Buzz Words

    There is something interesting about dog trainers, and therefore the culture of dog training, something I don’t see a lot of outside the sphere of dog training. This “thing,” is the language used when talking about dogs and dog training. Part of the reason for this is that as a dog trainer, talking about our craft is almost intoxicating. For many of us who are dog trainers, this is the ONE thing we are truly good at, or at the least, one of the things we take immense pride in. We enjoy the opportunities to speak about something we feel so passionately about. 

 

    Aside from the formal language associated with the scientific aspects of training an animal, there are a variety of buzzwords and catchphrases used in the common vernacular. Many of these buzzwords have definitions that are elusive to the casual person, one might say esoteric. If you’re a part of the dog world, you’ve no doubt heard some of the phrases I’m talking about. There’s the demonized “alpha,” there’s “leader, pack, dominance, pressure,” and my least favorite “energy.” I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with any of these words, yet I hesitate to use some of them. 

 

    I think that as professionals, we can do a bit better to define some of the concepts these buzzwords are meant to convey.  Our job after all, is all about communication. Why use words that are so easily convoluted? 

 

    In my next post, I’m going to talk about why I think we can do better, and why that should be our goal.

 

IACP Video of The Month

My muzzle conditioning video has been selected for the International Association of Canine Professionals video of the month series.

 I am very honored to be featured in this association.  Nothing better than getting to show your stuff to a group of other professionals!

If you are in need of a Canine Professional in your area, check out their website 

HERE

, for links to groomers, trainers, boarding facilities and many others worldwide.

Practical Practice

How many times have you tied your shoelaces? A quick internet search shows that the average american spends roughly a week tying their shoes in a lifetime. That's a lot of practice! And it's the type of practice that allows most people to be able to tie their shoes while carrying on a conversation with someone, or tie the same knot on an apron behind their back.

The fact that we have honed this skill to the level of mindlessness, is something to take note of. When younger, most of us struggled with tying our own shoes.  But once we got it, it became a part of our everyday lives.

We need to give our dogs, and ourselves the same type of practice with learning how to live together cooperatively. Practicing down stays, place commands, walking calmly on a leash, and being respectful around doorways are all things that when made part of how we live with our dogs allows both ourselves and our dogs to achieve a level of proficiency that is not just practical, but enjoyable.

When we eat dinner, or invite guests into our homes, having a companion who isn't obnoxious, rude, or aggressive lets us enjoy each others company a hell of a lot more.

The key to a healthy lifestyle with your pet is practice. You would never consider flying in a plane with a pilot who has never flown before. So why not make your dog practice before its time for the big test?

Mixing Signals


            As a dog trainer I spend most of my day interacting with, watching, training, and communicating with you guessed it, HUMAN BEINGS.  Most people are not too surprised to learn this information, as the rallying cry nowadays seems to be “It’s not the dog, it’s the owner!” While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that statement I can certainly see where people get this sentiment from. With all my interactions with dog owners, I have noticed quite a few things that people tend to do that hinder their own ability to communicate with their dogs. Most of these actions come from a good place and are well intended.  Unfortunately we just aren’t born with the innate knowledge of how to teach and guide our canine companions.  There is one concept that I see ignored on a regular basis that permeates everything we seem to do with our dogs. 
That concept is Stimulus control, and more specifically the subject of mental blocking.  This process helps dogs save time and energy by helping them ignore unnecessary and or redundant information. Let me give you an example:
            I lure a dog into a DOWN position with a piece of food and as I start to lure the dog, I say down.  Many dogs will lie down while I am doing this, but then they later seem confused when I simply give a command without a lure as though they have never heard it before.

In all reality they may not have “Heard it” in the white men can’t jump sense of the phrase. You see we’re dealing with salience and overshadowing here. In an attempt to simplify the concept, I want to clarify some of these things in an attempt to hopefully bring these issues to the forefront of a few more owners’ minds.
Salient simply means most important or noticeable. Physical movements, or body language which is a dog’s natural form of communication, are very salient.
Overshadowing according to the free online dictionary means to render insignificant or less important in comparison.
Blocking is what occurs when a more salient signal is given simultaneously with a less salient signal.

Ex. I say down as I lure a dog into a down with a piece of food.  My movement, not to mention the piece of food, is more salient to most dogs than the sound coming out of my mouth. In turn the word is overshadowed by my action and lure therefore dog fails to associate the sound “down” with my action of luring the dog down.

More accurately I HAVE FAILED to associate the two signals. If I were to teach it correctly I would need to say down BEFORE I start moving my body to lure the dog! The down is one of the most common scenarios I have seen this concept misused but I also see it regularly with people using a leash to train their dogs for something. When we give a command to a dog as we pull on a leash and collar we are bastardising the same concept. I find the misuse of the leash more egregious because we are adding physical discomfort unnecessarily.

When trying to communicate something to a dog, we need to keep in mind that the command comes first and the leash comes last. Or when using food, command first, Lure last.  Either way, keeping mindful of Pavlov’s discoveries in classical conditioning requires us to put the noise before the action to associate the two. When we operate outside of this principle our dogs will still learn, but generally not in the desired manner. They will learn that they have to lay down, when you get so low to lure them that you’re practically laying down yourself! Always keep in mind Command > Lure > Mark > Reward.
If more owners followed this simple piece of advice, and made sure they were mindful of their communication with their dogs in all of their interactions there would be more dogs learning what they’re owners intended, and I think a few less frustrated dog owners!


Communication Breakdown

ímynda sér ef enginn vissi hvernig á að tala tungumálið sem þú talar, og þú gætir ekki skilið tungumál þeirra.

If this were the case, your life would undoubtedly be excruciating. Not being able to get your point across, and not being able to understand the rules of where you were living would cause immense amounts of anxiety, stress, and fear. Unfortunately there are hundreds if not thousands of dogs who live their lives this way.

Living with dogs has never been about down stays or recalls just for their own sake. Living with dogs has always and always will be about communication. And obedience training is one of the most important parts of communicating with your dog. Having a clear set of guidelines and rules about how the two, or three, or six of you should live together is essential to a good relationship.

More importantly, having a way of guiding and coaching your dog who cannot understand the environment around them in the same way you can, not only helps them create harmony with you and your family, but it keeps them from getting themselves into trouble or dangerous situations.

Setting a foundation built on communication leads to a lifetime of enjoyment with your dog. And prevents many unwanted problems from manifesting in your dogs behavior.  Start with teaching them how to behave on a leash.  And I don't mean just walking. I mean make sure your dog can sit idly with you outside, no tension on your leash with a relaxed mindset. The idea is to get your dog to the point that anywhere you go, your dog can look to you for advice and information.

Teach yourself to listen to your dog, and teach your dog to listen to you. When your default mindset is communication, living with a dog becomes a vastly more substantial and rewarding relationship.

How to make a drag leash

Here's a quick instructional video that details how to make a drag leash for your dog. Drag leashes are incredibly functional for raising puppies, training a new foster or rescue, and for having a built in indicator for when your dog is completely ready for true off leash behavior.


I have also recently joined Twitter. So if you want to follow @Dogman_Moran you can see all my daily musings on dogs, bicycles, beer, and anything else I find interesting.  Its apparently a great place to ask questions.

Muzzle Conditioning

Working with aggressive dogs requires one to practice safety. Using a muzzle has allowed many a trainer on different occasions to get dogs into situations they would otherwise not be able to be in. Whether this is around small kids, other dogs, or human beings in general, a muzzle can be a huge asset to working with an aggressive or reactive dog.

This is how I like to get a dog conditioned to wearing a muzzle.


Comprehensive House Training



One of the most common issues for new dog owners is potty training. So, considering I am getting a puppy next month, I figured I’d come back from my hiatus of blogging to address what to many people is a complex puzzle about why their dogs relieve themselves in their homes.  That word I just used, relieve, is one that should be paid attention to. What I want to cover in this post is why dogs go to the bathroom in your house, how we can make sure they start going outside, and how we can make this part of our everyday lives when living with a dog; whether it's a puppy or an adult dog that is new to our home.

Firstly, let's discuss why dogs go to the bathroom in our homes. Dogs relieve themselves in our homes for the same reason you go to the bathroom anywhere, because it feels nice.  Which is why we call it relieving ourselves. Once you go to the bathroom the physical pressure associated with holding your desire to go, is released which therefore makes you feel much better. This is why nobody has to pay you to go to the bathroom when you have to go, you're going to go anyways!  It's important to understand that dogs don't go to the bathroom in your home simply to be jerks. They relieve themselves in our homes because it feels nice it doesn't matter to them if it's on your carpet or if it's outside in your grass.  

Now that we've covered why dogs relieve themselves in the house, we can cover how we can start teaching them to relieve themselves outside.  The first thing to remember is that dogs live in the present. They do have a memory, but the majority of their time is spent thinking about things that have occurred within the last 10 seconds or so.  What this means for us is that we have to make sure if we're going to reward our dogs for going to the bathroom outside, we must reward them outside, in the grass, immediately upon them relieving themselves.  NOT once you've brought them back inside your house! If you wait to reward your dog once already back inside, your dog will understand that coming in the house is excellent, but they will not ever fully grasp that you were trying to convince them to urinate outside.  When potty training a dog you want to bring treats with you every single time you take that dog outside for a bathroom break. Continue rewarding the dog after every repetition that they pee outside until you are completely certain that the dog understands you want them to relieve themselves outside only. This is usually made very obvious by dogs when they urinate and turn around to look directly at their owners looking for a reward. Once your dog understands this, you can start rewarding them every other time they go to the bathroom outside, and eventually phasing out the reward completely.

The next step of potty training is making sure your dog does not have enough freedom in the house to urinate without you being present. It is unrealistic to think that you can avoid ever having a dog go to the bathroom in your house, but you do want to minimize the amount of time that a new dog is spending without any supervision. Most dogs do not go to the bathroom directly in front of their owners, they walk off to a different area and go where you can't see. If your dog does eliminate directly in front of you in your home, you can give a good no and then immediately bring the dog outside and reward them if they have relieved themselves outside. 
       The key to stopping urinating indoors, is confinement. Whether that means you're using a crate, baby gates so they stay in the kitchen, or tethering the dog to you with their leash, it is important to make sure that the dog does not have complete freedom inside your house.  With absolute freedom comes absolute freedom to make mistakes. New dogs generally don't understand that relieving themselves in the house is wrong so they do it because it makes them feel good.  When using the crate it's important to make sure that the dog does not need to view the crate as the high rollers suite. There does not need to be excessive blankets, toys, or pillows. When crating a dog it is best to have the crate be the only surface the dog is on. With dog beds and blankets inside the crate, many dogs will urinate on the blankets or dog beds and then simply push them to the back of the crate while the blanket or dog bed then absorbs the urine and they no longer have to deal with it.  This can also be true of a crate that is too large for your dog. If there is enough room, many dogs will relieve themselves in one end of the crate, and relax in the other end. It is best if the crate is large enough for your dog to be comfortable laying down or standing, but there does not need to be enough room to throw a pool party.  Leaving blankets and toys inside a crate can also pose a safety hazard if the dog is not being supervised at the time because there's a good chance that the dog can chew something and swallow it.  Another added benefit of using the crate is that once you take the dog out of the crate you can take immediately outside and prompt them to go to the bathroom, where you can again reward them outside for urinating outside.  
        Many people have complained to me in the past that they bring their dogs outside and their dogs do not go to the bathroom.  But when they come inside their dogs then relieve themselves in their homes. If this begins to happen what you want to do is bring your dog outside and if they do not go to the bathroom they come in the house and you put them back in the crate. Wait two minutes, and then bring them back outside for another chance to relieve themselves outside. Repeat this until the dog relieves themselves outside, then reward them, then bring them in the house and they have earned their freedom.  This process of outside > no potty > inside > crate may take a few days before the dog realizes that they must relieve themselves outside or else they do not get freedom inside, but once they realize it, it is a huge step to correcting an otherwise irritating problem. 

Now that you understand how to reward your dog outside for going to the bathroom, and how to use the crate to limit your dogs opportunity to relieve themselves inside you want to focus on making those two things an every day practice.  Dogs are very much creatures of habit and if you allow them to create the habits of going to the bathroom anytime they want, wherever they want this will be an issue that you will continue to have for a very long time.  When new dogs are first coming into your home there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the kennel frequently throughout the day to stop the dog from having opportunities to go when you cannot give them your undivided attention. If you are folding laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming the floors, or anything else that requires your attention you can use the crate to confine your dog and not allow them to go to the bathroom. This also gives you a prime opportunity once you are finished with your chores to bring your dog outside and again reward them for relieving themselves outside.  

If you're rewarding your dogs for relieving themselves outside, limiting their opportunity to relieve themselves inside, and using those techniques regularly to create good routines and habits, you will not have any issues with dogs eliminating in your home ever again.


            I am a subscriber to Modern Dog magazine. And I usually can find some cool articles, or at least interesting ideas. But with this latest issue I have found a couple things that rub me the wrong way. There are per usual some really cool things as well, but I find it difficult to overlook these indiscretions.
             Firstly, Martha Stewart is on the cover. I don’t necessarily have something against her as a person, other than she is a convicted felon. On four counts. But hey, whatever. This is not the main thing that irks me mind you. It just adds to it.
            What truly blows my mind is advertised in the back pages of the magazine. You know the section of most magazines that just sell weird crap? Well this one is selling a highchair for your dog. So they can sit at your table with you. SERIOUSLY?! This is something that I cannot ignore. The idea of teaching your dog that they have a right to eat from your own table is not only unhygienic, but dangerous.  The trend of treating dogs as humans has caused plenty of dog bites, and ultimately many dog deaths. I find it incredibly egregious that a publication supposedly concerned about the wellbeing of dogs would allow such an advertisement. I make my living training people to not allow their dogs to assert themseves around high value resources such as food, and the kitchen table. This advertisement is sending entirely the wrong message. I am all for people treating their dogs to things, I even took my dog to a local indoor canine recreational waterpark. But this type of pampering can have no good outcomes.

I see this type of behavior a lot in dogs that have a general lack of respect for their owners.

            But hey, what the hell do I know. For $1000 you can make your dog a pain in the ass times 10 while you’re eating. Most of my clients eyes light up when I teach them how to do a place command, and tell them the perfect time to make their dogs sit still is when their eating their own dinner; therefore keeping their dogs away from the table.  It boggles the mind to think about the type of person who has a thousand dollars to purposely turn their dogs into a needy pain in the arse.

The Church of Field and Stream

Farm house where we went hunting

I joined a church recently. It’s not a traditional church, although some might argue that it is the first church, and therefore the most traditional. I can’t say I am a new member here, as I’ve been a participating member since before I can remember. My mom has shown me pictures. There are certainly a lot of regular members, but like most churches we’re always looking for new recruits.

To many this church joining may come as a bit of a surprise as most people who know me understand I am not a very religious person. This is probably why I took to this church with such fervor and always have. Our church has a few commandments, but they’re mostly common sense. Leave the church better than you found it etc.… No one in our church ever passes around a plate for donations, but your contributions might end up on your own plate. I’m talking of course of the church of field and stream.

As I said, I have been a part of the congregation for a long time, but very recently I renewed my passion for it. I met up with Patrick Burns to go dig on his dogs. A term I have seen him use many times, but never really understood that he literally digs on top of his dogs until I got to see it in action. These two little dogs had more courage, passion and fun than most dogs get in their lifetime I think. And from the smiles on Patrick's face, he was no different.

I recently started fly fishing, and I love it because I get to spend some quiet time outside.  But my time spent a field with good friends, and good dogs left me smiling like a kid with their first ice cream cone. I left wanting more, and making the commitment to do more outside.

I hope to see you at church, but until then.

Let us Prey!

Idle Paws.......

I recently watched a National Geographic documentary called Solitary Confinement.  It is supposed to be a discussion on whether or not solitary confinement is necessary to control the most severe inmantes, or a form of torture. My views on the humans in the study were conflicted. There seemed to be a legitimate need for some of the inmates to be kept away from other human being, and some situations that truly perplexed me. However, the reason that I am writing about this particular film has less to do with humans than it does another highly social group of animals that weren't even featured in this movie.

 You guessed it, dogs. The setup of super maximum security prisons (Supermax), was surprisingly similar to the setup of a lot of dog shelters I have been to. The inmates could see other inmates every once in a while through small glass windows in the doors of their cells; but were mostly seperated from one another entirely for the duration of their stay. So in summary:

"Out of the more than 20,000 prisoners in the United States, about 2% are currently living in "super maximum security ("supermax") facilities or units. Prisoners in these facilities typically spend their waking and sleeping hours locked in small, sometimes windowless, cells sealed with solid steel doors. A few times a week they are let out for showers and solitary exercise in a small, enclosed space. Supermax prisoners have almost no access to educational or recreational activities or other sources of mental stimulation and are usually handcuffed, shackled and escorted by two or three correctional officers every time they leave their cells. Assignment to supermax housing is usually for an indefinite period that may continue for years." (1)



The correlation to dog shelters and kennel situations seems obvious to me. And let me be clear, I have volunteered at the Buffalo City Animal Shelter, I interned at the Erie County SPCA, and I have visited numerous shelters and kennels as a veterinary assistant who had to pick up and drop off deceased animals for cremationat my least favorite job ever, not to mention as a family of dog lovers our family has spent a lot of time in shelters picking out dogs as those are the places our animals come from. I have been in a lot of kennels, but I do not claim to be an expert in running a shelter. I have simply seen their setups and will be making comments about what I have seen.

Some of the inmates in the movie talked about how difficult it is for them to reintegrate into society after being kept in isolation. They are described as feeling very upset by minor changes in their environment, are more likely to act violently, and eventually become shut off from reality and or the consequenses of their behavior. Sometimes preferring bad treatment to no interaction at all. One of the inmates was shown instigating a fight with prison guards for no apparent reason. He later echoed the reasoning of rather having someone beat him, than not having any interaction at all:

"In one complaint filed against the Connecticut Department of Correction in August 2003, social isolation and sensory deprivation drove some prisoners to "lash out by swallowing razors, smashing their heads into walls or cutting their flesh." (2)

Inmates also talked about how much it pained them to not ever get the chance to exercise outside. Having no interaction with other people is one thing, but they also exercised indoors, and did not get the chance to feel the sun on themselves, or the wind blowing.

A counselor in the SC (Solitary Confinement) progam was interviewed, and talked about how the inmates had ZERO self confidence in themselves.  None of them believed they would be able to make it in society. This is another sentiment I relay to dog owners all the time. When your dog is on the end of a leash lashing out in aggression, more often than any other reason this happens out of fear, and lack of confidence in a multitude of things not excluding the owners handling skills themselves. But I usually see it in dogs that lack confidence in all areas of their lives.

One of the biggest eye openers of this movie in relation to dogs, was a section that covered an experiment done with lab rats. I haven't been able to find any info on the study, but if one of my 3 readers has any info on it I would be greatly appreciative. The study basicaly confined rats in a similar situation to both SC and a dog shelter for a period of time and studied the rats behavior.  After the rats had been confined for a while where they could see and hear other rats but not interact and create actual relationships, they transferred them to a larger cage with objects such as a small house and some other toys to play with.

The rats behavior was incredible. They behaved in a state of constant hyperalertness, basically pacing the perimiter in frenzied paranoia. They ignored the new objects and the opportunity to stimulate themseves, to only look for potential threats. 

My thoughts are that because rats are very social animals they have learned to survive by distributing the tasks of guarding among one another, and without this safety net to be watching their back they are reduced to constantly watching for predators. This makes me think of something we call, "Kennel Crazy" which I will probably talk about in a future article.

This is also a behavior I see in dogs that have not been socialized ever, or in a long time. I see many leash reactive dogs walking up the street ignoring the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world, to only be scanning the horizon for a potetial threat. And then address that percieved threat aggressively.

The only convict who seemed normal and connected to reality was a man who spent signifigant amounts of his day meditating. He described using self control, and activly using his mind as the only thing that kept him alive. 

So, back to dogs.

There are a few ideas I think people should take away from this movie:

1) Don't be a criminal.

2) Your dog needs opportunities to be, and become social. As social animals the negative effects of isolation are abundant and clear. Animals that are normally social, and do not have the opportunity to be social will end up paranoid, hyper active, self destructive, and difficult to exist with. Not to mention genuinely unhappy.

3) Exercise your dog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I stated before, I am not a shelter expert; and I do think many shelters are doing everything they can to help dogs (and cats) find a better situation and by no means am I trying to villify or demean what they do. But I do believe there is much that could be done differently. I think having shelter employees educated in how to socialize dogs would be incredibly helpful to the overall quality of life of dogs in shelters. This would ultimately make many of them more adoptable as they would get to interact with other animals on a regular basis, and therefore build useful social skills for the rest of their lives outside of the shelter.

As all creatures do, dogs fear the unknown. And to a dog that has never been around other dogs, or visited new places, everything is unknown. I watched this movie on Netflix, and it is available for instant viewing if you choose to check it out. As always, any questions or comments are welcome!





                                                                 Refrences:

1) Supermax Prisons: An Overview
2)  Lonely Madness: The Effects of Solitary Confinement and Social Isolation on Mental and Emotional Health





Impatient Fisherman

Some cascading falls on Cattaraugus Creek
So, yesterday marked the second day of my fly fishing career. And I was yet again unsuccessful. That doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might, despite most peoples outlook about the activity is that if you didn't catch anything, it was a waste of time. I went to Cattaraugus Creek, and spent the morning sloshing around in the water, hoping I might actually catch something. As they say, wish in one hand $!*@ in the other, and see which one fills up first.

Now lets get this straight, I am not a good fisherman. I usually lack the mental fortitude to sit still for 3 hours staring at a little red piece of plastic floating on the water while the sun turns my skin purple and blistery. Which is why I like fly fishing, because I get to walk around and at least feel like I'm doing something not to mention stand in the shade. My brothers on the other hand are the equivalent of Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. I have seen one of them pull a 4 ft sting ray out of the ocean at 6 years old, and another one catch a fish so big it had him about 7 inches away from being dragged out of the boat.

While I was out wandering the creek I started thinking about this patience issue I usually have with fishing, and how it related to other parts of my life. Mainly to dog training because that pretty much is "other parts" of my life. I see a lot of dog owners over the course of a week. Some new, some veterans, others are somewhere in between. One of the things I find myself repeating to all these folks is that patience and persistence is always better than power and pressure. This goes without saying with a dog I am working, but for many people they want their dog to start listening about 2 days ago. There are some exasperated dog owners dealing with a dog that jumps, doesn't sit, or is taking bathroom liberties all over their house that could definitely benefit from fishing with me.

When I started training dogs I can't honestly say if I was as patient as I am now. But I know from a lot of repetitions, that being patient usually yields far better results than trying to pressure a dog through something. When we force anyone to do something, we take away their power of choice. Which automatically makes them resist what we're trying to get them to do. No, this does not mean we need to let our dogs get away with murder while we wait it out. It does mean we should take a step back from what we think is obvious and try to see things from the dogs perspective. Getting another creature to behave in a certain manner takes cooperation.

Taking your time, using patience, and being persistent will have a great impact on your relationship with your dog. They don't speak human languages, they are far more interested in what you do, than in what you say. So show your dogs the path to success by being a trustworthy and patient person and you will make leaps and bounds of progress.







Have An Attitude


As a dog trainer who specializes in aggressive, reactive, fearful, and overall "hoods" of dogs, the attitude of which you carry yourself is of the utmost importance.  Not just your composure with the dog, which is obviously important, but your overall attitude with their owners will always dictate how successful they will be with their companions. When I work with a client, one thing is always in the forefront of my mind. And that is, "These people are paying me to help their family."  No, I am not so naive to believe that dogs are children, or humans at all. In fact its hard to find something that irritates me as much as people treating their dogs like kids. And the term fur-babies makes me want to slap someone.  But, those facts aside, dogs are a part of our families. And when I work with someone I keep this thought present in my attitude and actions.

Recently I had the pleasure of hanging out with a couple of talented dog trainers from opposite ends of the continental US. One from Los Angeles, and another from Rhode Island. Both are successful in their work with aggressive dogs, and both have slightly different methodologies than I do. One of these trainers said something that really brought me back to what I have believed for a long time.  That is, "We aren't in the dog business, we're in the people business." This makes a lot of sense.  I have seen many good, and many not so good trainers.  What the good ones have is a great attitude about what they can do with the dogs owners. And the confidence to stick it out with a dog who may literally want to eat your face. This confidence, is not just important for the trainer who is trying to rehab the aggression. It is 10 times more important for the client to feel that they can actually make a difference, and change their dogs unruly or outright dangerous behavior.

Enter Ian Dunbar. Ian Dunbar is a dog trainer who in the world of dog trainers needs little introduction. He pioneered the idea of puppy classes, and therefore revolutionized the training arena forever.  He also founded the worlds largest pet dog training association in the world, the APDT. But let's take a look at his attitude towards dogs owners.  This is a member of their family, and it is trying to put holes in them for one reason or another. Our job is to give them hope, actually not hope, results and confidence.

I read an interview with Dr. Dunbar about how important it is to start working with a puppy as early as possible.  I agree 100%! (Here's the Article if you'd like) Ian gives some great advice in the interview. Ex."He taught me that to touch an animal is an earned privilege. It’s not a right." He was referring to his grandfather in that quote.  This is something I wished more people would really take to heart. Here's a link to a great article about just how important this idea is: Pause...Listen. But when reading this interview, it became clear to me that Dunbar has a very negative point of view about a lot of things relating to dogs and their owners.
One of the questions asked of Dr. Dunbar, "How do you deal with a dog that bites?" Results in one of the worst answers I could think of giving to someone who is looking for help with their dog.


ID:"If it causes damage you’re pretty much screwed. It means the dog did not develop bite inhibition in puppyhood. And there’s no way to teach the dog bite inhibition safely. And there’s no way to teach the dog bite inhibition toward dogs and other animals at all.

There ain’t no cure. The only thing you can do is manage it, keep him indoors and never let him off leash. Or euthanize him. I grade bites on a scale from one to six and once you move from a three to a four, there’s nothing you can do for this dog. He’s going to die
."

WOW! When I followed the link, it turns out that number 3 differs from number 4 by the depth of the bite wound, and possibly some bruising. My issue, aside from telling people on a mass scale that if their dog has bitten and caused damage they're "screwed" when proof that this issue can be solved is the fact that I have a job, is that his attitude towards the dogs and they're owners is outlandishly negative. Going back to his little bite scale, you can read in number 4 he explains his prognosis, and basically states that no one listens to him. He comes across as though because your dog bites you are in fact an idiot. "ID: Prognosis is poor because of the difficulty and danger of trying to teach bite inhibition to an adult hard-biting dog and because absolute owner-compliance is rare."

Other parts of this article that lend more to my suspicions that he cannot competently train a dog include him admitting it has taken him a year to house train a 10 month old dog. Are you kidding me!?! A year? Now, I will be honest, when I talk to someone about house training a dog I am not just talking about potty training.  There are a multitude of other things that go into making a dog a fully functional member of my home. Not only don't pee in my house, but don't steal my food, don't chew my things, don't jump on or bite people etc..  But Ian has differentiated these things from "House Training" already!
If you can't get a dog to stop going to the bathroom in your home in less than a year, you have no business whatsoever telling people to euthanize their animals.

Overall, I have very little patience for Mr. Dunbar, or his antics.  I have heard him on more than one occasion talk of killing dogs with his "Purely Positive" training approach. His utter lack of respect for the human beings that have come to love those dogs as family is mind blowing. Henry Ford said that if you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are usually right. That comes to mind a lot when I read, or watch something of Ian's. Because if as trainers we don't remember that we're in the people business, and not just for the dogs we set our clients up for failure from the beginning.