Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WinsDay #8 Ian Dunbar DVD Review

We're ready, pass the popcorn!
I consider it a win anytime I get to learn something new and DVDs are a great way to learn at your own pace.  Dot and Taco are ready for movie night! Not sure how thrilled they'll be with tonight's selection: Raising the Bar in Dog Training, a lecture with Ian Dunbar.  Not that they don't like training, but I suspect they may loose focus after the first few minutes without any actual dog content (there are NO dogs in the whole program). 
Dot thinks DVDs are the most boring thing on earth.  "Why would you want to watch this plastic box?!"
This is a 3 DVD set and I watched over the course of a few evenings as I had time.  The first two DVDs are the lecture portion (from a lecture at Zoo Atlanta given in 2008) and the third is a Q&A session held after the lecture.  I really like Ian Dunbar's style, he's very conversational and has a TON of anecdotes about his own dogs and the thousands of dogs he has worked with.  Is you've never seen him, there are numerous videos on DogStarDaily on a lot of different topics.  (And while you're there, check out the wonderful Online Dog Training Textbook that covers a wide range of training topics from puppy to adulthood.)  That said, his stories can be a bit long at times and sometimes meander a bit from the topic he was on when he started the story.  For this reason, I watched the majority of this series at 1.5X speed, which makes everyone sound like they're in a huge hurry!  I'm used to it though, that's the way I watch most dog training DVDs.  :)

The focus of this lecture is taking training from basic manners to more focused and competitive performance of behaviors.  So Ian takes us through the steps of training a behavior, then what he believes is involved in making behaviors snappier, more consistent and reliable.

Ian's progression in dog training per this DVD is:
1-Teach the dog what we want.
2-Teach the dog to want to do it.  Give them the right motivation.
3-Enforce compliance.
4-Refine performance for pizazz.
5-Protect reliability and precision.

The first section of the lecture focused on basic tenants of training (so step 1) and how to use different tools such as scent, verbal commands, hand signals, body position, movement, etc. to train. 
Most interesting to me were his use of scent as a cue (perfume on the leash to mean a certain behavior is required) and teaching a command that means slow down in order to teach a command that means speed up.

The second section took us through steps 2-5.  By the right motivation Ian seemed to mean something other than food.  For real-life use, transitioning from food rewards to a life rewards, something like scratches, a run around the yard or a game of tug, might be more useful.  He suggested making a top 10 list of things your dog enjoys.  Eventually no reward is needed as the dog is internally rewarded.  The item that jumped out at me the most from the Step 3 section was his discussion of repeat commands.  Ian sees repeating a command in a different tone ("calm insistence" he called it) as a useful method for reinforcing compliance when the dog does not perform on the first command.  Instead of repeatedly saying the same command over and over, you are say "Sit" once, then saying your slightly more peeved "SiiiiiiiiTTTT", so that the dog knows "oops, I messed up".  He considers this negative reinforcement as when the dog performs, you remove the pressure of your insistence.  Interesting concept and I've tried to work in a more annoyed voice when a second command is needed.  I also found his discussion of Step 4-Refining you performance to be useful.  Once your dog knows what is expected and is well motivated, he suggests you implement testing into your training to gauge your dog's performance.  He uses success per x number of reps to give you a percentage of correct performances.  If you dog is doing it correctly 50% of the time, train more.  If your dog is doing it correctly 95% of the time in your living room, take it outside and test again, then try other locations and distractions.  Ian also explains that different rewards for varying levels of pizazz can help refine performance.  If the dog does a slow finish right but it is straight, a dry cookie might be the reward.  If the dog does a fast, snappy right finish then you might dole out three pieces of chicken in a row.

DVD 3 is a Q&A session with both Ian and Kelly, his wife.  The questions start off with someone wondering about the K9 Games competition Ian started but then no longer offers in the US.  This they focus heavily on puppy classes and how puppy class should be run.  Ian suggests potential adopters be able to test out a dog in their home for a week, which I'm sure not many shelters or rescues are prepared to let happen.  But it made me think, sometimes this is allowed when buying a horse, so maybe some rescues in certain situations would be willing to allow this.  A short discussion on bite inhibition wraps up the Q&As.

This lecture was slightly tedious at times, but included some really interesting stories and methods.  I'm sure anyone could watch and find something of interest but at over 4 hours long, I can't image sitting through it at normal speed.  I may have a pretty short attention span, but I'd rather be out doing rather than sitting and watching, so I like DVDs that get me to the doing quickly!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review.  I bought this DVD myself and the opinions are all my own.

Join us for WinsDay and show off your dog showing/trialing/training pictures and stories.  Show off your ribbons, tell us about your latest training triumph or ask a burning dog show question you're dying to hear others' opinions on.

WinsDay is not just the place to show off ribbons.  Maybe you learned something new about a breed or dog sport that you'd like to share or maybe you have a doggy giveaway going on at your blog and would like to give us all a chance to win!  Maybe your dog earned its CGC or you started working on a new level of obedience or agility.  Maybe you mastered doorway manners or housebroke your new puppy.  These are all wins, celebrate them with us!



  1. Sounds like there are lots of good tips in those DVDs, for new dog owners as well as more experienced owners/trainers. I know I need to work on not repeating commands, or as he suggested, only repeating the command one more time vs. "sit-sit-sit-sit."

    Your two are so cute lying together!

    1. I love Ian Dunbar, he has such great stories to pepper into his lectures!

  2. Sounds like an interesting watch! I admit the 4 hour run time might keep me from viewing it but it sounds like there's a lot of good content on there! :) Maybe I'll take a peek when I'm confined to bed rest, like if I catch a cold!

  3. Love Dr. D!! This is a great contest!

  4. This is really great. I've been really interested in learning his methods for training puppies - definitely something I want to learn more about. I read a book of his a long time ago where he talks about the importance of teaching a dog to obey a command even if you yell it out. He gave the example of the dog chasing something into the street and you wanting the dog to sit before getting to the street. In that instance, you'd most likely scream. If the dog hasn't been trained to follow the command in that voice or tone, he may not adhere in that moment. I did that with my dog and the "down" command, which is our calm and grounded command. She was definitely confused by my screaming out the command - not angrily, just loudly. But she did follow the command and it certainly made me feel confident that if I ever needed to use the command in an emergency she would listen to it. Great review!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! It is quite a commitment, but while it was super cold and snowy it was good for a couple of night's entertainment. :) Great point about proofing commands in different tones, this morning we were practicing NOT responding to nonsense words that sounds similar to commands like down, sit, etc. :)

  5. Wonderful review. I agree with Nailah though in that I am not sure I could do a four hour DVD lecture. I am better with those in person! I am fascinated by the scent idea- I've never heard of that before. We have talked about use of voice in many of the workshops i have attended. Some positive trainers consider any change in voice to be negative training but I don't think it's as harsh as an actual verbal or even physical correction. It makes for lively debate! So glad you added this post to the First Monday Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. I'm sorry it took me so long to hop by; I've been sick. I hope you will join us again in March!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I admit 4 hours is quite a commitment but it's easy enough to break up into several sections so I didn't feel chained to the tv. I tend to think variety in training and in the tools we learn and keep in our back pocket is better than sticking with a dogma of "positive training".