Teaching your pet or working towards top competitions - setting goals is an excellent way to improve your training. It keeps you from expecting too much at once, and it prevents you from stepping on the spot for too long using a method that may not be optimal for the individual dog. On the long run you may even be able to detect health issues particularly if the performance is directly linked to it the dog's physical condition.
The basic concept of goal setting is trivial: you define a goal as well as a measure that expresses how close you are to the defined goal. But how can you apply this do dog training, and how can DogScroll help you with that? This article gives you step-by-step instructions for using goals in DogScroll.
Types of Measures
There are two basic measures for the dog's performance or the success of a training session:
- You can describe an exercise or a series of exercises and define a numeric value that represents a flawless, perfect performance. Based on this maxium value, you are able to rate each training session showing how close you are to the perfect performance. In DogScroll, this measure is called score and it can be defined for each activity.
- When you start and as you are progressing with your training it is not expected that you always hit top scores. Training is about building the skill level. Nevertheless you may be satisfied with the progress made on a training day and how the dog is mastering the training step you are currently working on. This is a rather subjective measure, expressing how you feel about the training and not easily quantifiable in hard numbers. In DogScroll, it is called experience, and for each training you can select among five emoticons representing values from very dissatisfied to very satisfied.
What If Scores Don't Apply?
We do realize that there are dog sports and activities that are typically not measured in points. You might measure performance e.g. in terms of time, penalties, distance, weight, or ranking against others. Typically, these measures are sensitive to the individual setup and external conditions, and not constant (i.e. comparable) among training sessions, making progress tracking rather difficult.
So, to track and compare training performance you need some type of normalized scale. Use the following approach:
- Decide on the score range (i.e. granularity) you want to use. For instance, select a maximum score of 100.
- If possible, already before each training, determine what (time, distance, weight) would be a perfect performance. Map that to your max score (100 in this case). Important is here that this perfect score is in no way related to your current training progress but rather represents your overall training goal or a competitive performance.
- Similarly,deterimine what would be a poor outcome, and map that to 0.
- Apply some score mapping for the intermediate outcomes.
Defining an Activity with Target
When setting a target you start with defining an activity. DogScroll allows very broad activity definitions such as entire obedience routines. Applying target-setting to those activities is useful for advanced dogs, but often you want to start with a more limited scope such as an individual obedience exercise. Follow these steps for creating an activity:
Now, you are ready to enter training sessions for this activity.
Creating a Training and Setting the Measures
You may have done it already, but, if not, here are the steps for creating a training entry in DogScroll:
- In the main view for the dog select Training Log.
- Tap the + or Add training button.
- If your new activity is not yet visible select it by tapping the activity icon or name.
- Tap the date to enter the correct day.
- Optionally type in a location and select the weather conditions. These are not directly needed in the context of target setting but they are generally useful for reference and understanding their effect on the training.
- Enter a score. For convenience, the maxumum value is shown in parentheses. Remember that this is the measure that compares the performance in this training with an ideal performance.
- Select an emoticon that closely represents the way to feel about the training and the performance of the dog taking the current training progress into account.
- Enter notes. Describe how the training went in any level of detail that you find useful. Be sure to provide sufficient explanation for the selected score and experience.
Statistics showing Score and Experience trends become available when you have entered at least three trainings for an activity. To view the chart perform the following steps:
- In the main view for the dog select Training Statistics.
- Tap on the Trends tab or swipe to the left.
- On top of the view select the right activity if it's not already selected.
- You can now select how many training sessions to include in the chart. Tap on the checkboxes to hide or show the individual graphs.
On the long run, you want to see a gradually increasing score with consistently good or very good Experience values. A pattern like this is an indicator that the dog is learning, that you and your dog stay motivated, and that you are heading for success. A score that does not increase for a longer time or even decreases likely indicates that the training approach needs adjustment. If the experience value changes greatly you might be pushing too hard, in which case breaking up the training into smaller steps or tasks may be the way to go.
Having said that, please don't let minor set-backs discourage you. There can be many factors affecting a single training, environmental or within the dog, some you might not even be aware of. A couple of low Experience values should not make you question your methods. But of course it does not harm trying to understand the factors causing them. Make notes of possible factors on the Training page, so you can look them up later and learn to understand your dog.
A lot depends on how you define your activities and targets. There is no univeral way to interpret certain trends. Important is that if the progress is not as desired you use the information you should try to understand the trend, discuss with other trainers, and possibly adjust your training for the individual dog. Here is where your detailed training records including location, conditions, and notes will prove very useful.
(Credits: Dog cartoon character with goal sign, visible3dscience - Fotolia.com)