T.I.N.A. Totally Invasive Non-Aversive

I want to totally intrude into my dog’s brain to better understand their feelings, emotions, and motives, just as much as I relish my dog 'intruding' in my brain, and remaining there long after they've died. Kinda like a doggy Vulcan mind-meld. We need more togetherness, not less.

Easy, Quick, Effective Dog Training

Lure-Reward Training is comparatively simple, especially in terms of feedback. It is next to effortless and requires minimal brain power to say, "Thank you" or "Go play". On the other hand, using aversive stimuli effectively as punishment requires adherence to six stringent criteria and a considerable mental and physical skillset.

Non-Aversive "Punishment"?

Aversive Punishments are a Rare Beast The first clue that these two assumptions were not true, came to me in a flash when I heard someone say, "I hate seeing all these aversive punishments," I thought, but that can't be what you see. Only very few stimuli or procedures qualify as aversive punishment because they have such a fleeting existence.considerably more effective reinforcement schedules.

So Your Dog Understands "Sit"

When we teach a child to Sit on request on a chair in the kitchen, the meaning of the request is quickly generalized to chairs and other pieces of furniture elsewhere and anywhere. However, when you teach a dog to Sit on cue in the kitchen, for example, you might have a good kitchen-sitting dog, especially around mealtimes. However, your dog might not respond as reliably with other family members, or for you in other rooms, outdoors, in a dog park, on-leash on the sidewalk, with heavy distractions, or when you are out of sight.

Defining and Quantifying Dog Training

Some popularly held notions are that 'training is training', and 'a trainer is a trainer'. However, given a hundred dog trainers, each one would use different techniques that vary considerably in terms of ease, speed, effectiveness, and enjoyment.

Dog Training is at a Loss for Words

Opening interspecific, communication channels, teaching animals English as a Second Language should always be the prime directive of any animal training program. Our words save us considerable time when teaching/training by offering clear instructions prior to task and prevent frustration and sometimes annoyance by providing precise verbal guidance when dogs err. We must bring our voice back to dog training.

Dog Training is Not Rocket-Science

As researchers disappeared down the rabbit hole of using shock on captive rats (that couldn't escape the shock), their creativity was blunted, and they were distracted from a more vibrant and productive quest for much more powerful rewards (life rewards) and considerably more effective reinforcement schedules.

Another Dog Training Revolution

Yesterday, I realized that today, I need to start over and re-do what I did in 1982 — re-popularize the natural way of training dogs — off-leash, lure-reward training — the quickest, easiest, and most effective reward-training method for teaching cued-behaviors, i.e., teaching dogs the meaning of the words we use for instruction and guidance.

Two Mistakes Dog Owners Make (and how to fix them)

There are a couple of mistakes that dog owners frequently make which are simple to fix and have the potential to dramatically improve a dog's behavior.

Five Books For Teaching Tricks

Tricks and games are some of the best ways to motivate Humans to train their Dogs. Plenty of people who shirk their homework and procrastinate "important training" are happy to spend an afternoon perfecting a trick or playing a training game.

Dog-Dog Reactivity and How to Solve it

Dog-Dog Aggression is really upsetting for dogs and their owners alike — both are excruciatingly stressed but additionally, all too often the stress and anxiety remains a chronic condition because most treatment protocols are so slow.

Using Quadrants in Dog Training

I only promoted the quadrants as a learning aid to remember the ridiculously ambiguous and needlessly complicated terms +P, +R, -P and -R. But the Quadrant only adds confusion to applied training, i.e., actually training a dog and changing behavior in the intended direction.

Puppies vs Adult Dogs / Breeders vs Shelters

I am often asked, (actually, “criticized” and “chastised” might be more accurate terms): 1. Why most of my seminars, articles, books and DVDs focus on puppy raising and training rather than adult dog training? and 2. Why I promote (which I don’t) buying pure-bred puppies from breeders instead of adopting adult mixed-breeds from shelters?

The Litter Longevity Index

When breeders selectively breed for work, show or competition, they significantly “cull” the litter by selecting the best puppies (by physical or behavioral phenotype) and offering the rest for sale as pet dogs. In fact, for a long time in the dog world, the term “pet dog” was a label of inferiority, which has always irked me.

The Ethics of Breeding

Natural Selection is nature's fail-safe method to maintain eugenics (good genes and fine offspring). All dogs are different; individual variation is an inherent characteristic of sexual reproduction. Different dogs fair differently in different situations...

The Importance of Puppy Education

Owners and their new puppies are still getting the short end of the stick. Dog problems are invariably blamed on “irresponsible dog owners” BUT they are simply at a loss for what to do, and, no one is telling them.

Puppy Education Starts at Home

Factual learning should occur at each individual’s own pace and in the comfort and convenience of their own home, especially in terms of the most urgent and important aspects of puppy husbandry — socialization and handling/training by numerous people (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) and preventing predictable behavior problems.

The Benefits of Online Dog Training

Back in the day, when we used to buy books and DVDs and travel to dog training seminars, workshops and conferences, furthering our education could be pricey. Nowadays, online education is either open-source or very affordable and extremely convenient — anytime, anywhere!

What Dog Training Really Needs

These days we are being increasingly advised that dog training should be based on peer-reviewed, published studies. I feel this is a bit silly because there are so few research studies on dog training. In fact, there are next to none. Certainly, there are wonderful studies on the behavior of wild canids, on feral or free-roaming domestic dogs and there are some really interesting studies on cognition in companion dogs but … there just isn’t much on people training companion dogs.

What to do About Canine Flu

As you probably know, there is currently an outbreak of Dog Flu in the South Bay and more recently, a number of cases have cropped up in other areas around the Bay. All dog owners, including myself, are understandably concerned about what they can do to reduce the likelihood that their dogs will be infected. However, there is no need to panic.

Help Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Using nothing more than kibble and science, this miraculous little machine monitors barking throughout the day and rewards dogs for being calm and quiet for progressively longer periods via a 24-tone cascade culminating in delivery of one or two pieces of kibble.

Ten Tips to Become a Successful Dog Trainer

Dr. Ian Dunbar's Top Ten Tips For Becoming A Successful Dog Trainer: It’s no good moaning and groaning that people don’t come to you until they have a problem with their dog. You need to establish a presence in your community to showcase your training and entice clients to come to you...

Open Paw Changing Shelters Forever

Open Paw transforms shelters into a cross between a Canine University and a Canine Country Club, so that resident dogs (and cats) enjoy their stay while receiving an education, and hence, are more likely to be adopted and stay adopted.

We Need a New Kind of Dog TV

I find so many dog training television shows tend to be formulaic and predictable, frequently focusing on conflict and countering problems, problems, problems and even more problems, hence presenting the picture that dog training is time-consuming, laborious, complicated, frustrating, combative, unpleasant and sometimes, even a downright drag, i.e., a problem.

The Best Deal in Dog Training

Over the past 45 years, I have given over 1300 one-day seminars and workshops around the US and worldwide. All in all, a whole lot of fun. But realistically, giving the same seminar over and over in city after city is not an efficient means of information transfer and also, spending nine months of the year in hotels on the seminar trail, albeit enjoyable, was not an efficient use of my time.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

I first introduced science-based training techniques to dog trainers way back in 1971. However, over the next decade, I realized that much of laboratory learning theory was either irrelevant or unworkable when people trained animals in real life situations.

Breeders Should Potty Train Pups

Certainly some breeders do spend a lot of time training their puppies. But most don’t. Why not? I think because few breeders realize how easy it is to housetrain puppies and that it actually saves time. Similarly, chewtoy-training and teaching basic manners and tricks are as easy as they are enjoyable.

Puppies Need More Socialization

Without a doubt, the most important aspect of dog husbandry comprises raising dogs to thoroughly enjoy the company and actions of people, especially children, men and strangers, i.e., raising “bomb-proof” dogs.

Bad Advice: Rub Thier Nose In It?

“What do you say when a client tells you, in regards to puppy housebreaking, "Well I rubbed my dog's nose in his poop and he knew he was wrong and he never pooped in the house again."

10 Tips To Train The Perfect Puppy

Whether selecting your prospective pup from a professional breeder or from a family breeding a litter for the very first time, the criteria are the same. Look for puppies raised indoors around human companionship and influence—specifically around people who have devoted lots of time to the puppies' education.

Solving Real Life Off Leash Problems

How to quantify progress, test reliability, and improve performance vastly. This put the responsibility of reliability and performance on the handler and on training, rather than on the dog. Far too many dogs are being punished in the name of training or due to disobedience, when the fault actually lies within the teaching process.

Our Favorite Brands of Dog Food

Of the 245 foods, only ten brands comprised the top 90th Percentile (24 dog foods in total). The overall winner, with three recipes all scoring maximum points, was Ziwi Peak’s Air Dried (Lamb, Venison & Fish and Venison). Artisan’s Grandma Lucy’s two foods (Chicken and Lamb) came tied for 2nd along with three recipes of Nature’s Variety’s Freeze Dried Raw (Chicken, Lamb and Venison).

The Risk of Parvo and Puppy Classes

I have just read a paper in the March/April issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association describing a study that concluded, puppies vaccinated at least once prior to starting puppy classes at less than 16 weeks of age were at no more risk of being diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus infection than vaccinated puppies that did not attend classes.

Quantifying Success in Dog Training

Years ago after a puppy class, a frustrated owner (of a Jack Russell Terrier) complained that her puppy wouldn’t sit still for a second. I got out my stopwatch and checked. She was quite correct; the puppy only sat for 0.2 of a second. I wrote the number on a sheet of paper and stuck it on the wall. On the fourth trial though, the JRT proved her wrong and sat for 1.2 seconds. I wrote the dog’s new personal best on the sheet of paper. Baby steps? Yes. But because we objectively quantified the dog’s performance, we realized that these baby steps reflected a 600% improvement.

Changing The Puppy Training Paradigm

The time is long overdue for an additional quantum leap to catalyze a sorely needed paradigm shift in puppy raising and training. This year, SIRIUS is starting an initiative to attempt to coordinate all of the dog professions — breeders, veterinarians, trainers, retailers and shelter personnel — to promote a preventive educational program for prospective and new puppy owners.

The Force In Dog Training

No matter what we believe and how we train dogs ourselves, we have to face the facts: It’s human nature to take the good for granted and moan and groan at the bad. Many dog owners are going to punish their dogs regardless of our advice and so, I think it is important that we teach them how to reduce and eliminate undesirable behaviors without using physical force, or any scary or painful stimuli, i.e., by learning to use non-aversive “punishment” techniques when teaching off-leash verbal control.

How to Train Your Dog by Accident

Lately, I have been taking a bunch of classical conditioning treats on walks because both Hugo and Claude have been jumped on and bitten recently. Claude simply ignores most attacks (as he ignores lots in life), but he is getting old and I would not want the onset of geriatric grumpies to change his stellar doggy demeanor. And so, whenever we see other dogs (and people), I offer him a food reward.

The Three Building Blocks of Puppy Training

Raising a puppy to be a good-natured, well-behaved and mannerly companion dog comprises three main building blocks: 1. Manners Training, 2. Behavior Training, 3. Temperament Training.

How Not to Make a Shelter Dog

Usually at this time of the year, I advise people not to impulsively buy a puppy. This is the season when many shelter dogs are manufactured simply because new puppy owners are unaware of how to select a puppy and how to raise a puppy. However, this year, I am addressing my column to all those people who are going to ignore my advice and get a puppy anyway.

Welcome to Ian's World

Here's a clip from my newest DVD, the concept is by my dear Japanese friend Kaoru Cooke and her husband Jeff Cooke and produced by Dancing Dog Productions. I really love the format of this project and it was a ton of fun to film it in Tokyo. I hope you enjoy! If you'd like to see the whole thing, the entire DVD can be found here. Cheers!

Using Binary Feedback in Balanced Dog Training

The more information you provide in training, the clearer the message and the tighter the behavior becomes. (Think of playing the "hot and cold game" versus just playing the "hot OR cold game".) There is nothing in the little book of learning theory that says punishment has to be aversive and I believe it ought not be painful or frightening.

Phasing Out Tools in Training

Whatever tools you use to train your dog, it's important that you phase them out eventually. Ultimately you want a dog that will listen to verbal commands under any circumstances, off-leash, at a distance, surrounded by distractions. It's just as easy to become dependant on a leash or a shock collar as it is to become dependant on food treats. With lure reward training you can phase out the use of food and replace it with life-rewards, the fun and play that are probably you got a dog in the first place!

Lure Reward Training Done Right

Forty years into my career and I still believe lure/reward training is the way to go. Here I explain why.

Don't Let Your Tools Become a Crutch!

No topic is more misunderstood than the use of food in dog training. By all means we should use training tools but there is indeed a lot of urgency to phase them out. Here I discuss the appropriate use, and misuse, of food in training.

Dog Training Transcends Learning Theory

When training doesn’t work that well, people will search for alternative methods, often with the (usually false) assumption that aversive treatment is better for resolving behavior problems and producing greater reliability than a reward–based program.

Just Talk to Them!

As people we can make instantaneous qualitative judgments and provide non-aversive, instructive, continuous, differential binary feedback that transcends anything a computer can do in a laboratory. All we have to do is talk to our dogs.

Contributing to Cesar Millan's New Book

I have always thought, that I can do so much more good for dogs by engaging those who use dog training techniques of which I strongly disapprove, rather than simply preaching to the choir. Having read the book, I am glad that I decided to be involved

Adolescence and the Onset of Aggression

A little ditty about how to deal with the changes that occur in doggy adolescence ("what happened to my sweet, obedient puppy?") and how to prevent these minor bumps in the road from becoming major roadblocks to living with, and enjoying, a solid, social, adult dog.

A Proper Puppy Class

I am passionate about puppy classes and have worked very hard over the years to develop the perfect formula for raising a safe, solid canine citizen and well-behaved companion dog. However, over the years the idea of what a puppy class is has drifted, and in many cases, has lost the primary objective of the benefit of training young puppies. Here's my idea of a proper puppy class.

A Golden Opportunity Often Wasted

Young puppies are impressionable, adorable, and eager to learn. With a little preparation and training they can learn so much, and they can learn it so quickly that they'll be inoculated against the problematic behaviors that are so very predictable and cause adolescent dogs to end up in shelters.

My First Vlog Entry!

Lights, Camera, Action! If this works, I've found my medium and will be off and running!


These days though, bribing is fast becoming the norm for those that use food in training. So many trainers and hence so many owners continue to use food lures and rewards throughout the entire training program. If the same item is used as both a lure and a reward, then the process approximates bribing.

Let's Just Be Humans Training Dogs

Basing dog training on a misunderstanding of wolf behavior is as useful as basing human education on a misunderstanding of chimpanzee behavior. Dogs are not wolves and dog behavior is not the same as wolf behavior. In fact, the most striking difference between dog and wolf behavior is their interaction with people.

Training as Easy as 1, 2, 3 and 4

I have spent the past few years thinking about the major stumbling blocks in training that prevent owners from raising well-behaved, good-natured (people-friendly and dog-friendly) dogs that have reliable off-leash, verbal control without the continued need for training aids.

Humping is Normal, Yet Rude and Lewd

Unlike most other mammals, neutered male and to a lesser extent, neutered female dogs will continue to mount other dogs. Quite common and quite normal. In fact, neutered male dogs tend to mount more than intact males, presumably due to a lack of discriminatory experience.

Reinforcement Schedules

Laboratory study has revealed a variety of reinforcement schedules. Puppy training has revealed that most of these are notorious ineffective, or impossible to administer in practice, with the notable exceptions of variable ratio and especially, differential reinforcement. Yet educators and trainers persist in using these relatively ineffective schedules...

Tweaking Learning Theory for Human Brains

These days, many trainers eat and breathe learning-theory. The Little Book Of Learning Theory (LBOLT) is creedally accepted by one and all, even though little of it works in practice. Please don’t stone me. I am not being heretical. Learning theory is a real and valid description of how computers train animals but the LBOLT offers little for when people teach people or train animals.

Pet Dog Training Needs An Overhaul

Pet dog training desperately needs a make-over in terms of theory and practice. In the absence of regular quantification, standards have fallen in terms of performance criteria, time and trials to criterion and off-leash verbal control. Many puppy classes are now taught on-leash and owners are still trying to lure or feed food treats week six. Many temporary training tools have become permanent management tools. We must get back to basics...

It's All About Adolescence

Personally, I enjoy living with dogs more and more the older they get. I find the prolonged sunset years of the relationship to be magical. Unfortunately, not all dogs get to enjoy their sunset years in their original homes. For many dogs, adolescence stands in the way.

Science-Based Dog Training (With Feeling)

The development of off-leash, puppy/adolescent, socialization and training classes caused a paradigm shift in dog training away from the on-leash, physical restraint/prompt/punish methods of competition/working training to whelp an entirely new field of Pet Dog Training. However, after nearly 30 years, pet dog training is in dire need of re-invention.

Gearing Up And Getting Down To Business In 2010

Recently, there have been so many developments in dog training. However, for the past six years, I have almost exclusively been lecturing abroad and have only given a couple of multi-day seminars in the US presenting these issues. Most important by far, the notion of non-aversive punishment — certainly the secret for response-reliability without fear or pain and without the continued need for training aids, such as, leashes, collars, lures, toys, clicks and treats.

National Train Your Dog Month

January is National Train Your Dog Month . We have special days and weeks and months to draw attention to a particular cause that is in dire need for attention. Of course, obviously, Train Your Dog Month should be every month of the year but what puzzles me, is: Why on earth do we feel that we have to draw attention to something as enjoyable and captivating as dog training?

Reviewing Dog Spelled Backwards

“DOG Spelled Backward” is written by a fellow dog trainer, Fernando Camacho, who gave me a copy at my June New Jersey seminar.I had just devoured four novels, all written by New York Times best-selling authors, but “DOG…” was way superior.

Bad Puppy Classes?

I recently read — How Puppy Class Almost Ruined My Dad’s New Cattle Dog — written by a veterinarian, who blames Puppy Class (and her Dad) for almost ruining her Dad’s puppy, Lucy. I am worried that the sensational and provocative title along with the tabloid style, (replete with “videotaped evidence”, watching “in horror” and the predictable cliff-hanger ending, “To find out what happened, stay tuned

Can too much Socialization Ruin a Puppy?

You did what you thought was best at the time. You gave your puppy what every puppy requires — ample opportunity to socialize. You did all the right things. But poor Sadie simply wasn’t sufficiently prepared.

On The Road Again

It’s good to be back on the US seminar circuit. Lecturing about dogs is one of the joys of my life and right now, there is just so much that needs to be talked about. When I was in Italy last year, a trainer asked me what I thought were the most pressing issues in present day dog training. I thought that the whole Dominance-Punishment-Compliance debacle was the most damaging to the quality of life of dogs and their owners. And of course it still remains so today.

Dog Control System a.k.a DogCon

Having a two-tiered command system allows both you and the dog to relax most of the time. The dog knows he only has to pay absolute attention whenever you use his formal name. And you know that you only have to be absolutely consistent in training when giving commands using the dog’s formal name. However, when you use the dog’s formal name, you must ALWAYS follow up.

The Original Non-Aversive Punishment Blog

Even though efficient and effective feed-back is binary and comprises rewards and punishments, few trainers punish. Some trainers do not want to punish at all because they think that punishments are unpleasant and inhumane and other trainers use aversive stimuli intended as punishment but all too often, ineffective.

Every Dog is an Individual

Group walks and dog-dog pack time at home are certainly wonderful and have many benefits, but one-on-one dog-to-person time is so important, too. Individual activities build confidence and personality, in addition to fostering independence for the dog(s) left at home alone. One-on-one activities enhance each unique relationship by allowing you to cater to each individual dog's special needs, interests, and whims.

Debating Terms vs. Training Dogs

Having researched the development of domestic dog social systems for ten years, I know two things for certain: 1. Dog social structure is pretty darn complicated and 2. Most notions, discussions, and disagreements about the terms: alpha, dominance, hierarchy, rank and aggression are all largely irrelevant when it comes to training dogs.

The Holy Grail Of Dog Training

For Tucker, “just doing it” was reward enough. Tucker had become self—motivated and internally rewarded by the training process. For Tucker, work and play had become interchangeable; work was fun and the best fun was work. This of course is the Holy Grail of Training — when training is the ultimate reward.

Good Behavior is Unappreciated

One of the easiest ways to change a dog’s personality (and hence behavior) is to reward the dog for good behavior on a regular basis – to make a point of catching the dog in the act of doing something right, and conveying our heartfelt approval.

Nothing in Life is Free?

A couple of months ago our esteemed editor asked us all to blog about NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) — The concept is as simple as it is effective. Deny your dog nothing; merely ask your dog to say, “please” beforehand. For example, ask your dog to sit before every enjoyable doggy activity.

Phoenix and the Turkey

Many years ago I had prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of friends. I cooked and set the table and it looked just so wonderful. A quick step into the kitchen to get the carving knife and fork and when I returned to the dining room, the turkey was GONE! My grandmother’s beautiful antique meat platter was still in the center of the table. But empty!

A Perry Mason Moment

So, let’s flash to the courtroom. Dr. Dunbar is giving expert testimony — sage doggy advice. Perry Mason recaps, “So, Dr. Dunbar, you maintain that we can never tell why dogs do what they do?” “That’s correct,” I say, “We can never know for certain.” At this point Paul Drake slides through the double doors at the back of the courtroom and walks briskly up to Della Street, whispers in her ear and hands her a manila envelope. In turn, Della turns and whispers to Perry Mason. She hands him the manila package and Perry peeps inside.

The Dog Diversity Dilemma

The problem of inbreeding and the resultant health problems and decreased life-expectancy of pure-bred dogs have worsened considerably, largely due to the over-breeding of a small number of males in any breed.

Asking The Wrong Questions

Do you think he sensed that she didn’t like him? Or did he smell her cats? You know, he always does get very tense whenever he sees suitcases. Or was he just being vindictive? Do you think dogs can be vindictive? I mean, why did he do it?”

Sirius & The Dog's Point of View

At the time, I was reading a book called Sirius by Olaf Stapledon. The book describes the life of a Welsh sheepdog that had the brainpower and speech capabilities of a human, but the senses and urges of a dog. Sirius could describe his feelings and sensations to the reader. As soon as I read Sirius’ description of his doggy girlfriend, Morwen, I got it. Immediately I understood. Dogs and humans live in an identical physical world yet we perceive it so utterly differently.