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Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

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Charlottesville, VA 22911

The Koehler Method

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

The Koehler Method of Dog Training
We have discussed Cesar Millan’s method of rehabilitating dogs and the philosophy behind it.  His methods are fine and dandy for trying to get rid of unwanted behavior, but for teaching the basics to a new family member I recommend a book by W.R. Koehler called “The Koehler Method of Dog Training.”  To find out more about his book and method, visit his website:

Archived from “The Paw Report:”  Issue #9, March.

What Leash Training Accomplishes
Leash training is so much more than just teaching your dog to walk with you.  If done properly, it establishes the alpha position of the owner.  It is an opportunity to socialize your dog with other dogs and people while also helping your dog become accustomed to noises and different environments. 

Remain calm around everything you pass to encourage her to follow your emotional lead.  If a bus goes by, don’t pay attention to it or to her—just ‘keep on truckin.’  The same rule goes for people and other dogs—ignore them.  Once your dog understands that all behavior while on lead is with your permission, then you can consider when to allow your dog to greet others. 

Remember though, dogs operate best under the KISS principle—“keep it simple stupid.”  I don’t use the lead for going pee, sniffing around, or playing.  She understands that being on lead is a signal that means we are going from point A to point B at a brisk pace.  She also understands what being off-lead means and she looks forward to this time when she is allowed to roam.  She still stays within eyesight of me—usually about 50 feet.

I understand, depending on the neighborhood, that all activities may have to be on lead.  If that is the case, and it often is, she must have another way to differentiate between heeling and loose-lead playing.  To help her understand what is expected of her, I use the sit command.  Common sense tells us that dogs need to relieve themselves before a long disciplined walk on lead.  Give her some casual time to take care of business and, when you are ready, tell her to sit.  This submissive gesture helps her switch her mindset from playtime, even if on lead, to training time.  After she sits, step forward with purpose and command “heel.” 

Don’t keep a short, taut lead—keep it four or five feet out and loose.  If it is always taut, she learns that no matter where she is or what she is doing, she is uncomfortable so she has no reason to behave.  If you keep the leash slack, she learns that if she stays close to you she can be “loose as a goose.”  Of course, when she leaves my side and reaches the end of the leash she has to come back in order to avoid the discomfort of a tight collar.  When training, change directions often so she is forced to watch where you are going and mimic that behavior.

While old dogs may be able to learn new tricks, it sure makes life easier if you start when a dog is a puppy. Don’t allow poor habits to develop.  Instead, develop good behavior from day one.  If you don’t allow your puppy to bite or jump on you from the get go, then in time they won’t even try.  This way, you don’t need to worry about breaking bad habits when they’re an adult in size and mentality.

Don’t expect your dog to learn overnight.  Be diligent and have a routine.  Be consistent.  Variations are confusing to your dog.  I started Lizzie on lead when she was 3 and a half months old so she has been at it for 3 months now.  She heels well, but can be distracted when we walk by people and other pets—that golden puppy in her strains to greet everybody! 

But I do not allow her to greet without my okay.  She pretty well has sit and stay mastered.  “Come” is a work in progress.  Most of the time she will come, but I usually have to repeat the command a time or two!

The greatest benefit we receive as groomers from proper leash training is that your dog will behave well on the grooming table and in the tub—used to having to be still and not always getting their way.  Can you imagine giving a farm dog who is never on lead a haircut?  Put them in a grooming noose on the table and it is panic time—they have never been restrained and don’t understand it.

If your dog is lead trained, you can go anywhere, anytime—even to the vet to get a shot.  Remember, respect others who don’t have a dog or have one on lead and may not want to share their space with you.  Believe or not, not everyone thinks your dog is cute!  Keep your dog at bay until you are invited to greet someone.

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