Top Dog Academy By Ian Dunbar (Reviewed By Dog Trainer)

woman training dog using top dog academy by ian dunbar

What Is Top Dog Academy And What Makes It Different From Other Online Training?

Just google “online dog training” and you will see there are a plethora of options. You can find free YouTube tutorials or invest in pricey private lessons. A lot of online dog training schools offer similar courses and it can still be overwhelming to find the right fit for you and your dog.

What makes Top Dog Academy different from the explosion of online training options?

One, Dr. Ian Dunbar has been doing this for a long time and is a foremost expert on his science-based method. Secondly, the first month is free (when you use this link) which is pretty great, especially with all the different kinds of lessons he offers. 

But why should you trust Dr. Dunbar and stick with Top Dog Academy?

Walk into any pet store and you will see rows and rows of different dog treats. The dog treat industry seems endless, ranging from chewy treats, crunchy treats, small, big, organic, and even treats made with blueberries or whole fish! Using dog treats to train your dog might seem intuitive nowadays, but it has not always been like that.

Up until Dr. Ian Dunbar started introducing treats into dog training using science-based methods in the 1970s, it was not common for people to train their dogs using dog treats as lures or rewards. Instead, most dog owners used verbals, forced submission, and leash corrections. Top Dog Academy continues the idea that you can train without the use of harsh methods and instead use positive reinforcement to shape and change a dog’s behavior so you can have your ideal family companion.

Dunbar’s Academy also offers different options to suit your and your dog’s style of learning. This particular screenshot comes from his unit on Socialization & Training (Training the Companion Dog 1). As you can see from the sidebar, Dr. Dunbar offers videos, seminars, audiobooks, lectures, and workshops:

Who Am I? (And Why Should You Trust My Review)

Before we talk more about Dr. Ian Dunbar and Top Dog Academy, you might be wondering who I am and why I care about recommending this online service.

I have been a dog owner my whole life and have been working with dogs professionally for over a decade. I started my career in the veterinary world as a veterinarian technician, and eventually apprenticed and became a certified dog trainer before running a dog daycare for several years.

Now I work with private clients; families with young puppies, rescue adults, and dogs with reactivity issues. In my spare time, I train and am competitive in the agility world with my rescue dogs.

After being certified with the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA), I am always looking to learn new things, and methods, and to expand my dog training horizons. While I don’t believe dog training is a one-size-fits-all philosophy, you can always find something that works for you and your dog while still training force-free.

That is why I was so curious about Top Dog Academy. With seemingly endless content, notes, and hundreds of hours of videos, Ian Dunbar’s Dog Training Academy offers countless possibilities.

Who Is Dr. Ian Dunbar? 

Dr. Ian Dunbar helped pioneer dog training using classical conditioning and introducing food as a reward-based system of training into the dog world. His force-free methods replaced the harsh corrections of the traditional dog trainers by giving affirmations for the desired behaviors rather than punishing the negative behaviors.

Starting his career as a veterinarian, Dr. Dunbar founded Sirius Dog Training in the early 1980s which helped introduce the concept of early socialization and what that means for puppies, as well as basic companion manners.

He also founded the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, or APDT, which is the largest association of dog trainers in the world. Having been certified as a CPDT-KA trainer myself, I can attest that the APDT strives to help dog owners embrace training their dogs with positive reinforcement.

You will find hours of videos, seminars, books, and lectures from Dr. Dunbar on Dunbar Dog Academy modules, but it is also a family affair. His ex-wife Kelly Dunbar and son Jamie are very involved and have created some of their own videos and articles for the Top Dog Academy.

What Do His Methods Look Like?

Ian Dunbar’s goal is to help you learn to use positive reinforcement and force-free methods to train a confident and well-adjusted dog. He offers monthly subscriptions with hours of videos, audiobooks, and articles that are sure to guide you through the most difficult puppy months, adolescent issues, training adult dogs, and even severe problems such as fearfulness and reactivity.

Using food most advantageously, you will learn step-by-step how to introduce a behavior with food rewards, upping exceptions, fading the treat, fading the lure, switching to verbal commands, and finally adding distance and off-leash training. Using positive reinforcement and fear-free methods, you will learn how to train your companion dog without aversive methods.

What I appreciate about Dr. Dunbar’s training style is not only his willingness to address dog behavior problems head-on and show you the best way to change the issue, but he also explores innovative ways to help you prevent unwanted behaviors. For example: if your dog likes to bark at people, instead of putting an e-collar on your dog, he will suggest using food toys to help calm and distract your dog.

My personal training ideology uses positive reinforcement and fear-free methods but also tries to make training fun, so I can relate to Dr. Dunbar’s methods. He takes dog training and turns it into something exciting for you and your dog, not a boring or scary chore. Even working through reactivity issues, he still tries to emphasize that you should view this as a game and that you are actively helping your dog, not punishing bad behaviors.

Why Do Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Methods Work?

I like Dr. Dunbar’s methods because not only are they force-free and emphasize positive reinforcement, but he also follows science-based research, specifically classical conditioning.

Ivan Pavlov was the father of classical conditioning, which refers to the “process of an automatic, conditioned response that is paired with a specific stimulus.”

Don’t worry, you do not need a master’s in psychology to understand the tutorials at Dunbar Academy. Dr. Dunar makes it easy to transfer over a century of scientific research into easy steps to train the family dog and turn them into the perfect canine companion.

Using science-based methods and breaking them down for the average person to understand, Dr. Dunbar does a great job making dog training accessible to everyone. In the screenshot below you see how he explains how to fade out food in step-by-step phases, making a complex process easy. If the notes are not your style of learning, there are accompanying videos as well.

Ian Dunbar will help you learn how to classically condition your dog to not only create a tight bond with you but to “form positive associations with all sorts of things: other people (especially children and men), dogs, other animals, noises, objects and different environments.” Not only are you using food to create positive associations, but you are creating a habit where your dog is conditioned to look to you for support and comfort if something is unusual or stressing them out.

He also stresses that food is a reward or lure, not a bribe. The Top Dog Academy will teach your dog to change their behavior and way of thinking about exciting or scary external stimuli.

Furthermore, dogs pattern easily. Dr. Dunbar will teach you to reward the desired behavior over and over again until the pattern is established. After that, you can being fading the food reward if you want. 

By rewarding the behaviors you want, you train your dog to understand what they are supposed to do. Punishing unwanted behaviors does not show them the correct behavior, just shows them how to avoid punishment. You will learn how to avoid this kind of mistake with Dr. Dunbar’s methods. 

Using positive reinforcement over old-school averse methods will help your dog grow confidence and improve your bond with them. 

Using Top Dog Academy

The average dog owner can find almost anything they need at Top Dog Academy. The particular module I explored has 67 lessons as well as 8.5 hours of video. It might sound overwhelming, but the sidebar made everything very easy to navigate. If watching videos is not your thing, there are supplemental lecture notes or seminars.

I opted to explore the “Training the Companion Dog” module. As a dog trainer, I have had the privilege of working with newborn litters of puppies to helping with end-of-life care and management. But as a dog owner, I have exclusively rescued dogs that were older puppies or adults and I felt I could relate most to Dr. Dunbar’s work on training adult dogs. He covers everything from socialization, jumping, leash pulling, and basic manners to help the companion dog become an important and welcomed family member.

Here is just one small snapshot of the different kinds of lessons that Dunbar Academy offers:

As you work through the module, you can complete the lesson so you can see how far you and your dog have come. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and sets you on a great track of education and training.

Are There Any Set-Backs?

Ian Dunbar has been doing this for a very long time, and he was instrumental in perfecting the lure and reward method of training dogs. Using food, lure your dog into the behavior, mark the behavior, and reward the behavior. Once the dog has patterned the behavior, phase out the reward.

However, using just our voice to mark can be tricky. Especially if you have a wiggling puppy or an easily distracted rescue dog. Luckily, marking tools like clickers can be easily incorporated into the training style at Top Dog Academy. If you know the basics of Dr. Dunbar’s methods, you can easily adapt and use a clicker to mark and perfect the behaviors you want. 

Something else that users might find distracting is how dated some of the videos are. As mentioned above, Dr. Dunbar has been training dogs for a very long time and his methods have been solid from the beginning. This means that some of his videos were recorded a long time ago. While the videos show their age, the information, and philosophy are timeless.

Some dogs with extreme reactivity, fearfulness, or aggression might benefit from the hands-on help of a certified trainer or behaviorist, or the medical assistance of a veterinarian. But online training can be a great supplement to working with a trainer in person. It can open your eyes to a different method and maybe offer different solutions to you and your trainer.

Would I Recommend Top Dog Academy?

Overall, I am a huge fan of the Dunbar Dog Academy, but you can decide for yourself with a free first month of training when you click here

The thing I love about Dr. Dunbar’s methods is that since your dog is learning how to perform the desired behaviors correctly the first time, they are learning to trust you. Without negative aversives, you will be amazed at how strong a bond you can form with your dog.

If you have a brand new puppy, you should start with the Essential Puppy Training course. It is an amazing way to get started with your young family member.

However, not everyone gets a dog at eight weeks old. Dr. Dunbar’s Dog Training offers a comprehensive guide to help train and navigate the ups and downs of socializing and teaching proper behaviors to your adolescent or adult dog.

I think Top Dog Academy is an amazing wealth of knowledge and can cater to almost anyone and their dog training needs. I would highly recommend this to someone with a new dog, a problem dog, or someone looking to continue their dog training education. It’s also risk-free to try your first month when you use this link for NotABully readers

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *