Has Your Dog Stopped Learning?

By Trish Phillips

DSD Poster

Pure Spirit believes learning is a never-ending process. Training our animals so that they can be the awesome pets and family members they were meant to be is not an option; it is an obligation. Similarly, we must constantly strive to hone our skills and be the best human companions for our pets. As someone you trust with your training needs, the staff at Pure Spirit regularly hone our own skills and attend continuing education so that we can meet, and hopefully surpass, your needs and expectations.

In July, Marilyn Tokach, Pure Spirit’s primary professional animal communicator, training and behavior specialist, attended a full-day seminar on dog-dog aggression. “Social Behavior – Biting and Fighting” is a three-day seminar on dog behavior by Dr. Ian Dunbar. Dr. Ian Dunbar is a veterinarian, dog trainer, and writer. The seminar delves into the topic of aggression and provides science-base learning theory the first day. The second day focuses on dog-dog aggression topics and the third day focuses on dog-human aggression. Pet industry professionals – trainers, pet sitters, veterinarians and clinic staff – can attend any or all days.

Marilyn Tokach is aware of Dr. Ian Dunbar’s reputation in the realm of pet behavior and training. He is highly respected among trainers, behavior specialists and “people-in-the-know” about canine behavior. When a world-renowned expert on canine behavior comes to Minneapolis and that is not only one’s business but one’s passion, one should take advantage of it.

Many potential clients for Pure Spirit initially call because of aggression issues – from mild “nipping” to full-onset, outright aggression. Marilyn likes to be able to help people work through these issues and enhance the relationship that people have with their pets. There is always something new to learn in the area of canine behavior. Dr. Dunbar has done extensive work in rehabilitating dogs with aggression issues with favorable and consistent results. He readily shares his tips, experiences and ideas.

Dr. Dunbar’s experiences and successes provided not just review, but very succinct and memorable ways to relate information to pet owners who might be dealing with less-than-ideal interactions between their dog and other dogs. Pure Spirit may offer new classes based on the information presented in this seminar. At the very least, our current class offerings will be even better because we are constantly learning as well.

The seminar focused on several key takeaways for trainers, clinic professionals and dog owners who are dealing with dog-dog aggression. The most crucial deterrent to dog-dog aggression is early socialization. Many pet owners think that they are socializing their dogs enough – but most of us fall miserably short. This is one point where aggression begins. For example, Dr. Dunbar recommends introducing your new puppy to THREE NEW (different, unknown) dogs EVERY DAY from the day that you bring them home.

Another critical deterrent to dog-dog aggression is “continuing education” for your dog. Many people take their dog to puppy class and perhaps one class after that. But the training (and thus the socialization that happens at class) stops after that first or second series of classes. This minimizes the depth of the relationship we could have with our dog, and sets the dog up for potential behavioral problems as they age.

Marilyn Tokach works with more than 500 dogs each year; the pure volume of experience with so many different dogs helps each client work through issues they might be experiencing with their dog. Additionally, Marilyn has attended many classes and seminars – “Cujo meets Pavlov” with Kathy Sdao and “Constructional Aggression Treatment, a.k.a. CAT for Dogs” with Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz to name a few. She has compiled an extensive library of books and DVD’s on canine behavior. However, her best teacher is usually each dog that she works with.

If you are experiencing issues with how your dog behaves with other dogs, please contact us to schedule a consultation with Marilyn at 952-226-2660 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dr. Dunbar has helped popularize lure-reward based dog training. He founded his training school, Sirius Dog Training, based on that philosophy. Dr. Dunbar joined the International Society for Applied Ethology over 35 years ago, at which time he was the only member specializing in dog and cat behavior problems.  Dr. Dunbar has written numerous books, including How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks, the Good Little Dog Book and a series of educational behavior booklets on the most common pet behavior problems.

In 1993, Dr. Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). The APDT is now the largest pet dog training organization in the world.