Kelly Gorman Dunbar


Kelly Gorman Dunbar is a cofounder and the executive editor of and a contributing editor at and Animal Cafe.

She is the Founder and President of Open Paw, a non-profit organization devoted to addressing the unwanted animal problem in a whole new way, arming communities worldwide with valuable user and animal friendly training and behavior information with the goal of keeping cats and dogs out of shelters by keeping them in their original homes. Kelly lectures internationally on the principles of Open Paw and consults for animal shelters regarding layout, and staff-and-animal training protocols and procedures.

She is a Director of the Center for Applied Animal Behavior, a multi-faceted business that focuses on teaching people how to train their dogs to be the best canine citizens possible via fun and efficient training techniques involving games and environmental enrichment as rewards for desired behavior. She is a Director for the K9 Games Corporation, a venture dedicated to bringing fun and games to the process of dog training in order to make it easy, entertaining, and accessible for all people, including children.

Kelly recruits and trains the instructors for Dr. Ian Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training company based in Berkeley, CA. She is the creator of the SIRIUS Sniffers scent-dection curriculum and is also in the process of bringing the French sport of cavage to the United States. Kelly has titled her French Bulldog Hugo-Louis via National Association of Canine Scent Work and enjoys competing in both NACSW nose work and AKC rally trials with her dogs.

Blog posts by Kelly Gorman Dunbar

Courtesy of the Corvallis Gazette-Times

When Strange Myths Override Common Sense

In the spring of 2009 I was in Oregon, presenting the Open Paw Shelter Program to a small, lovely humane society in Corvallis. During the three-day workshop the staff, volunteers, and I worked with many wonderful dogs awaiting adoption. One dog in particular both caught my eye and captured my heart; she was a little Sheltie with no name. “Sheltlie”, as I oh-so-creatively called her, was at least 12-years old if she was a day and as well mannered as could be, sweet as pie. She’d obviously been loved and well cared for, “How could a dog like that end up in a shelter?” I wondered. Turns out she came in as a stray. Hmm.


Dune's Nose & A Rose

A Treat By Any Other Name…

I have a pet peeve about dog training. Okay, actually I’ve got a few peeves about dog training; you caught me! I’m only going to mention one of them today though. It’s when people transpose the words “treat” and “reward” when talking about reinforcing a dog’s behavior. As in, “When the dog sits, give him a treat.” Or, “Reward the dog for not jumping up.”


Actually using either of the words above in a training scenario isn’t totally accurate; the word “reinforce” is the one that best suits the action and intention when acknowledging a dog’s correct response in an exercise in an attempt to increase the likelihood of a behavior.


Let’s look at the definitions of these words. All can be used as nouns or verbs; I’ve chosen the definitions of the words used as a noun, something you give to a dog.



Silly Human! A Dog's Nose Knows

The other day I was practicing fun nose work in my garden with Dune and Hugo. It was Dune’s turn and I’d hidden a single cotton swab infused with just a hint of birch oil along a fence line, near some tall grasses and Mexican sage plants.


I released Dune to search and he scanned the environment with his nose before even taking a step into the area. The wind was blowing and he didn’t catch the scent right away, I could tell because he didn’t turn immediately to the left, where the odor was hidden a mere five feet away, but instead veered slightly right to begin his perimeter search along the top rock wall. Halfway through his perimeter search he abandoned this strategy and made a beeline across the garden, heading straight for the source. He found it in less than 30 seconds. Good boy!



What If We Let Dogs Roam Free?

I recently read a blog post by Dino Dogan that asked, “Do we need animal shelters?” His question was, “what would happen if we were to let dogs roam free?” The premise being that dogs and humans have successfully coexisted for hundreds of thousands of years and that our modern arrangement, including animal shelters are only a few hundred years old, so clearly dogs did okay before they hooked up so intimately with us. Dino then lists several arguments and counter arguments to give food for thought. And thought-provoking it is!



When Dogs Ask Why

What is a trained dog? It’s not simply teaching certain behaviors, or cues, that produce a reliably trained dog. Relevancy is often overlooked, but it’s what makes for a trained dog. Think about it. Training is not about teaching dogs what we want them to do and enforcing them to comply. Successful training explains to dogs why they should comply.


There are several aspects to training a dog. First, in some cases, you have to teach the dog what you’d like him to do and when, as in “sit when I ask you to do so”. After a few repetitions you’ve got to wonder if the dog starts to think, “Okay, it was fun to learn something new, but why do you want me to keep doing it over and over! Or, why should I do it when there is something better to do?”



Change Your Perspective And Train Your Dog

As a dog trainer there are two questions I get more than any others: “How do I get my dog to stop doing (insert annoying, yet often natural, behavior here)?” & “How do I punish my dog when he’s just being bad?”


Puppy Love For Seniors

Another guest installment from my mother, Mary, who is now approximately one-year into life with a dog again. ~ Kelly

Coming home to an enthusiastic welcome, the jumping up, running in circles, and KISSES, KISSES, KISSES really beats coming home to an empty house. It is just about one year since we got our Rhodesian Ridgeback from Susan Tinch in Georgia.  If you have been following the senior’s corner you know Leo was a rescue.  When he came to us he was a resource guarder with high value items.  Also, he had a hard-ish mouth, extreme carsickness, and still needed some basic training.

I still say this is a great deal for a couple to take on when they are in their retirement years. I believe that a little older dog that has been trained and is more settled is a better match.


The Gift of Dog

I get a little nostalgic at this time of year, thinking of the people and 4-legged critters I’ve been fortunate to share my life with thus far. Luckily, Karen Wild and Intellidogs provided me with the perfect outlet to reflect and share some of my best canine memories and lessons learned through my dogs. It’s been a wonderful opportunity because there is no better gift than The Gift of Dog. Please check out my submission to the Intellidogs' doggy-advent calendar and take a moment to share what you’ve learned from the dogs of your Christmases past and present.

Happy holidays!


Batteries Not Included

We live in the age of technology. A world of entertainment and convenience at our fingertips, on demand movies and entertainment, 24 hour shopping online, pills to help us sleep when we need it, fresh produce of any kind regardless of the season, cars and jets to take us where we want to go in mere hours. You get the picture, we’re pretty used to getting what we want when we want it, on our schedules.

However, some things in life do not come with a power switch or auto-programming options, and a dog is one of them.


Is NILIF Nasty?

Recently I read a piece that lumped NILIF into the “nasty” category of dog training tools. My initial response was, "that’s preposterous"! But then I got to thinking…

The article mentioned, among other things, that using NILIF is stressful “because the dog loses all predictability and routine in his life, and loses all control of access to all of the rewarding elements of his life”.

The article also unhappily implied that NILIF is a rank reduction program based on the (faulty) belief that dogs need humans to be a surrogate “pack leader” or alpha in order to respect us enough to “follow our orders”.  

You may ask, what is NILIF?



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