Canine Learning Theory Part III

By on August 2, 2011

K9 Magazine contributor and columnist Mike Deathe is a well respected animal trainer and behaviourist. He recently attended a seminar conducted by Dr. Ian Dunbar and has since redefined his entire approach to dog training. This feature is the final installment of  it's three parts and details just how influential that seminar was on Mike Deathe.

If you think you understand everything about how dogs learn, after reading this you may have to do what Mike did and reconsider.

To read part 1 of Mike's column

To read part 2 of Mike's column

As you will see from part 2, Mike gained valuable insight. Over time, the act of sitting on command becomes the reward itself because of the associations of the treat we have used in the past, as well as the “thank you”, other praise and pets."

So how does this affect his thinking now?

The key to this learning is to make sure not to pigeon hole yourself into one style, thought or aspect of learning theory. It’s best to incorporate them all into a simple and easy to understand idea that everyone can understand. 1-2-3-4 anyone. The goal of any training: people, dogs, goats or monkeys; is to get the behaviour you want, when you ask for it, without a lure or a reward. For those parents with kids getting an allowance, I am sure none of you expect to be paying out when they are 40 do you?

So while I sat and listened (at least most of the time, when I wasn’t frantically scribbling notes), I figured out how to make learning theory fit inside in my own head. But once I got home and re-read my notes, I realised there was an even easier way to explain Dr. Dunbar’s 1-2-3-4 method and to convince/explain to people that by fading out steps 2 and 4 (lure and reward) we could once again revolutionize dog training.




About Mutz R Us

Muttz R Us was founded in 2009 by me and my wife Kate. Several years earlier I decided to quit my job as a district manager of an automotive care firm and became a stay at home dad. Kate worked for the Federal Government and was traveling up to three weeks a month. Between the two of us we decided one of us should take a step back so that someone was home with the kids. We have two boys, Donovan and Dylan.

Life went on, with me being Mr. Mom (my love and respect go out to all the stay-at-home moms and dads…it’s harder than it looks.) I told Kate “I’ve got to get a part-time job.” After 15 years of being in the workforce, I needed something besides game shows and soap operas while the kids were in school.

I took a part-time job at a national pet supply chain and before I knew it, I became a dog trainer. A passion was born. I have had dogs since I was four years old and currently my family owns four. We have three muttz, Penny, Lexie and Bear, and we also have a Purebred (yes, even I own a purebred.) Leonberger named Leo. She was adopted, just like my other three muttz. She is sight impaired with roughly 70% vision loss, which adds a different aspect to socialization and training for a dog.

I primarily train on weekends, which are the same two days the company I work for invites adoption groups into the store. I regularly saw the number of dogs and cats that never found a home. It made me wonder how many people actually realise the number of wonderful and viable pets that are wanting and needing loving homes.

We decided that "Adopt a Pet, Save A Life" should be our philanthropic motto. We paired that along with our desire to help animal organizations raise funds and came up with T-shirts to make fun of our Purebred cousins (remember, I own one too..), and "Ta Da.", Muttz "R" Us was born.

About Dr. Dunbar

Veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and dog trainer, Dr. Ian Dunbar received his veterinary degree and a Special Honors degree in Physiology & Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College (London University) plus a doctorate in animal behavior from the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley, where he researched the development of social hierarchies and aggression in domestic dogs.

He has authored numerous books and DVDs about puppy/dog behavior and training, including AFTER You Get Your Puppy, How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks and the SIRIUS® Puppy Training video.

In 1982, Dr. Dunbar designed and taught the world's very first off-leash puppy socialization and training classes -- SIRIUS® Puppy Training. Subsequently, he created and developed the San Francisco SPCA's Animal Behavior Department, the American Kennel Club's Gazette "Behavior" column, which he wrote for seven years, and the K9 GAMES®, which were first held in San Francisco in 1993 and continue as annual events in Japan and France. He hosted the popular UK television series Dogs With Dunbar for five seasons and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including the Today Show (US) and Dash Village (Japan).

About K9 Magazine

K9 Magazine is your digital destination helping you have a happier, healthier dog. Here you'll find advice on everything from dog training to dog diet advice as well as interviews with well known dog lovers and insightful features on the broadest range of canine lifestyle topics.

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