last weekend i attended a dog behavior seminar by dog behavior pioneer dr. ian dunbar. since adopting sura about a year and a half ago, caryn and i have immersed ourselves in dog behavior and training info just trying to learn as much as we can so that we raise her to be a well behaved malamute. in all of our researching we found out about dunbar, the pioneer of lure-reward training, and have put a lot of his teachings into practice with sura. we also found out that dr. dunbar is very fond of malamutes in particular and that several of the things he’s learned over the years had been taught to him by his own mals! not surprisingly, they’ve been very effective and she’s a sweet dog (though still quite the “knuckle head”) as a result.
when we learned that dr. dunbar was holding a seminar in portland we had to attend! early on, before the seminar, i introduced myself and told him briefly about how much his teachings had helped sura, our malamute. we talk a bit and now he knows i not only have a mal, but i’m also familiar with how he likes to do presentations and am also a good sport. if you’ve ever seen videos of him working with people or doing a presentation, you’ve seen that he thoroughly enjoys teasing and playfully antagonizing. he knew, and i knew, at some point…i was going to get it!
at one point in the seminar, he began talking about how dogs use different signals to communicate, particularly in play. they’ll do different things like play bow or paw raise to signal to another dog that the next behavior, say a growl, is meant only in play. and so he comes over to where i’m sitting, smiles mischievously, says something to the effect of “we’re friends, right?” and then i know i’m in for it! we fist bump and then it’s on! he smacks me on the side of the face and puts up his fists and starts trash talking!! he’s bobbing around in a boxing stance like we’re two drunks in a bar fight! it’s HILARIOUS!! i give my best malamute WWWOOO and use my hands to “bite” at his fists! it’s great fun 🙂 everyone laughed and he explains that it’s the same for dogs, that you wouldn’t walk up to someone out of the blue and start a fight but if it’s a friend they know you’re just goofing around. for some dogs, their method of play seems a lot like fighting but if you watch carefully, you’ll see the signals there before play begins and see them take breaks in between play sessions.
and THAT is how i got beaten up by dr. ian dunbar 😉