Influential Dog Trainers and Their Contributions-Part 4

Influential Dog Trainers and their Contributions-Part 4

Over the past several weeks I have posted articles on those individuals that contributed to the dog training world in one way or another and shaped this industry into what it is today. While there are many different “styles” of dog training, much of the principles and techniques can be traced back to these individuals. I would love to hear who you think are influential in the world of dog training. You can contact me by leaving an comment below or sending an email to

Dunbar and Pryor

In the mid to late 1980’s dog trainers began to move away from training procedures that were based primarily on negative reinforcement and punishment methods.  Positive reinforcement became the centerpiece of many training philosophies.  Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, and animal behaviorist, was vividly aware that many people were uncomfortable, and even dead set against, the use of aversive corrections.  In response, Dunbar developed a positive motivational training procedure that revolved around the use of food rewards; “Treat Training” had arrived.  Dunbar was also instrumental in the formation of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (A.D.PT.) in 1997.

Karen Pryor’s contributions to the dog-training world could very well fill an entire book, and a large one at that!  Pryor is a scientist, animal trainer, seminar leader, and writer that bridged the chasm between scientific conditioning principles and mainstream application with real world situations that the average person could identify with.

In her 1984 best-selling book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, she explained the principles of operant conditioning that she had learned while working with marine animals in a language that the average pet owner could understand, and more importantly, apply.  Her seminars showed how these same principles could provide a training method that was more friendly and positive. Pryor’s “Clicker Game” was a stroke of genius in conveying the concept of a secondary, or conditioned reinforcer to trainers and pet owners alike.


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director for Denver Dog Works and the host of the popular radio program, The Dog Dog Doctor Radio Show