Whew! Over two months and 13 posts later, I’ve finally finished my series of posts on the Ian Dunbar seminar. It’s taken a lot of time and work to organize my notes and write up these posts, but I think it was worth it; we’ve had some great discussions in the comments section, and I’ve really thought a lot about how and why I train the way I do.
Today, I just want to take a few minutes to cover the things that didn’t fit neatly into other entries. These are just random odds and ends, and I’m presenting them simply because I think they’re interesting. There is minimal commentary here, and they’re presented in the order in which they appear in my notes.
First, Ian thinks that animal shelters can do a lot of harm. They unhousetrain dogs and typically teach them to be hyperactive. They also isolate companion animals. As a result, Ian has founded something called Open Paw. Check it out, and poke around at their minimum mental health guidelines. If you’re like me, you’ll feel horribly guilty that you’re not doing enough with your dog!
Next, are trainers more likely to have crazy dogs than the general public? Ian thinks so, and even coined the term “The Trainer’s Dog Syndrome.” He thinks that we are more likely to have multiple dogs, and as a result, don't have the time to socialize our puppies properly. We are more likely to pick a “crazy” breed. And, we tend to be more over-protective our puppies and create problems as a result. Personally, I think trainers are also more likely to have crazy dogs because they have big hearts and take them in because no one else could handle them, and become trainers in the first place after having worked through their crazy dog’s issues.
Last spring, Premier Pet Products was sold to RSC, a company that makes shock collars. In response, some positive-reinforcement trainers decided to boycott the company. Ian was not one of them, and in fact, supported the decision. At the seminar, I found out why: he has some neat ideas for products. For example, pressure sensitive mats that reward the dog as long as he remains on it. Or how about a leash/collar combo that coaches the human to reward the dog when the leash is loose? And then, there’s his dream of a machine that can monitor a dog’s vocalizations when he’s alone, and dispense treats when he’s quiet. Sounds intriguing. I hope some of them pan out.
Here’s a neat idea: when you’re teaching verbal cues, use a neutral tone and volume. Then, teach that if you shout the cue, the dog will get better treats. This helps improve reliability in an emergency.
Regarding the “negatives,” Ian says that the problem with these quadrants is that you must remove something that has been present for awhile. This means that you must start something in order to remove it, which can be difficult (or even aversive). Further, Ian believes that negative punishment (ie, timeouts) is a waste of training time. It’s also easy to punish the wrong thing when doing a time out, especially if you grab a collar in order to do a timeout. Negative reinforcement, however, is powerful, and Ian believes it’s best for proofing. The drawback is that it can damage a dog quickly since you have to start a bad thing, which can create fallout. As a result, Ian described his training as roughly 85% positive reinforcement, 10% positive punishment, and 5% negative punishment.
I love this one, and I think it applies not only to dog training, but also to life: learn to ask the right question. When you’ve figured out what the question is, you already know the answer. To ask means that you have enough knowledge to formulate the question in the first place, so the solution will be easy. (For example, instead of asking “How do I punish my dog for barking when I’m not home?” you should ask “How do I reward my dog for being quiet when I’m not home?”)
How is food used in training? Well, it can be used as a lure (to give instruction), as a reward (which is a surprise consequence), as a bribe (presented in order to coerce the behavior, which is silly because antecedents don’t change behavior, consequences do), and as a distraction (show the dog the treat, set it down away from you, and request the behavior).
And that’s it! That is officially everything I wanted to share with you guys about the Ian Dunbar seminar I attended. Thank you so much to everyone who has commented on these posts. Your thoughts, questions and conversations have been fascinating, and I’ve learned just as much from analyzing the content with you guys as I did from listening to Ian. I would be sad that this series of posts is over, but I’m signed up for Clicker Expo in March, which pretty much guarantees another dozen or so posts, followed by a weekend with Sarah Kalnajs in April. I can’t wait to discuss everything I learn with you guys this spring!