In this fifteen-minute talk on dog-friendly dog training, Dr.Ian Dunbar has no dogs with him but still easily manages to keep the audience’s attention. He starts out by saying that dogs have interests, such as chasing squirrels or sniffing each other, and that we can use those interests as rewards when we are training dogs, so they aren’t just distractions. Otherwise, the dog owner can’t compete with the other interests, specially with an adolescent dog. You’ve got to take the dog’s point of view into account, he emphasizes. I liked him describing interests!
He mentions that in theories of dog training, some people say you make up rules, human rules, and that’s what the dog has to do. The dog doesn’t know what the rules are but if he doesn’t obey them, you can punish him. That’s dominance theory.
Running through a long list of ways that people punish a dog for jumping up, for example, Dr. Dunbar points out that it was fine and even encouraged when the tiny puppy jumped. But now that the dog weighs 80 pounds or so, he gets punished.
He asks, “What would you like the dog to do?” If it’s to sit, then teach him to sit. It’s like you have to teach the dog ESL (English as a Second Language.) Dunbar can be funny about the errors owners make in trying to train their dogs. Food works as a lure to teach with and then it can be phased out.
Even if a dog knows what we are asking him to do, he won’t necessarily do it. So the next stage in dog training is to teach the dog to want to do whatever it is we want. We do this by using distractions as rewards. He explains it better than I am doing here!
I like when he says that we are teaching the dog to have the opinion that it is training us! He gives the example of an Akita saying how easy to train his people are. “All I have to do is sit and they’ll do anything for me.” The dog is thinking that the sit is his command to us.
Of course, there are times when we need the dog to do what we say, for safety’s sake. You have to enforce without force. Punishment doesn’t have to be nasty, scary, or painful, he says, and so if it doesn’t have to be, it shouldn’t be. Calm insistence can do a lot.
He realized from watching people in his puppy training classes, that many people lack good interaction skills, whether with dogs or with other family members.He tells a story about this and makes the point that relationship skills can be so easy. My takeaway from what he says here is: give more positive feedback and do it more often. And people are easier to train than dogs!
This was a talk he gave at an EG conference. I didn’t know what EG was, so I googled it. It’s a conference of brilliant innovators driving our most creative industries. Here’s to more dog-friendly dog training!