep the master list in my training bag for quick reference. It helps me plan each session and keep a balance between continuing to keep Open challenging while training for Utility. I make a separate (and much shorter) training list of things to work on at each session because I’m not always quick at thinking on my feet (which explains a lot of our agility issues) and I need to think out in advance how I want to spend my training time and resources.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: if you needed proof that obedience people are total obsessive-compulsive control freaks, this is it. Hey, that's all right. I resemble that remark! I just don't want my poor dog to pay the price for inconsistent training that bounces wildly from one skill to another without any forethought. He gets enough of that even WITH the list.
So how do I decide what to train, even with my fancy, schmancy list? It depends on A) where I’m going to train, B) how much time I have, C) who else will be there and D) how ambitious I feel. Sometimes I don’t even get past the first thing on my list because Phoenix tells me our training session is going to go in a different direction. That’s okay. He thinks it’s all about him and it really is. Lists are great but flexibility still rules.
Happy training! Tomorrow I'll write about Renee's idea for speeding up finishes. Hope to have enough time today after work to enjoy this ridiculously warm weather and train a bit outside before dark.
Today I am thankful for the silly people I work with.