Dr. Dunbar’s Fun & 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 watch the dogs develop off-leash reliability and speed of response.

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, 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 games are designed to improve the quality of the relationship between dogs and their people and each individual exercise or game is specifically designed to fine-tune essential ingredients of your dog’s training repertoire. For example, with a trick as simple as Biscuit Balance, you end up with rock-solid Sit-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.


For example, 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 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. I explained to the lady that if we repeated that level of improvement just three more times, her dog would perform a four and a half minute sit stay. We celebrated every time the dog broke a personal best and just 20 minutes after the class had ended, her JRT puppy broke the one-minute-sit-stay barrier.


Turning training into games and quantifying responses with a stopwatch or tape measure, enables pet dog trainers to remind owners to celebrate with the dog each time they surpass a personal best. Nothing motivates owners more than when they see that they are improving, even with baby steps, and nothing advertises that you’re a great pet dog trainer than the dog’s progressive improvement.

The reliability-testing procedures are fascinating to the extreme. No false impressions, no misguided illusions and no excuses — by quantitatively assessing response-reliability to hand-signals and verbal instructions, the various tests simply offer objective proof of what dogs understand and what they don’t understand. 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.

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 in different situations. 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. 

DOGS: The Workshops are for friendly, confident dogs. Please do not bring fearful, unsociable, or antisocial dogs. It would not be fair to other dogs and their owners, and it would not be fair for your dog. The number of dogs will be strictly limited, available on a first come/first served basis. Dogs of all levels of training are welcome. It would be wonderful to have dogs showing a wide range of training skills, from puppies to hotshot obedience competitors. Obviously, the better-trained adult dogs will receive most “floor time” in exercises, demonstrations, and games. 
The number of observers is unlimited. However, because of space constraints, observers may not bring their dogs.