Ian Dunbar’s “Science based Dog Training” and opinions about Remote collar training

Jan 20

Ian Dunbar’s “Science based Dog Training” and opinions about Remote collar training

I received a post card in the mail the other day. It is an ad for Ian Dunbar’s workshop that is currently touring the US. The title is: Science-Based Dog Training with Feeling. I’m thinking about going because the information makes it sound as though Dr. Dunbar is promoting some use of consequence as a responsible part of dog training, which makes me curious about the presentation.

I’ve seen Dr. Dunbar in the past, in fact his tapes Sirius Dog and Puppy Training were some of the first material I studied way back in the early 90′s when I was learning more about training and how dog’s learn. He has a lot of excellent information and I learned a great deal about lure and reward and variable schedule of reinforcement, body language, etc. But I also knew Dr. Dunbar was not much of an advocate for balanced training or the use of any type of aversive. So this new information sounded intriguing.

In chatting with some friends, I learned that a colleague of mine had attended one of his East coast events late last fall. I asked for a brief review and was a bit dismayed what I heard. So I asked Renee of Follow Me Dog Training to write up a review for all of you.

I’m curious to hear your feedback and if anyone else has attended and what you thought of the presentation. I have not decided yet if I will attend when he comes this way. I keep praying for the day when all dog trainers will truly carry themselves as pros and give the dog world the credibility it deserves.  If the leaders of the industry can’t walk the walk….what are the dog owners to think?  :(

remote collar training

Renee & Frappy

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.”

I love this quote by Dr. Minsky. I totally agree. As a student in college I learned how to approach history from all different angles, how to understand all different cultures and societies. I also relished the idea that the more I learned, the better I could approach any aspect of my life. When I became a dog trainer this idea was never truer.

Throughout my short (15 years) dog training career I have done my best to continue my education. I have attended schools, workshops, seminars, and conferences centered on all arenas of dog training and handling. I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the top trainers in my field and even had the opportunity to teach remote collar work to dog trainers at the That’s My Dog! E-cademy. I specialize in training dogs with a remote collar but that certainly isn’t the only way to train a dog, so I supplement my remote collar training with many other methods and techniques as I am sure many other trainers do as well. Bottom line though, the learning never stops.

The one thing about dog training that  a lot of the average public doesn’t know is that there are many different ways to train a dog and in my opinion there is no ONE way. I believe, to be a good dog trainer, it takes experience and the ability to pull any tool out of your box and create a bond and level of communication between dog and owner. Just like dogs need to learn in every aspect of their life, we need to learn how to adjust to the differences in each dog and if you are a trainer of people, differences in human learning. Everyone’s definition of a “trained dog” is not the same and I do not believe that every dog can be trained the same.

In early October of 2010 I had the opportunity to attend a seminar given by Dr. Ian Dunbar. The title of the seminar is, Science Based Dog Training (with Feeling). I had previously seen a presentation by Dr. Dunbar in 2007 at the International Association of Canine Professionals annual conference. I hadn’t had the opportunity to catch all the presentation then, so I was looking forward to what Dr. Dunbar was lecturing about. You can do your own research on the accomplishments of Dr. Dunbar. It is even quite possible you have read a book or seen a video of some of his training. I had even previously incorporated a few of his techniques into my own personal dog training tool box. Needless to say, he understands dogs and science and is a big advocate of training dogs. I was very sad that dogs were not allowed to attend; it made me wonder how he was going to give practical application examples. I later learned that as Dr. Dunbar said himself “Half the dogs at seminars shouldn’t be there because they are dog trainer’s dogs.” And that is when I really started learning….

I learned a lot, what I learned though wasn’t just more methods and techniques for my dog training toolbox. That was the unfortunate thing. I learned that there is a large biased and uninformed section of the dog training community that are unwilling and unapproachable when it comes to learning about different dog training tools. I was appalled by the snide remarks, off hand comments and general hatred towards other members in the many canine professions who do not train dogs like they believe it should be done. I felt as a remote collar trainer like an outsider and that I was at risk of being thrown out and insulted for believing and knowing that a tool like a remote collar can help millions of dogs and their families. I felt it safer to take notes and learn what I could from the speaker then to stand up and try to change a room full of people that had no interest in continuing to grow in their profession. I think the saddest part though, was that Dr. Dunbar was at the forefront of insulting and debasing the use of remote collars in dog training. Don’t get me wrong, he also insulted some other methods…mostly the ones that weren’t his. He managed to insult an Association of over 1000 members (the very Association that had made him a Hall Of Fame Member for his work in dogs), Cesar Milan, leash and collar trainers and any trainer that didn’t train dogs his way

Phrases like: “hurt”, “painful”, “electric s#!t”, “non- instructive reprimand”, “you are the problem if you have to press the button more than once”, “bubba with his shock collar”, “punish” and “abuse” were all used liberally when the subject of remote collars were brought up.

I was astounded so I started keeping track of the insults around the actual useful bits of dog training information he was giving. I began to wonder why a man so respected in his field would feel the need over a three day seminar to take time out of his lecturing to insult other trainers and their tools at least once an hour.

It took me a few months to be able to pull my brain around the confusion that it faced after the last day of the Seminar. Why should a specific tool cause so much confrontation? Why won’t Dr. Dunbar take the time to learn from others as we were there to learn from him? Why is it necessary to insult and degrade if people don’t train dogs the way you do?

The thought that always won out was, what people don’t understand threatens them. Many of what we would call the “purely positive” dog trainers don’t and won’t take the time to understand remote collars because of people like Dr. Dunbar. The fact that there are many dog trainers that successfully use remote training collars in a non-confrontational, fun, learning fashion threatens some other trainers. They hear how “shock collars” are abusive or punitive and are told how evil the remote collar is, and they believe them. There is no follow through, no continuing education, no learning in more than one way. And so they feel threatened by what they don’t understand.

Dr. Dunbar is a scientist; he has been researching dogs for longer than I have been alive. He has some amazing dog training information to share with the world…I just wish he would keep some of his negative thoughts to himself so that other people can make their own decisions on how to train their dog.  At the risk of filling your head with false information I’m going to list some of these Dunbar quotes from the seminar, what would you think if you were bombarded with these thoughts?

“Shock collars will be gone in 10 years. There is precedence overseas. They are done”

“Shock collars don’t work to strengthen the bond; they only make the dogs more fearful”

“The three worst things to wean your dog off are, a leash, a shock collar and a treat bag.”

“Just because it works, doesn’t mean it is the right way to do it”

“You shouldn’t have to shock a dog more than 3 times, that is just an advertisement that you don’t know how to train, shock is painful so if you can’t train with one shock you are the problem”

“The conference at the International Association of Canine Professionals was filled with dogs wearing shock collars. There were too many dogs on shock collars, that is NOT training and there were no trained dogs at the conference because they were all wearing shock collars.”

“Bubba with the shock collar never takes the collar off and is constantly punishing the dog”

“We see people jerk forever and shock forever, that is not punishment training, that’s abuse.”

When someone asked Dr. Dunbar “Why are shock collars used in training then?” this was his answer: “It is horrible that they are because there is no proof of reliability, it is wrong because so many trainers have proven themselves to be hopeless dog trainers, and shock collars will do a lot of damage and make the dogs life miserable”

If you have ever learned how to use a remote collar from an educated instructor, or seen a remote collar trained dog perform to the best of their ability or even just taken time to learn about remote collars, the statements above make your blood boil a bit…trust me I felt the need many times to get up, walk out and not worry about the loss of my seminar fee…but I understand that there are more than one way to learn and I was learning!

One last quote from Dr. Dunbar and I’ll wrap up the insane weekend that this seminar provided me with. “In the Shock collar world, Bubba shocks the dog without letting them get it right or showing them how to and then making them do the task” To me this quote sums up the fact that Dr. Dunbar is unwilling to learn and understand about modern remote collar training. Ask any one of my clients and they will tell you that one of the things I repeat over and over in all my lessons is the importance of telling the dog what to do and showing or helping the dog perform the task consistently for a period of time before we assume the dog has full understanding. I would never allow one of my clients (or myself) to shock a dog for no reason, to shock without teaching. I would never put a remote collar, prong collar, slip collar, bag of treats, head halter, gentle leader in the hands of a dog owner without teaching them how to use it to the best of the dogs ability.

I don’t feel the need to justify my choice of training tool, nor do I force all dog owners to use my tool of choice. I hope that anyone that is interested in creating a language and bond with their dog will look to many different resources and go with what works best for them and their situation. I would also hope that in the dog training world, the canine professional’s world, that we can all support a balanced and humane way of working with animals. There are so many horrible factors in the world that dogs face be it, dog fighting, breed specific legislations, puppy mills and hording or true abusive situations with dogs that we shouldn’t be at odds with each other within our own profession.

Was the Dr. Dunbar seminar worth the $270? I would have to answer yes. I learned a great deal about dogs, theory and science. I also learned that there is a lot of hatred to many dog professionals and the tools they use. Will I ever go to another Dunbar seminar? Possibly, I would recommend it to my fellow professionals, you’ll learn what you are up against if you are not on the “purely positive” dog training route, but you will also learn a few pretty cool tidbits along the way…Dunbar has been researching dogs a long time and really does have some interesting information to share amongst the barbs and insults.

Do you have questions about dog training? Questions about methods, tools or techniques that will help you make life with your dog the best it can be? Ever wondered if a remote collar would work for you and your dog? I would be more than happy to talk to you about the benefits of a remote collar or I can find a remote collar trainer near you that would be willing to talk to you about the benefits of this amazing tool. There are some really good resources out there like www.truthaboutshockcollars.com. But really I think that testimonials of people that have used a remote collar and been taught by a trained professional are some of the best resources.

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33 comments

  1. Renee, thanks for sharing! Wow, what an excellent write up. I’m impressed with your balanced approach to the seminar. Hopefully, Dr. Dunbar would be willing to learn from Robin or those of us trained by her, that there are remote collar trainers out there that use it in a non hurtful communicative way at “just the right level.”

    • This person just likes to take things personally. I would if I felt someone is critizising the job ive done with love for fifteen years. All the text sounds like Dr.Dunbar hurt his feelings but tell us nothing about Dr. Dunbar’s work, if its truly more efective, why or why not and if hes method works better why does he think it does and on what he bases himself to know the elctric shock does not hurt dogs. The text is completly useless.

  2. My take-away from this review, as well as my own personal experience, is that as trainers that aren’t in the “politically correct” camp, it’s important to focus on how we can help each individual client with our tools and approach. Ultimately, that’s what people are interested in, being given solutions, being able to live happily with their dogs and how the trainer can help them do that. This argument over training tools, political correctness, “humaneness,” and name calling exists primarily in dog training circles, and not as much in the general public, which is where our clients are from. But I have found that in the past, when I focused my attention on this argument when speaking to potential clients, when I started to speak to the ineffectiveness of a different training approach or tool, even if they specifically asked, “What do you think about XYZ training approach,” that’s when I lost their respect and their business.

    The “side” that takes the high road, continues to be open and welcoming, promotes their tool and approach, and keeps the focus on the positives of how they can provide solutions and help people and their dogs, will win out in the end. The side that closes ranks, focuses their attention on the negativity of name-calling and discrediting will ultimately lose out; people can see through it and people are turned off by that negativity. I’m really proud to be part of the side that has, for the most part, kept to the high road and I hope we continue to stay focused on the positives of what we’re doing, rather than the negatives of what others may be doing. It’s ironic, really.

  3. Viatecio /

    As an aside, you might be interested to read how the Terrierman interprets Dunbar. He’s compared to Millan, but only because that was the big debate at the time.

    http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2010/03/cesar-millan-secret-is-human-training.html

  4. calmassertive /

    When I watched a video of Dunbar saying dogs aren’t pack animals I knew the guy was worthless. When I watched a video of Dunbar saying dogs don’t use dominance amongst themselves — don’t even understand the concept — I knew the guy was doubly worthless. When I watched a video of Dunbar speak derisively of Cesar Millan I knew this clown was Triply worthless. When I saw on his website that all it took to become a member of his organization was you gave him $100 via credit card I gave up all thoughts that Dunbar was anything more than a pretentious charlatan. If anyone has any video evidence of him doing anything other than teaching a puppy to sit and to follow him with cookies in his hand please post it, because as far as I can tell his experience pretty much stops right there. Pathetic.

  5. I have heard Dr Dunbar speak at least 3 times during my 15 year career training dogs. I have always loved his puppy training techniques. And I have always found his professionalism questionable as he seems picks apart someone, the owners or other trainers. When he stated that none of the dogs at the IACP conference were trained, he very conveniently left out that when he tried to show how untrained a dog in attendance really was, he got Jeb, Paula McCollum’s Bluetick Coonhound, who has an OTCH, up on the stage. It took him quite a while to get the dog to miss a command. As they left the stage, Dr Dunbar said that Jeb was the best trained dog he had ever met. And yet now he says they were all untrained? Selective memory? It makes me question his perception on a lot of other things. I recently got a postcard about his lecture coming to my area later this year. I think I’ll pass and hang on to my money this time.

  6. “The conference at the International Association of Canine Professionals was filled with dogs wearing shock collars. There were too many dogs on shock collars, that is NOT training and there were no trained dogs at the conference because they were all wearing shock collars.”

    The first sentence is undeniably true.

    I agree with the first clause of the second sentence. I have said so myself many times.

    The last clause, which seems to be a paraphrase, is not strictly the case.

    My own dogs were there, have never been trained on shock collars. Of course, at that particular conference they were forbidden to express their training, good manners, good judgment and reliability because they were required to be on leashes, to the IACP’s eternal shame. At previous conferences, my dogs had rarely been on-leash.

    However, in spirit, this last clause is largely true. When a trainer’s seven or eight year-old demo dog is still wearing an electronic collar and I see the owner’s thumb on the button button button constantly, I question the claim that the dog is “trained.” Just as I question the same claim if the mature “demo” dog is being stored in a crate instead of holding a stay during down time, having his neck yanked over and over, or being lured about and bribed from a permanent bait pouch.

    • I really believe that it can be hard for common dog owners and some trainers to use common sense to train a dog just becouse they ignore what to do, how to communicate with their pets correctly. There are various comments critizising Dr. Dunbar. The guy can be the greatest jerk or the biggest dummy that have ever existed but if someone is going to say that his trainig method is better that what Dr. Dunbar teaches, people defenitly expect to have scientific facts along with their explanation. Someones opinion is never going to be enough.

  7. My response when receiving marketing to promote this seminar was NOT diplomatic or PC. I also have the view that the myths and misconceptions promoted have more to do about $$$$ and marketing than anything else, if I might be frank.

  8. Cachorrinho /

    “Shock collars will be gone in 10 years. There is precedence overseas. They are done”

    Hahaha? Here in Germany they’re working on re-legalize the e-collar with a great chance of success!

  9. Rachel Chan /

    Wow, Robin.
    I’m new to this blog stuff, but it’s soooo refreshing to hear about various perspectives. All I see on searches for dog training is Positive Only. It’s sad that shelters and rescues advocate this method to the growing (and largely unknowing) public who are trying to do a kind thing by rescuing a dog. People seek help from these so called authorities who send free training with no results. (My dog trainer has retrained hundereds of dogs from the Sirius school.) I appreciate your vision of dogs in society and found it hilarious that dogs were not allowed to attend the Dunbar conference. What does that say?! http://stabledogs.blogspot.com/

  10. pafcoasttrainer /

    I am greatly alarmed by the personal and emotional bias that Mr. Ian Dunbar is sending to the world of dog training. To suggest that all electronic collar training is abusive, inhumane or unsafe is outrageous. It has taken awhile for the Wikipedia entry on “shock collars” to even cover the advances of modern electronic collar training. AND YES, there are scientific references to methods and approaches of how electronic collars can and ARE FREQUENTLY used as “conditioned reinforcers” similar to clicker training by using the vibration (not shock) components and features of the collar.

    I recently studied and adopted the CPDT-KA for business reasons only. I have extensive science education from the top universities in the country, and most dog trainers do not even have a college-level course in psychology or cognition & behavior. And yet, because many years ago, I did not have the CPDT-KA or was not a published author of many years, I have been greatly insulted by the vitriol of other dog trainers calling me “junior” or “entry level.” The problem is that these sh*theads never show how well-trained their dogs are and never show a dog in public. AND YET I DO. So I really wonder … who is all full of crap talk and who actually gets the job done? Certainly not those who are trying to make a business out of just talking about dog training, rather than spending time with real people and real life situations, one-on-one.

    The CCPDT recently established a stance against correcting dogs with e-collars but accepts vibration e-collars. And their hierarchy of “Humane” practices divides the quadrants of operant conditioning in an order of preference. Who the hell in dog training divides operant conditioning in order of preference, when all four quadrants happen seemlessly and fluidly at any given moment? Release of leash pressure to increase desired of behavior is Negative reinforcement; giving the dog the treat for a good sit is Positive Reinforcement; leaving the room when the dog jumps is Negative Punishment and so far…all of this HAPPENS in dog training, how can you possibly order them???? Moreover wouldn’t it make sense if they educated trainrs the FLOW of operant conditioning in a variety of contexts and situations, while EMPHASIZING the use of rewards (or removal of them?) I mean seriously.

    Here is a good blog post about the subject.
    http://ruthcrisler.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/a-letter-to-the-ccpdt/

    I am almost insulted that I spent $400 to take this ridiculously basic exam on a below college level understanding of psychology and animal behavior. ANYONE with the CPDT-KA is just demonstrating they have taken an exam, gotten a few references on dog training, and pledge to certain politics and ideologies. YES, I am going to be one of those CPDT-KA with foot in my mouth and rolling my eyes every time another severely under-skilled and under-educated CPDT-KA claims that all electronic collar training is “negative reinforcement only” and that there is only one method of training called “positive reinforcement only.” Good god, save me from stupidity. But I guess that is what I have to put up with so I can have my job and pay the bills, and of course, having dogs that are actually well-trained on high levels is secondary. People are complicated (based on their ridiculous politicking and emotional biases.) Dogs are simple. No wonder I prefer dogs over people.

    • Thank your for your comments. I agree with you entirely. There is little logic and way too much emotion being put forth in this industry. The dogs and their owners are paying the price for ridiculous ideology being crammed down their throats. The idea that vibration is somehow more humane than stim is completely off base. Who ever has agreed to adopting that stance has obviously NOT trained dogs with e-collars or vibration. I have nothing against vibration collars and use the function in a variety of situations, but there are MANY dog’s who respond in a very startled fashion to vib and there are equally those who completely ignore it. Vibration does not have the variability of intensity. It is often too strong and causes a startle response, I demonstrated that with a dog in my first DVD, Just Right. Where as with stim, I could adjust the intensity much lower and the little guy did wonderful.
      anyway….keep speaking out and keep on doing the job of helping people have a well trained dog. We will continue to lead by example and show people what is really possible through training
      that works as nature does….flowing seamlessly between all quadrants.

  11. pafcoasttrainer /

    This, of course, is not to discount all of Mr. Dunbar’s work. Most pioneers have something of real quality contributing to the world of dog training. We just need to have a fair perspective of it all. From Dr. Konrad Lorenz to Pavlov and from Gabson, Milan to others, ALL these pioneers have contributed to the growth and development of dog training throughout history. Every behaviorist, scholar, trainer or business enterprise has a contribution. I think open-minded dog trainers who are mastering the art and science of dog training are aware of this and will not promote one pioneer over another.

  12. I’ve been debating whether to attend myself, so appreciate the review.

    On the one hand, I don’t consider a negative view of Ecollars to be a deal breaker, but a totally irrational or over-politicized attitude is a real turn-off, to say the least.

    And of course, I no longer need concern myself with amassing CEUs, since refusing to sign the CCPDT’s revised ethics code.

  13. Dog Girl /

    This is a vast misinterpretation to Dr. Dunbar. I just sat thru a 3 day seminar of his, never once does he ridicul everyone who uses electronic bark collars. He simply does not agree with it and chooses not to do it himself. His point being aimed towards those who use these tools as a crutch, he also refers to clicker training as well. He simply posed the question if there is a way to do it differently, why use the thing that crutches you? He is nothing more than a well educated man who has studied the science behind behavior and bases his training and personal opinions on that. Everyone has to do what they believe in, just like Caesar Milan and his “Flood Training” technique that horrifies most people. Anyone who takes offense to how Dr. Dunbar chooses to teach people how to train dogs, well obviously it is not the right training method for you. Further more, how can you critique someone who is doing everything he possibly can to help people everywhere have a better relationship with their dog.
    Those who spend their time getting offended by people’s opinions and hung up on how it isn’t “their way” it isnt right. Congratulations, you have now done the exact thing you were accusing Dr. Dunbar of doing.

    • Hello Dog Girl,

      I wasn’t at the event that the author of the review was at so I can’t attest to what is or isn’t a misrepresentation. Unfortunately, neither can you. You and the author were not at the same seminar. Perhaps since I posted the review the presenter is more aware that there are all types of trainers in the audience and the presentation has been modified…I don’t know, I wasn’t at both events. For the record, I am not trying to be disparaging of Dr. Dunbar. I was one of the individuals on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Canine Professionals who voted FOR his induction into our Hall of Fame (and I took shit for that from some as well. LOL)…..I think he has a body of work that speaks for himself and has done significant things for the industry as a whole. My own career started out strongly influenced by his Sirius tapes on training. Those were my beginnings….However, I strongly believe that ALL dog training professionals need to stop the name calling toward one another. We may not agree on tools or techniques, but the words like Shock Jock, Jerk and Puke, Clicker Nazi, Treat Slinging Weeny, and the like should disappear from our vocabularies if we are truly committed to dogs and to helping their owners. We should learn to carry ourselves in a more responsible and professional way when we communicate. When one is in front of an audience, one has a responsibility to educate to the best of their ability, not to just *play to the crowd* they think is in attendance….ya never know who is listening.

      • I’d say that IACP has changed, not Dr. D. He has said the same things for years.

        IACP very strongly associates itself with Cesar Milan, and has a big advert for Petsafe on its front page. That sets out your philosophy so strongly that its hard to see how Ian Dunbar would fit in.

        Put it another way…
        Cesar is currently the world’s best known dog trainer.
        Ian used to be the world’s best known dog trainer.
        It is impossible to imagine that, given that they do things so differently, they would happily share the limelight!

        Also, when Cesar did his tour in the UK, he didn’t behave a lot differently from how your reviewer described Ian Dunbar.

        All people who reach this level have a lot to prove and a lot to protect, and they all behave in a similar way.

  14. “I would never put a remote collar, prong collar, slip collar, bag of treats, head halter, gentle leader in the hands of a dog owner without teaching them how to use it to the best of the dogs ability.

    Personally, that’s it for me. Robin said in one reply, “I have nothing against vibration collars and use the function in a variety of situations, but there are MANY dog’s who respond in a very startled fashion to vib and there are equally those who completely ignore it. ”

    While I don’t slap an ecollar on every client’s dog, I’ve found much the same results. Some dogs couldn’t care less about the vibration pager function on collars. I struggle when clients insist on using the vibration as a correction, claiming that dogs “respond better”. What I want to do is slap the collar on them and go at continuous. The effect would be the same…if a dog is downright terrified of something of course they will “respond” to it! If there were three things I would change in the dog training world I wish people would understand how a tool was used before degrading both it and the people that choose to use it and…oh wait, that’s about it. I hold equal distain and disappointment for the people that are anti-clicker/treat and anti-training collar. These people hold so much ridicule it is sickening and also makes me nervous to speak to other professional trainers. I never know when someone is going to treat me like an idiot or try to lecture me on how what they do is so much better than what I do. Hell, I was even told that I had a closed mind once, simply for, hell, I’m still not sure how they came to that conclusion after seeing me train my personal two dogs for a grand total of forty minutes!

  15. Does anyone remember Dr Dunbar’s use of negative reinforcement (nagging with his voice) and the effects that it had on the Golden Retriever at the 2007 IACP Conference? There was more fallout from that then from the e-collar that the dog wore! It broke Dunbar’s rules for effective punishment for sure as it was emotional and was definitely associated with the handler (Dr Dunbar in this case).

  16. I had been perplexed as to whether or not to attend Dr. Ian Dunbar’s training programs in light of the above review by my good friend and colleague Renee Lamoureux as well as other comments by other trainers (pure positive and balanced trainers). I decided to take the risk and go listen to him because of the good he has done for the dog training world, I had always wanted to hear him speak and because he was coming close to Michigan; Chicago June 2-5, 2011. And, I’m glad I did!

    In the first 10 minutes of his seminar, he talked about how sad it is that trainers who call themselves “pure positive trainers” are predominately the ones who are negative toward their clients (insulting them for poor training techniques) and other trainers who don’t train the same way as they do. This was a great affirmation for me as I have been running up against this increasingly lately with those who call themselves “pure positive”.

    I really don’t care what “pure positive trainers” say about me (because a remote training collar is an important tool in my training toolbox) because I know I better the lives of dogs and serve my clients’ needs by obtaining effective, quick and humane results. That is all that is important for me that I service the needs of dogs and their owners. But just the same, it was nice to hear a similar complaint about the dog training world from a predominately positive based Veterinarian Behaviorist.

    From comments voiced by the audience, one could assume that there was a large to major representation of anti remote collar trainers in the crowd. And, yet Dr. Dunbar did not bite on these uneducated disparaging comments about remote collar trainers. He remained very professional and kept the discussion topic on his training agenda.

    He explained that “gizmos” are not his thing. By gizmos, he meant clickers and remote collars. He jokingly said this was because he has enough trouble pushing the buttons on his IPhone, let alone working a gizmo and train a dog at the same time. But joking aside, he explained that he feels trainers have applied the science in dog training but have forgotten to include the human element (positive and negative verbal feedback). His message is to bring back human feedback in dog training (affirmation and punishment) so dog owners can develop and have the type of relationship they desire with their dogs.

    From this seminar I took away valuable tips for building my business and new ideas for off leash puppy classes. While Dr. Dunbar does not like remote collars (remember he doesn’t like “gizmos” including clickers) and therefore, he does not use them; he didn’t have anything negative to say about remote collar trainers. In fact, the way I use a remote training collar (negative reinforcement) set at “just the right level” as coined by my good friend and colleague Robin MacFarlane; is similar to the way Dr. Dunbar uses his voice and body posture to obtain a dog’s compliance with a distance sit stay (negative reinforcement).

    For me personally though, I prefer using the remote collar (as part of a comprehensive training program) instead of increasingly louder voice commands. This way, I obtain quick compliance and I remain the “good guy” in my dogs’ eyes. However, I do agree with Dr. Dunbar that many folks tend to forget to use their voice in giving the dog feedback (praise and correction) when using a clicker or remote training collar. This is one of the things I routinely remind my clients of, “using a remote collar does not eliminate the need for praising and verbally correcting your dog based upon the choices he makes.”

    Dr. Dunbar’s paraphrased statements below summarize his feelings as to the importance of giving a dog feedback as to their choices which I whole heartedly agree with:
    “There are four quadrants to learning theory (not one as some “pure positive” trainers would lead you to believe). You don’t get to pick which ones to use and which ones not to use. Feedback is binary. Along with Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment, I use Negative Reinforcement all the time. Positive Punishment is necessary but what’s crucial is that you do it in a way that doesn’t cause fear or pain.” …..Dr. Ian Dunbar

    Hopefully, Dr. Dunbar will be able to help “pure positive” trainers realize that there are four quadrants of learning, not one; and therefore, bring the two polar opposites of the dog training world closer together. I’m glad I attended his training academy as I learned a lot and had fun at the same time!!

    • Thanks for the review Michael. Very pleased to hear it was a good experience and the language was respectful. Hopefully we all keep moving in that direction.
      Robin

  17. I am glad you had a more positive experience Michael! I truly hope that he has changed his presentations and is no longer being as disparaging as he was at the first one I went to at the beginning of his touring schedule. I also believe he was catering to a Peta and Premier Pet Products crowd while here in VA. We also went to a different workshop as the one I attended was the “Science Based Training With Feeling” workshop and I wouldn’t be surprised if he changed content depending on the seminar and the audience.

    Thanks for the review Michael and once more I am glad you had a better experience then I did!

  18. I am a reward based trainer, I am 31 years old and have been training dogs for sixteen years. I cut my teeth, so to speak, on wild dogs in the hills of Tennessee. When I say wild dogs, I mean dogs who were born strays and not used to people. If I had tried any positive- punishment based training on those dogs I know for a fact that I would not be here today. They would have mauled me. And they would have been well within their right to do so. I say that because aggression (and many behaviour problems) stem from fear. Because of my early experience with taming dogs, it is very important to me that no dog ever sees me as a source of fear. I need to gain their trust. Without trust there is no relationship. Period. It is important that your own dogs see you as a leader. If they don’t then that will cause all kinds of health and behaviour problems . To be a leader you have to earn respect. You don’t respect who you fear. You hate you fear.
    This is 1 reason why I am a reward based trainer.
    The second reason why I use rewards instead of positive-punishment is because I am the type of person who likes things tested in a beaker. If science and studies can’t confirm something then I have no use for it. I have never in my life read an independent science backed study that was pro-shock collar, pro-punishment. I don’t want to get into too much on the studies here, but some of them are listed on my website (www.adogsview.net) if anyone is interested. Science shows that shock collars only have between a 40-50% success rate, a 40% chance of causing aggression, 100% chance that the dogs cortisol (stress) levels will increase- this stress sometimes extends to times when the shock collar is not even present. Also, I have never met anybody or ready any studies by anyone with a PhD recommending shock collars. The higher ones education them more they condemn punishment-based training. That’s not to imply people who use shock collars are stupid, please don’t misunderstand me. I think it goes back to the scientific studies I mentioned. The more one studies shock collars, prong collars and chokers the more ones attitude changes against them.
    Are people who use shock collars evil? No.
    Are they stupid? No.
    Are they well intentioned? Absolutely.
    But I have never met one who can even name one independent, scientifically sound study in favor of them. Until I do then I will continue to not use them.
    That is my two cents.

    • Hi Aw,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Have you read Comparison of Stress and Learning Effects of Three Different Training Methods: Electronic Collar, Pinch Collar and Quitting Signal. Hannover 2008?
      If so, what are your thoughts on the work?

      And what are your thoughts on Tortora’s work with aggressive dogs and e-collar training?

      It is my opinion and that of many others that most of the often quoted studies that support the “all positive, no-aversives” position (Schilder and van der Borg, Schalke) where designed to prove a hypothesis rather than to test a hypothesis. IMO, that is a bad starting place for scientific exploration.

      For whatever reason (and I do have my hypothesis on the reasons…) it has become in vogue to equate positive punishment with harsh force or in the case of e-collar use “high level” stimulation

      I respect your experience in training dogs and in having your success with your way of doing, but does that make mine or others experiences invalid? Is it plausible that our applications of the other quadrants are done differently than the way you would use them or imagine them to be used?

      Here is what I believe to be a perfect example of an e-collar used at “just the right” level as a communication tool that helps establish leadership and relationship. While the dog in the video was not a feral dog, I have worked with them as well doing the same thing and getting a similar result. (that being a dog who is more stable and able to handle the everyday stresses of the world we want them to live in)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl-6T1fk3Os

      I agree with you 100% that good leadership and a good relationship can not be established through fear and intimidation.
      But, why do you suppose it is that so many of today’s trainers feel it necessary to convince others that e-collars can only be tools of fear and intimidation?

      Janeen McMurtrie did a post about the electronic collar scientific debate that you may also want to read.

  19. Julia /

    There is so much hatred on the web for cesar too and of any of those critics would read his books they would realize that Cesar promotes their beloved positive reward training, it’s just not his speciality. I raised my first dog using Ian’s techniques and he was a nightmare. It wasn’t until Cesar inspired me to look at my own energy that my dog changed drastically in a short time period just by a change of mindset. Did I use alpha rolls? No, but I didn’t need to and Ive read Cesar’s books where he discourages the use of tools such as rolls, ecollars, prong collars etc unless you have a competent trainer to teach you to use these tools appropriately so they don’t cause problems but help solve them. My new puppy has the benefit of clicker training as well as Cesar’s way and is a much more balanced dog. I think e collars have saved dogs lives where traditional leashes couldnt.

    • I agree with you Julia, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is about the middle ground and I do think that truly is where the majority of pet owners are. That majority is a silent one for the most part so we don’t hear as much about a balanced perspective.
      It seems that the web supplies a “safe – place” for those with little else to do to delve into some drama. I noticed rather quickly that it is always the few same names who pop up on all the forums shouting about the supposed brutalities. And interestingly, it is never the “all positive” gurus who chime in the shouting matches. Personally my opinion on that is; I don’t think they actually share the same narrow thinking as some of their impassioned followers but it would be harmful to their careers to come forward otherwise.
      At the root of it I think the hatred is more about the humans need for feeling “a part of something self-righteous” than it is about actual abuse or humaneness toward our dogs. I’ve noticed a very strong “martyr sentiment” in much of the writing I read on those forums. When I can step outside of it and observe from a 3rd party perspective, I actually find it fascinating. But the reality is lots of people get bashed and trashed, hatred grows and jqp is left confused…that is very sad.
      Thanks again for writing. Best regards to you and belly scratches for your dog!
      Robin

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  21. Kevin /

    Loved the detail and information in the article. Defiantly a great read and informative. to put it simply I would have to agree shock collar training has no right in the obedience world if you want a dog to perform. Just my opinion. Glad i found your blog.

  22. I’ve seen Dunbar many, many, many times. Love his stuff and love even more that he pushes for the human connection that seems to be lacking in training. I have not heard him say a negative word about remote collars, he just says that he would not use one, same thing he says about prong collars too. He does hit on the fact that to expedite learning there needs to be binary feedback, there needs to be consequences. Dunbar tends to use more verbal and social pressure, which both work. I have used his model for puppy school and quite a few of his games in classes. I use a lot of lure/reward in my remote collar training, as well as shaping. To say that he’s in one camp or the other misses the mark. He brings to light a good point. At the end of the day the relationship with your dog is the most important.

  23. Very balanced critique of what you heard and saw. I’m a former APDTUK member, along with being a police dog handler of 10 years. I have worked with THE major welfare service in the country and have undertaken a 3yr canine studies FdSc course whilst working with hundreds of dogs. I’m fortunate enough to have been filmed training for a popular UK TV show too. I have been sorely disappointed by what I have seen and heard from Dr Dunbar, from training dogs, to public speaking to a meal and cigar with Zak George! Dr Dunbar is no longer teaching or preaching anything new – Quite the opposite. I have found that he repeats himself again and again in terms of what he believes to be true, without ever actually understanding alternative approaches. That (to me) is not scientific, it is stifled; stuck. I absolutely DESPISED e-collars and considered the people who used them to be uneducated and cruel (or as Dr Dunbar so stereotypically put it “Bubba”) – I’d love to ask him what he actually means by that? BECAUSE I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE TOOL. The APDTUK indoctrinates members to be ‘pro-this’ and ‘anti-that’, with e-collars being at the top of the hatred pile. It is only through experience and a course of self-education that I realised just how wrong the propaganda actually is. My kids have worn my e-collars to feel them .. They only perceive sensation at a level HIGHER than that on which is required to work my dogs. The belief that something must be PAINFUL in order to be effective is quite simply wrong. Annoyance and aggravation, scratching or itching are (in the right hands) FAR more effective than pain can ever as an ingredient for a training programme. The myth that a punished behaviour must include pain is so far off the mark, so indicative of misunderstanding of what actually ‘is’ that it is worryingly sad. I often use the following analogy … A person always sits on a certain seat on a train, but today, alongside them sits a smelly guy which causes the person to move – Why? The behaviour of sitting in a certain spot has now been punished effectively enough to interrupt it – Where is the pain? A wasp buzzing around my cafe table causes me to move seats because the behaviour of sitting in the former one has been punished – where is the pain and the abuse? … I could go on ad-infinitum. Dr Dunbar is a classic example of someone who cherry picks the science he so loves, to feed a cherry-hungry audience. His understanding of training may be deep, his implementation of his understanding leave me sorely disappointed. In one clip, he bellows at his dog to stop it from crossing the road – And yet it’s the e-collar which is detrimental to the bond. If the dog understands the cue, why the need to shout? If it doesn’t – Train more.
    I’m afraid that for me, Dr Dunbar has added very little over the past 10 years beyond that which he added 20 years prior. I have also heard that he ‘created’ or ‘popularised’ lure reward training – Perhaps someone should tell that the the Egyptians, depicted doing exactly the same in hieroglyphics ……

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