Webconsuls Blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dog-friendly dog training with Ian Dunbar

From the 2007 Entertainment Gathering Conference Ian Dunbar, dog trainer, animal behaviorist and veterinarian, suggests we approach training from the point of view of the dog. This compassionate approach builds love and trust. These "interaction skills", as Ian Dunbar calls them can be applied to not only our relationships with our pets but all of our relationships.

Enjoy this 15 minutes talk from Ian Dunbar. I viewed this episode the last Sunday and it has been on my mind affecting my actions ever since. I hope you enjoy this presentation as much as I did.


  1. I will view the video, but I have to say this. This past Friday I had to take my dog, Toby, to the vet. While waiting for the Doctor I was paging through a beautiful photo book of dogs. In this book it said that while Bassett Hounds seem stubborn and feeble minded, they are really just deliberate. You can verify this with Dick...Toby deliberately ate one of Dick's personal belongings every time Dick visited our home.

  2. Yes, and just try to site in Toby's chair!

  3. From the above video, I noted the main observations of this video, which dog owners and some dog trainers are very impressed with:

    1) The Dog Training profession different as no one does what you tell him to do (example given stuffing toy with moist kibble-----of course
    2) Vague terms like leadership (wrong or just not specific enough?)
    3) Owners Just Get It All Wrong

    Or maybe the above WAS the trinity LOL. As only two concepts were really discussed in Ian's "three" skills":

    1) Reward/Correction
    (2) Differential reinforcements - different levels of rewards>
    (3) Punishment - stimulus which decreases the preceding behavior (according to Ian maybe it shouldn't be painful or fearful)

    The first premise that dog training is unlike any other profession is not exactly accurate. Ask any teacher!! Having been in another profession in my life, that of an accountant in a public accounting firm, I would have to submit the difference is not that people magically listen to your advice in another profession. Additionally, one of my biggest beefs with Ian’s talks (while charming and funny to those not looking for any real content), is the way he talks down to people, or doesn’t even think that there may be a valid reason why an owner is objecting to a solution. In accounting, I had plenty of owners of corporations not listen and not take advice. In one extreme case, they were arrested at an airport as they smuggled their “non reported” cash out of the country. Unfortunately, the officials did not assume this was just a matter of skimming off the top, but thought it was a drug deal. In other cases, upon listening to the client, we needed to find another or method or way for them, BECAUSE WHAT THEY EXPLAINED MADE SENSE.

    If you suggestions make sense and end up working, you get an owner that will follow your advice and methods to the best of their abilities (there is a learning curve you know based on the expertise of the client). People are not by nature stupid or ignorant, but they do expect that you will somehow prove what you are saying, and your experience with what you are saying. It could be that day that they get the proof, or it could be the next week that you see them. If the proof doesn’t come along after they ARE LISTENING and doing the work, you will loose your credibility.

    It also makes sense to screen clients so that you don’t take people’s money, who are simply not willing to train their dog. Most screening programs that a knowledgable dog trainer creates can screen out about 95% of people that don’t want to do the work with their dog, thereby saving them money and wasted time. Letting a client know, generally, what you are all about can help with that too. I think too many trainers will take on anybody just for a quick buck, rather than contemplating whether they will be able to help this person and dog out at all.

    Premise number two, people use leadership as a vague termMaybe, but I argue that every term is vague without a definition or example. These are not ground breaking observations here, people. I have several definitions and articles on leadership and what it means for my clients. It is not a vague term. And if it is vague, does that mean you discount leadership as a wrong way to go about things? I think we can all point to leaders (people that we want to emulate) that went about it well, and those that went about it badly. My first mentor in dog training is a very talented intelligent individual, but IMHO they went about things very badly. Their leadership skills were good in some areas, and counter productive in others. One can have good and bad leadership skills, and the trick is to pull out the good ones and give even more examples of good leadership skills. To me, the bottom line of leadership in a human and canine partnership is that the human is responsible for care and safety of the animal and all those around the animal (or canine). While I tighten up a bit more in that definition in my own writings, I think this is not a vague definition or mandate.

    Most intelligent people understand what leadership is. The way Ian is talking about this is an example of how language is "hijacked", especially when a concept is easily understood and effective. One sect of dog trainers will seek to discredit or demean the concept so that it becomes a "negative". Ian is very skilled in this type of manipulation. His other career could have very definately been in marketing

    Premise number 3, owners just get it all wrong all of the time. I wish that were true (it would increase my bottom line wonderfully), but I see some pretty well behaved dogs out there, who did not have the services of a dog trainer. Owners may get some things that they don’t know about, or don’t understand, or haven’t figured out for themselves yet…..wrong. Not all owners get it wrong. Certaintly if their dog is still alive by the time they see you, owners do not get EVERYTHING wrong.

    The fact that Ian is saying this, is making me believe that he might actually be talking to dog trainers. I am hoping all these simple concepts are being shared with Novice Dog Trainers, and not Professional Dog Trainers. Many of Ians talks go like this, with no real knowledge being passed on at the end of the lecture. If you are going to talk about the actual definition punishment in dog training theory, for Gosh Sake be a little more detailed in the history of where it came from. That could be knowledge that someone, who knew very little to nothing about dog training, could take away from such a lecture.

    The “trinity” that Ian then expands on is basically just the first point. Correction and reward are part of training. Really you don’t say? The he talks about rewards being more or less depending on action. Then he equates correction with punishment !!!! Yipes, and says that it doesn’t have to be scary.

    By the way, punishment is an action that has taken place due to 1) failed training or 2) failed opportunity for training. A correction is an act that redirects the dog to a different (or correct) behavior. There is a huge and definate difference in MY dog training world between the two.

    Punishment example would beMore than one dog in a room. One dog is guarding something, but the human in charge does not see or pick up on the body language. Next thing you know, one dog is going for the other dog. I would jump in with a very strong body posture and tone of voice. I would most likely then confine the offending (and/or) non-listening party. However, this is not a correction or a training method.

    Correction example would be (in the same instance):More than one dog in a room. One dog is guarding something. Human notices and says “Let’s Go” or “Crate” or “Sit” (we are assuming the dog knows, really knows, these terms) and redirects the dog to another action. Human does not stop watching at this point, but watches for an opportunity to continue the lesson.

    If a dog has not been reliably trained to these commands, this might instead be the stepping on a dragging leash and walking the dog away from the area.


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