Interview with Dr Ian Dunbar

This interview with Dr. Ian Dunbar was conducted in an online chat room on 27th June 1999.

Gill: Well Elaine cannot come tonight, so may I ask her question? .. She would like to know how to treat a dog, male, that is marking in the house?

Ian Dunbar: Back to step one and housetrain it. Confine it when away to an area that’s ok to wee in and then keep it closely confined when at home (on leash or in a crate) so it can not mark. And take it out on regular intervals for marking plus food rewards and praise. After a week of that let dog have supervised run of house and when it’s thinking about marking instructive reprimand Outside!

heartpups: ok, in a multiple dog household – 2 or 3 gang up on one ……. no blood shed but lots of screaming – why?

Ian Dunbar: WHY? Who knows? I could give you loads of ideas but we never really know WHY dogs do things

heartpups: ok what to do?

Ian Dunbar: With aggression the more important consideration is WHAT the dogs are doing … this case they are doing something which is quite normal AS LONG AS NO DAMAGE IS DONE so we have several options – 1. ignore them and let them work it out -which I generally do for short and minor spats or 2. if it goes on for more than 3 seconds I tell the dogs “OUTSIDE!” However, I should mention that we only have these options because the dogs are only squabbling and not hurting each other

pyr: I have a problem with a puppy who digs in the garden – he has his own hole that I even water

Ian Dunbar: Digging problem right???

pyr: I have used the sort of plant cages to surround some plants – it offers some relief – yes, digging – also just looking for a good place to lay down

Ian Dunbar: A digging pit is the first thing and keep it loaded with good things to find

pyr: he has his own hole – he keeps all sorts of stuff in it and it is shaded – under a large magnolia tree

Ian Dunbar: For a dog digging in my garden (I love gardening) I would put it on emergency treatment and even feed it out of its digging pit – put its dinner in a paper bag and bury it. However, usually digging, garden barking and escaping mean that the dog/puppy is left outside for long periods unattended

pyr: what to do about my poor tomato plants meanwhile?

Ian Dunbar: Not good. I would go with the puppy and teach it not only where to dig, but even where to walk

pyr: since summer is started I will be home, so he won’t be left alone for long anymore – even so he was only left 2 days a week before

Ian Dunbar: For a puppy especially it needs to be left somewhere safe whether indoors or outdoors

pyr: of course, the last 3 weeks he was out by himself because our bitch was in heat

Ian Dunbar: a long-term confinement area needs a bed, water, toys and a toilet – Full run of house or garden is not appropriate until the dog is fully trained

pyr: he has all of those things in the yard – and it is very secure

Ian Dunbar: That’s’ good but not full run of the garden or he will dig in it

pyr: he pulled out all of his baby teeth trying to get out of a crate – this was after being OK with the idea

Ian Dunbar: A doggy run built around his digging pit is better especially if you do things like stuff Kongs and put them in the digging pit and then go out with the dog but shut the gate of his run with the dog on the outside

pyr: the doggy run part sounds OK for some – but I wonder about Quinn – he does not like to be confined

Ian Dunbar: let the dog think about that for a while – stuffed Kongs inside, me outside soon creates a desire for the dog to WANT to be confined in its play area

pyr: our kitchen is large in comparison to some dog runs and he went bonkers when we would confine him there right now I am working on getting him to accept a crate – it is a long, slow process

Ian Dunbar: The most important thing to teach a new puppy or dog is to ENJOY being left at home alone – Sad but true

heartpups: too sad

Ian Dunbar: Accepting a crate is simple – Same technique, feed the dog in the crate

pyr: here is what I have been doing –

Ian Dunbar: make a big deal of mixing up a wonderful meal and put it in the crate and lock the door with the dog on the outside make the dog BEG to be let in

pyr: he readily accepts his food in the crate – don’t close the door, or go away, though

Ian Dunbar: Feed each meal in installments so dog learns I love being in crate meals, stuffed Kongs

pyr: oh, ok – dog wants to go in! I like this – locking his majesty out? But, he has no more baby teeth to pull out trying to get in

Ian Dunbar: but I never get this stuff outside

pyr: yes, we will try this tonight – thanks

Gill123: Thanks Ian

Doghouse86: My question has already be answered – how do you train a dog to enjoy going into his travelling cage?

Ian Dunbar: There are many other things to do with the crate. For example to put the dog in the crate before each and every good time

Gill123: That’s a good idea, had not thought of that one!

Doghouse86: The answer re locking food in is brilliant – thank you

Ian Dunbar: ignore the dog when he’s free and read to him from the newspaper when he is in the crate

Bazzer: Hello Ian, It’s Barry Eaton. I’d like to know your views on verbal commands on aggressive dogs in growl classes?

Ian Dunbar: Barry HELLO, Longtime no see, Don’t understand the question Barry

Bazzer: Hi ya. Yes indeed. I don’t believe in lead jerking but vocal commands have no effect on some dogs. What do you suggest?

Ian Dunbar: Don’t understand the question Barry, OK

pyr: what are growl classes?

Bazzer: Classes where aggressive dogs get together to try to sort out their problems

Ian Dunbar: The whole thing about growl classes are that we have checked out all the dogs and the fight, and they are obnoxious but have not caused harm – not sent a dog to the vet the growl class therefore offers a safe forum (without embarrassment) for the owners and dogs to learn two things – 1. How to control their dogs around other dogs all of the owners will learn this

Bazzer: That’s about right. But they’re wearing muzzles – just in case. What would you suggest if they lunge at each other

Ian Dunbar: 2. some dogs will also learn to play off-leash, so we muzzle them (mainly for the owners sake) because none of these dogs have ever bitten and then we see what happens because the dogs have been tested to be safe we have many options

pawsnlearn: Do you hold them indoors or outdoors??

Bazzer: But if they lunge at each other while on lead, what should the owner do?

Ian Dunbar: to let them growl or scrap it out or to intervene – The best way to stop lunging or any obnoxious behavior is to praise the dog when it stops

Bazzer: Not shout or jerk the lead? How would they intervene?

Ian Dunbar: we can not do this in normal everyday living but we can in the growl class

Gill123: so a “set up” so to speak?

Ian Dunbar: By setting up a troubleshooting situation with one dog on leash and still and the other 7 walking by the dog will be exposed to the same dogs over and over the first few passes will be horrendous but what else is new we just ignore the dog’s tantrums and wait – soon, usually after five or six passes the dog’s enthusiasm for growling and lunging starts to wane. Now we can start praising the dog – Important point:

Bazzer: What about tethering the dog to a pipe or something sturdy and the owner moving away when he lunges?

Ian Dunbar: if we punish the dog for lunging or growling from the outset the approach of another dog becomes the contingent cue for our punishment – hence the dog will growl MORE – Once we have praised the dog for not lunging and for being quiet, this will not be the case and so then you may reprimand if you like I would never jerk or tighten the leash when doing this – no longer anyway – I used to but it just makes things worse

Pattie: Hi, How would working with a dog that is afraid of people get over it’s fear?

Ian Dunbar: Fear problem – food as always – To improve your dog’s social life – improve your own, what I mean by that is invite someone over every night to hand feed your dog its dinner AND to train your dog for you. One of the best temperament tests is to offer a dog food

pyr: now, that would be a true friend – to hand feed your dog it’s dinner even one night

Ian Dunbar: if it refuses let the owner give the food – if the dog doesn’t take it from the owner either it is not hungry or it is scared of the environment (vet clinic for example)

Gill123: pyr you got to give something back to your friend for that

Ian Dunbar: BUT if the dog takes the food from the owner, then the dog is scared of you

pyr: that explains why Marcella will not take cookies at the vets

Ian Dunbar: Not taking cookies such a simple thing but it tells you so much the doggie is stressed and I would start to work with it. When people come to my house the first thing we do is go to the kitchen and I watch them offer the dogs a cookie. – Simple test but tells you a lot.

pyr: so you can tell if your dogs like the person – take the cookie or not?

Ian Dunbar: all it takes is time and patience and really it is a wonderful way to fulfill outstanding social obligations, invite a couple over to feed your dog or if you’re a single woman, invite ten men

Gill123: sounds good to me!!

Ian Dunbar: the men are easy to train as well just offer them pizza, beer – and soccer on the telly. Remember, your social life is as important as your dogs

Gill123: Ok Alyssa wants to know….Her dog will chase a toy she has thrown….but will not bring it back, how best to train please?

Ian Dunbar: Train the chain backwards as it should be trained. Firstly teach the dog to give a chew toy or bone for a treat then return the toy/bone and repeat. After teaching thank you teach pick up and give in the living room put the tennis ball on the floor and say thank you – some dogs get it right away, if so do this before all good times -have the dog pick up something and give it to you for a treat. If dog does not catch on right away try a clicker type approach (with or without the clicker). Then try it in the park, pick up and give, pick up and give over and over with the dog on leash….. Then let the dog off leash and roll the ball and say thank you – this usually works but here is a much better way………….Go out with two dogs your reluctant retriever and one that retrieves well – Throw both balls but only one treat for the first dog back, it’s the quickest way to improve slow or no retrieves that I know of

Gill123: yes good idea

Ian Dunbar: When I tried this with my malamute I used to really tease her and show her the treat before giving it to Oso – Now if Oso gets it first, Phnonie will intercept and steal the frisbee to give it to me for the treat

Gill123: thanks!

Gill123: Well Marie and Tina have not asked anything tonight

pawsnlearn: Do you find dogs get highly stressed in growl classes??

IanDunbar: Yes! – Initially it is very stressful for everyone and if a dog looks too stressed take it out immediately

pawsnlearn: So – how quickly do things chill down??

Ian Dunbar: But for most dogs it cracks me up, They are all growling and lunging on leash and the owners are sweating and then I say let them off leash and most of the dogs go quiet. In fact it gets very quiet. and usually a couple will sniff and even start to play. I should reiterate though that growl classes are only suitable for dogs that have not caused damage that’s a whole different affair

pawsnlearn: We do this outside with a lot of space – never tried indoors

pyr: so, with these dogs it’s all show? – what is different if they have caused damage?

Ian Dunbar: poor prognosis for them because they have not learned their bite inhibition in puppy hood

pawsnlearn: Yes ………

Ian Dunbar: The greater the number the fights the dog has had, usually the better the prognosis. If they have caused damage, all you can really teach is for the owners to learn how to control their dogs around other dogs

pyr: more fights = better prognosis?

Ian Dunbar : But a lot of these dogs are relentless and a single one can ruin a good growl class

pawsnlearn: I can imagine

Ian Dunbar said

More fights usually means no damage done unless the owner is a fool -Three fights lots of damage = poor prognosis

pawsnlearn: Do you run them indoors Ian??

IanDunbar: lots of fights and no damage = excellent prognosis because the dog is just scared and full of bluster

pawsnlearn: I mean a hall

Ian Dunbar: Look at Shogun on the videos …… If you hear the growls and barks it is scary but…if you watch it without the sound you will see all the bent elbows, playraises, licks and playbows the dog obviously wants to play but dare not

pawsnlearn: like a sheet of glass is in front of him??

pyr: my dog is a Great Pyrenees – used for livestock protection. Most breeders advocate that 2 adult males should not be together however, there are many people who keep and breed the dogs in fairly large areas who regularly run 2 or even many males together these people do not have problems – what do you make of this Ian?

Tina1234: name of video please?

Ian Dunbar: I think it is the Training The Companion Dog (1st video in the set of four)

Ian Dunbar: Always look for a bent elbow and the tip of the tongue – good signs that the dog really wants to play despite the growls and barks. After the first class though it is not as stressful – Sorted out the dogs and maybe removing just one dog and you have an entirely different social group

Gill123: do you have any new videos or books in the pipeline Ian?

IanDunbar: Lots a new books coming

Gill123: when can we expect them?

Ian Dunbar: Redoing two little booklets at the moment and then re-edit the Behaviour Booklets -a cat book – a book on aggression and an anthology of my all time favourite articles – Ian’s trying to be a busy boy. They will be done when they are done

pyr: anything about understanding behavior through body language?

Ian Dunbar: YES! Great little book I did for Howell Book House “Dog Behavior – Happy Healthy Pet series” or something like that … Check Them out at my sister’s website

Gill123: You ever met Turid Rugaas?

IanDunbar: Yes I have met Turid -lovely lady – One of the white hats

Gill123: Isn’t she, fascinating work

Gill123: Tina did you want a quick question before Ian has to go?

Ian Dunbar: Fire away Tina

Tina1234: I would like to know how to stop -self reinforced barking. i.e. one dog barking at the rest of the pack when they are resting

Ian Dunbar: I would probably feed each of the other dogs one piece of kibble for every time the other dog barked. I love doing things like that – gets attention quicker than anything then tell the barker to settle down and shush and after a while give all dogs a piece of kibble

Gill123: God I love your way of thinking!

Tina1234: umm ok ! I will give it a try thanks!

Ian Dunbar: Ian’s going out to the garden now

Gill123: Ian, thank you so much for doing this for us

pyr: thanks a bunch!

pawsnlearn: Bye Ian and all – thanks loads

Gill123: Have a lovely day!

Bazzer: Thanks Ian. see ya

pyr: bye!

Gill123: byeeeeeee

Tina1234: I enjoyed the chat and learned a lot thank you

Ian Dunbar: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Ian Dunbar: Don’t forget that beer Barry