Animals | Dogs | Training | Relationship

How Journaling About a Difficult Dog Kept Me from Giving Up

Bonnie Kreitler
4 min readJan 4, 2021

Whether used as a data dump or a diary, a pet journal might keep you sane when Plan A fails.

photo credit Nick Brookheimer on Unsplash

Journaling helped me stay the course with a difficult dog that was rescued off the streets.

Jenni arrived in our home as a teenager with anxiety issues that we missed at first. She was a training challenge. Keeping a journal enabled me to create a better picture of who Jenni was and why. What worked. What didn’t work. What triggered her anxiety. What helped her stay calm. Gradually, her journal helped me help her see the world as a less scary place.

A journal never offers unwanted advice. It never tells you what to do.

What a journal can do is help you organize, review, and analyze things you try and what you observe. A journal can be a good friend when you’re training your dog, dealing with an acute or ongoing health issue, working through a behavioral quirk, or just capturing a warm and fuzzy moment to remember.

Here are three ways a journal can help build that great relationship with your animals:

A Journal Reminds

Used as a log, a journal creates a sequential record of your pet’s health care or training sessions or travels or hikes…whatever data you want to track. What did the vet do when this same thing happened 5 years ago? What was that training technique the trainer suggested at the class we took in August? Nothing fancy or flowery, just the facts. Did you commit to a particular training program? Use your journal as an accountability partner. Commit your training plan to paper and let the journal track progress toward your goal.

A Journal Remembers

Used as a diary, a journal captures the softer side of your pet’s life on paper. Quirky habits. Favorite walks. How he snores in bed. How she loves digging and flinging beach sand. How you feel when he lays his head in your lap while you watch TV. How her shoe fetish drives you nuts. Write down thoughts and feelings about all the pieces and parts that make up the unique relationship you have with your animal. (No peeking for anyone else. So write your heart out.

A journal becomes a treasured memoir when a pet is no longer with you.

A Journal Reveals Patterns

Used either way, over time a journal becomes a kind of sorting machine that helps you understand your pet more fully. Look for repetitive health or behavior issues as you review your journal jottings. When you capture incidents one by one by one in your journal, you can spot emerging patterns before they become serious or habitual.

Back to Jenni

So, how did a journal help me with Jenni?

By the time Jenni was plucked off the streets by the rescue people, wormed, vaccinated, spayed, given her first rabies shot, and loaded on a transport to her new home she was 5 months old, give or take. What veterinarians and trainers call the “socialization window” for puppies had closed for Jenni.

Our household now included an under-socialized “teenage” canine who was fearful of other dogs. She exhibited symptoms of ADHD or its doggy equivalent. And who knows what she experienced in her early weeks of life as a homeless canine? She was an anxious pup who didn’t know who or what to trust.

We needed to reset her emotional triggers, to help her be a canine good citizen when she left the safety of her yard. We began consulting vets, asking dog-savvy friends for advice, meeting with multiple trainers, and spending hours researching the internet.

I started keeping lots and lots of notes about what I call Jenni’s second rescue.

The notes quickly grew into a disorganized mess of receipts, random jottings, and clippings piled on a corner of my desk. Finding a particular note stressed me when I needed a particular of information right now.

I needed badly to get organized about tracking our tries, our trials, and our triumphs.

A New Training Tool

Organizing my mess into a journal helped me stop stressing and see the bigger picture. Putting everything together, in chronological order, reminded me where we started and where we were at that point. Although we weren’t finished yet, Jenni was making progress.

I got a journal, put Jenni’s name on the front, and committed to being more organized about tracking our progress. I sorted the random notes. Taped them all in Jenni’s journal. Tucked a pen inside so there was no excuse not to write things down NOW rather than later.

That journal became my most useful training tool.

Tracking the details about training techniques, veterinary interventions, changes in exercise or diet, and meet-and-greets with other dogs helped me see Jenni’s personality, preferences, and needs more clearly. It helped me help her become a more confident, attentive, relaxed dog.

Reviewing journal notes kept my spirits up on the days when things went South. It showed me we were making progress even if there were occasional setbacks.

If you’re dealing with an animal with issues, I highly recommend journaling as a stress reduction tool.

Try pet journaling even if you’re not dealing with a problem critter. Prepare to be amazed at how it can build deeper bonds between you and the animals in your life.

© Bonnie Kreitler 2021. All rights reserved.

Writer Bonnie Kreitler creates content to help fellow animal addicts build rewarding relationships with the critters in their lives. See more at



Bonnie Kreitler

Author, journalist, animal addict, observer, and explorer creating connections between our critter relationships and life lessons at