Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ian Dunbar Seminar: Introduction

Dr. Ian Dunbar: Master of funny faces and dog impressions.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a three-day seminar given by Dr. Ian Dunbar. I was pretty excited about this because Ian is a big name in training. He designed and taught the first puppy classes, wrote numerous books, appeared on television and in DVDs, and founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

On Friday, Ian discussed how to predict and prevent problems in puppies. He believes that all behavior problems can be prevented, with the possible exception of dog-dog aggression. Unfortunately, we waste puppyhood, and as a result, end up with dogs with behavior problems. These dogs are often rehomed, or worse. Ian’s fed up with this, and he says we need to stop producing problem dogs by changing the way we breed and raise puppies so that all dogs can stay in their homes.

Saturday’s topic was “Science-Based Training- with Feeling!” During the course of his lecture, Ian deconstructed learning theory. He believes that trainers have become “sectarian fundamentalists” who only read part of the “Holy Book of Learning Theory.” What’s more, by his estimation, 90% of learning theory is useless for dog training anyway. He explained why, and then shared how he implements the remaining 10%.

Finally, on Sunday, he told us how he gets off-leash reliability from dogs. His emphasis is on lure-reward training, and he told us how he progresses from the first cookie-induced sit all the way up to a solid dog who reliably performs commands everywhere.

Overall, I’m glad I attended the seminar. Ian is a very engaging speaker. He’s funny, and he tells lots of stories. Sometimes, the stories hugged the margins between on and off topic, and I think that I would have preferred a bit more content and a bit less in the way of commentary. I must admit that at times, my mind wandered a bit more than I would have liked.

I also appreciated that the seminar challenged some of my dog training beliefs. I am a clicker trainer, and he is a lure-reward trainer. From the outset, this means that we do things differently. While I understand that the average dog owner will get the results they want from lure-reward training- I am not the average dog owner. I’ve had very different experiences, so I did disagree with a few of his ideas, although I don’t think that means he’s “wrong.” On the contrary, I’m sure he’s had a lot of success with his methods, even if I haven’t.

The seminar gave me a lot to think about. Since I learn best by writing, you can be assured that there will be many posts to come. In fact, there will probably so many posts that I’ll need to spread them out over the course of a couple of months. After all, I still want to write about Maisy’s progress with training and her new medication! In the meantime, if you want a sneak peak into the seminar, check out part one or part two of Laura's summaries.

6 comments:

Lauren said...

I can't wait to hear more about your experience at the seminar. I must admit, I LOVE it when you attend seminars because I learn much better reading than listening and you have a way of putting together posts that give me many "aha" moments. Maybe I should just start paying for you to go to seminars and write what you learn instead of saving to go to them myself? LOL

I would love to see Ian someday, I have seen some of his clips from different presentations and he seems like he could give a very entertaining lecture.

Crystal said...

Funny you should say this, Lauren. I just had a sponsorship opportunity for Clicker Expo open up. I accept cash or check...

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Oh come on, that was just a tease! I've been waiting for you beautiful posts and this is what I get?! Tsk Tsk Crystal, get to work ;)

Crystal said...

Oh, Laura. Good things come to those who wait...

Kristine said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I'm more than a little envious but very appreciative of you sharing what you learned with us.

Dr. Dunbar's book was the very first one I purchased before getting a dog. Even though we didn't adopt a puppy I still found it incredibly useful.

Urban canines said...

Can't wait to hear your summary on the off leash portion!