Thursday, November 4, 2010
Ian Dunbar Seminar: Introduction
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.