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  • Becca

Getting ‘back to basics’ in order to succeed

Updated: Jun 28

Our February blog comes from guest writer, Becca Doveston, founder and head trainer at Dovemoor Gundogs.

A blackboard with 'back to basics' written on it in chalk

When training our dogs, we always set out with the best intentions. We take great delight in teaching our new family member the basics. We teach them skills to take through their lives, either on our own, at formal training classes or with a trainer in one-to-one sessions. We keep a note of early milestones and progress on socialisation. We spend dedicated time honing skills with our dogs daily, providing repetition, developing through proofing, and giving clarity to our dog while enjoying these new skills.

The issues tend to happen when we start to progress further, adding more commands, exercises and steps into our training. It becomes more complex for us and for our dogs. Even when following training classes, it can become overwhelming and can knock the confidence of both dog and handler.

What we tend to do is add more or move on before we’ve secured what our dogs are already doing. The basics can go out of the window as we drop our consistency of them in the aim to get our dogs to do something more complex.

Changes in our consistency with commands/cues can have a huge impact on our dog’s training and their ability to produce consistent results. When we have a bad day, we can take that into our training sessions. Being inconsistent or getting frustrated can set our dogs up to fail which can then lead to further frustration. This affects our training journey, knocking our dog’s confidence and owner confidence too. Something I often see in classes and one-to-one training.

So, we need a way to help ourselves get back to basics. Now that the season is over, it’s an ideal time to focus on this.

If your dog training has gone a little off track, if you feel that you’re constantly failing at an exercise, you can’t progress to the next level, the dog switches off as soon as you step on a grass verge or you have both lost your confidence in training, fear not. I have found an excellent way to help to get your training journey back to basics is through keeping a training record. For me, it’s an easy way to track what my dogs are doing now, what they need to work on individually and what we can drop, or identify what isn’t working well currently and change it.

Keeping track of your training can help you plan for success and reflect on what you have achieved. I find it helps me to see where I might be going wrong or why something fails or succeeds as we progress.

I designed my own training journal, as I couldn’t find one that suited my needs. Some were too complex and others just empty pages which didn’t give me enough focus on where to start. Some people find it easier to write in a notebook or keep an electronic record. Use whatever works for you.

My intention with my Dovemoor Training Journal, was to help me to review my own dogs’ training and move forward in small steps. If I needed to go back to basics, I could check my journal and go back to where I was succeeding and move forward from there. In Spring 2022, the Dovemoor team will be up to 4 dogs, this means keeping a track of my dogs’ training is going to be even more important to our success as a team.

I published the Dovemoor Training Journal in 2021 to offer my clients a way to keep a track of their training journey. They can use it in one-to-one sessions or between classes to help keep them on track and reflect on their progress.

There is a section for planning or goals, then what worked and what didn’t, before we move onto what we need to do more of and what we need to do less of. The ‘less of’ in my journal often has the note “nagging” or “being too repetitive of exercises”. The ‘do more of’ often has “fun” and “basic steadiness” scribbled in.

If you are struggling with progressing or just need to refresh your training, have a go at planning or reviewing your training sessions. Especially if you are going back to basics. It doesn’t have to be daily but reflecting weekly can really help in your success.

If you would like a copy of the Dovemoor Training Journal, you can purchase one via Amazon here.

You can contact & follow Becca on Instagram @dovemoor

A black labrador holding a copy of a book in its mouth.

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