Off-Leash Reliability & Games
with Dr. Ian Dunbar
Dr. Dunbar’s Reliability & Games Workshops have brought back some sparkle, some excitement, and some razzle-dazzle to pet dog training. The workshops are just so much fun for dogs and handlers and they are especially exciting and informative for observers, who can sit back and revel in laughter and tail wags as dogs learn at the speed of light.
Games are extremely enjoyable for dogs, owners and observers alike and they generally bring out extraordinary performances and accelerate training by motivating dogs and owners to perform even better. Games often bring out best performances. Dogs are highly motivated because their owners are highly motivated, happy, excited and animated. The prospect of playing games motivates owners to practice. For some owners, heeling and sit-stay homework is not very exciting, but many will stay up to the wee hours to practice for Doggy Dancing or Musical Chairs.
All tricks/games are designed to improve the quality of the relationship between dogs and their people and each individual game is specifically designed to fine-tune essential ingredients of your dog’s training repertoire. For example, with tricks as simple as Biscuit Balance and Playing Possum, you end up with rock-solid Sit-Stays and Down-Stays.
In addition, playing games is an enjoyable and non-threatening way to objectively quantify performance and fine-tune all basic obedience skills, including attention, position changes, stays, following, heeling, and precision work. For example, there will be only one fastest recall and only one longest sit stay. However, regardless of comparative rank of performance (compared with other competitors), the most worthwhile reason to play games is to establish a personal best, to set personal goals and above all, to strive to progressively better your best with each training session.
The reliability-testing procedures are fascinating to the extreme. No false impressions, no misguided illusions, no excuses, the various tests simply offer objective proof of what dogs understand and what they don’t understand by quantitatively assessing response-reliability to verbal instructions and hand-signals. Moreover, the tests (games) reveal how quickly the dog is learning from session to session and from week to week. Quantifying your dog’s responses allows you to prove whether or not your training methods are working, exactly how well they are working and when you surpass a personal best performance (and need to congratulate yourself and your dog).
Dogs are fine discriminators and learn very differently from people; if you train them indoors, they behave indoors but often fail to respond to commands on walks and when off-leash. However, reliability problems that occur in real life (at home or on walks), or in competition, may be detected and resolved in a workshop format. Response-Reliability depends very much on comprehension, motivation and reinforcement. Owners may assess what their dog does or does not understand and how quickly it is learning by repeatedly quantifying the reliability, speed and precision of their dog’s responses. The dog’s actual level of training or reliability is not that important. What is important though, is that owners know the precise degree of control that they have over their dogs. Knowing your dog’s level of comprehension is important so that you do not become frustrated (and blame your dog) for poor performance. Instead, poor responses should prompt owners to re-evaluate their training techniques and maximize improvement via a three-step Test – Train – Test process.
Handlers (with a dog): $100 Early Bird (before March 26th)
$125 Standard (after Mar 26th)
Observers (without a dog): $80 Early Bird / $100 Standard