Seven More Of The Best Dog Trainers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Before

In light of the tremendous feedback we’ve received from our original article, “The Seven Best Dog Trainers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Before” … we decided to complie another list:

Seven More Of The Best Dog Trainers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Before

1. Bridget Carlsen

(Image linked from her website)

You’ll find no better example of someone who uses her own personal energy and enthusiasm to bring out the best in her dogs. I’ve never seen anyone get so much drive and enthusiasm from a dog, yet still maintain absolute perfect precision. Bridget is truly a gifted trainer like none other. Most of us mere mortals would kill for the talent Bridget displays in her Youtube videos.

With over 30 years of training experience, she has put over 100 titles on her dogs from the sports of Obedience, Field and Agility. Her accomplishments include 7 Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) titles, 10,600 lifetime OTCH points, over 225 High in Trial (HIT) awards, over 225 High Combined (HC) awards, and multiple perfect 200 scores in both Open and Utility.

She has the first and only Obedience Trial Championship (OTCH) on a Norwich Terrier, “Hemi”. Bridget and her Golden Retriever “Soupy” also won a placement while representing the United States in international obedience competition at Crufts in England. She has had at least one dog (and sometimes two) ranked in the AKC Top 25 All Breed Obedience Dogs in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2015, Bridget’s Golden Retriever, “Saucy” was the AKC National Obedience Champion. She is also an accomplished field trainer putting Master Hunter (MH) titles on five dogs. Bridget has produced several instructional videos for those looking to compete with their dogs, available at her web site.



2. Bob Campanile

As a young dog trainer, we’d sit around the training facility late at night and engage in the type of chatter young dog trainers do: “What’s the best breed of dog for catching wild hogs?” “What if you crossed a Rottweiler with a Jack Russell Terrier?” “Who is the best dog trainer of all time?”

Any time we needed to make a point, the name, “Bob Campanile” would come up as the Michael Jordan of dog trainers: The best of the best.

“What would Bob Campanile do with that dog?”

“How would Bob Campanile train that?”

“Do you think Bob Campanile is up this late, training his dogs?”

Cripes… most of us didn’t even know who Bob Campanile was. I certainly didn’t. The name just represented some guy on the East Coast who had won all of the big working dog competitions… again and again and again. But if you wanted to make a point, the name “Bob Campanile” might as well have been, “Jesus Christ” if Jesus Christ had been a dog trainer.

It turns out that Bob Campanile is still at the top of his game, all these years later. And believe it or not… he’s also a heck of a nice guy.

I called Bob about a year ago after tracking him down on Facebook. We “talked dog” for about an hour and I was honored that he took the time to reveal some of his dog training secrets to me. Usually when you talk to dog trainers– especially good one’s– you’ve gotta wade through a bunch of big ego.  Not with Bob. Bob is one of the most sincere, genuine guys you’ll ever meet in the dog sports. It’s probably one of the reasons that he’s held in such high regard by his peers. (The other being that he’s a winner!)



3. Ivan Balabanov

One of the big regrets in my dog training career is that I missed the opportunity to get to know Ivan Balabanov– before he became a dog training god. That was back when he was “just” working as an animal behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA.

And before he became an international celebrity amongst professional dog trainers; before he became a two-time world champion and before his name became practically synonymous with the Belgian Malinios.

The Belgian Malinois breed is quickly replacing the German Shepherd Dog as the working dog of choice for police and military applications. Anybody who knows anything about the Belgian Malinois, knows about Ivan Balabanov.

I was a young dog trainer living in the East Bay at the time. I remember calling the SPCA and talking to another trainer who told me about Balabanov.

“Adam… you’ve gotta meet this guy. He’s incredible… a real wealth of knowledge.”

Sure, I thought. Everybody’s got their favorite guru and everybody’s guru is, “The best.”  I figured that he might be one of Karen Pryor’s clicker trainers because he was working for the SPCA.  And what’s up with that weird name? Probably just another Northern California nut who dances naked with his dogs in Golden Gate park, I thought.

Well, no.  The guy with the funny last name would later turn out to be a legend within sport dog training circles.

And yes… I do feel like an idiot for missing out on my opportunity to meet a guy who would go on to become one of the greatest sport dog trainers… ever.

From his web site:

  • Ten (10) times National Champion.
  • Two (2) times World Champion.
  • Award winning author of the book Advanced Schutzhund and DVD series Obedience without Conflict.
  • Has appeared on Animal Planet, Fear Factor, and pretty much all dog sport magazines around the world.
  • Lectures at the annual United States Police K9 Association Events and is a trainer for ATF special task force K9 units.
  • Has thought seminars to different army canine facilities including the Swiss Army
  • Instructs and lectures some of the top Search and Rescue organizations in the US as well as Switzerland.
  • Worked as a Guide Dog instructor for 5 years in California where he trained more than 300 dogs and students.
  • Worked as animal behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA (a “no kill” facility) and was responsible for the successful evaluation and rehabilitation of some of the most difficult cases.
  • Founder of the SF/SPCA Dog Trainers Academy. He also went on to write and teach the training curriculum.

For more information about Ivan, visit his web site… appropriately enough, titled:



4. Omar Von Muller

If you’ve seen the films, “Water For Elephants” or “The Artist” — then you’ve already seen the magic of Omar Von Muller’s dog training abilities.

Or how about “Jumpy” the Australian Cattle Dog in the video (see below) that was viewed over eleven million times on Youtube, last year? Yup, that’s Omar Von Muller’s work, too.

He has hundreds of credits to his name including the motion pictures, “The Italian Job”, “Four Brothers”, “Jackass 3D” and “Water for Elephants”. But his greatest accomplishment may have been training the role for Uggie– the Jack Russell Terrier in the Academy Award winning film, “The Artist”. That role received several awards worldwide. Uggie became the first dog to have his paw prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Omar is one of the few dog trainers today who is truly pushing the bar.  Just when you think you’ve seen everything, Omar comes along with a new trick or behavior that simply blows your mind. Watch this clip to see what I mean:



5.  Rodney Spicer

Way before the internet, I remember getting my hands on a VHS tape of a dog trainer instructing a German Shepherd Dog to swim across the narrow part of a river and bite an agitator (the guy who wears the padded sleeve when training police dogs).  Then the dog was remotely instructed to immediately release his bite and return to the handler– by once again swimming across the river.

Mind –> Blown.

And that was probably twenty-five years ago. You can imagine the level of training Rodney Spicer is doing, now.

I have tremendous respect for Rodney Spicer’s training. He is the real deal in a field of less-than-impressive operators. Whenever I get a client who has a serious need for a personal protection dog, Rodney Spicer is usually the guy I send them to talk with. Forget about the clowns selling big, fluffy dogs in the back of Robb Report magazine. When the rubber meets the road, Rodney is the guy you want to see. And while I haven’t had the opportunity yet to meet him personally (we’ve communicated in the past via email) he engenders the utmost respect from all of the top trainers in the working dog field.



6.  Duke Ferguson

Duke Ferguson got his start in dog training when he adopted a Labrador Retriever– and the dog almost killed him! After consulting with a number of local dog trainers (all of whom told him to euthanize the dog!) he got his hands on a copy of my book.  As soon as he began directly addressing the issue by correcting his dog’s aggressive behavior–rather than merely throwing hot dogs at the dog– he started getting incredible results and was able to save the dog’s life.

That started Ferguson on a path to learn more. As he continued to acquire more knowledge, his skill level just kept getting better and better.

It wasn’t long before Ferguson had earned himself the respect and admiration of other professional dog trainers both in Canada and in the United States. He won ribbons and got press. Soon, other dog lovers came to learn his approach to dog training.

He now owns four dog training locations and is doing brilliant things with dogs. In addition, he is a fantastic communicator with the ability to teach not just the dogs but their owners, too– a rare commodity these days.



7.  Tyler Muto

For Tyler Muto, it’s all about Dogmanship.

“Dogmanship is my response to the traditional dog training world. I began using the term after I read a book by famed horse trainer Pat Parelli. He explained Horsemanship as a term that signified the relationship between the animal and the human, where consideration of the animal always comes first. Hence, Horse-Man-Ship. I decided instantly that this term could be perfectly applied to my style of working with dogs, so I adopted Dogmanship.”

But what has impressed me the most about Tyler Muto is his ability to take complicated subject matter and break it down into easily understandable training steps. (See the video below on how to train attention-based heeling)

From his web site:

Tyler Muto, a Rochester, NY native, has had a life long passion for training dogs. Upon moving to Buffalo, NY in 2007, he began researching the local dog training facilities, looking for a place to apply his knowledge and skills, and was instantly dissatisfied with the services available to dog owners in the area. With few resources, and with no local connections, Tyler decided to start his first company, K9 Connection, and offer a behavioral service that was previously unavailable in the Buffalo region.

By 2011, Tyler’s expertise and innovation in the dog training world had begun to attract national and international attention. He decided to open the K9 Connection Dog Training Center in Downtown Buffalo, where he still serves as training director, supervising multiple full time trainers. The facility has now expanded to offer dog daycare and grooming as well.

In 2013, Tyler was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Canine Professionals, and was almost instantly promoted to fill a seat as the organization’s Vice President, the youngest ever to be granted this honor. Tyler was also picked by the Buffalo District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration to receive an award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Today, dog owners from all over the United States and Canada bring their pets to Tyler for training. Tyler’s passion for training, along with his ability to help families and dogs achieve harmony, is unparalleled, and has earned him recognition as not only one of the best in Western New York, but one of the most sought after trainers throughout the United States and Canada.



Dog Trainer Jeff Gellman Is Dog Training Across America In An RV — How Cool Is That?

He’s seeing bitches in every state.  Do his wife and kids know about it?

Actually, they do.  They’re along for the ride.

Fortunately, Jeff Gellman is a dog trainer from Rhode Island (and not a gigalo!) and the “bitches” are female dogs.

[Editor’s note: Yeah, yeah– it made for a catchy opening paragraph.  What can I say?]

Jeff Gellman is dog training his way across America in an RV with his family and trusty German Shepherd, “Girl.” But the real star of his show is his two year-old son, Angelo… quite possibly the cutest kid on the internet. Angelo helps feed and train the dogs and is featured in many of the videos Jeff makes as he documents his travels. He’s also got six older kids… all girls!

His web site, lists dates, locations and tickets to attend his seminars as he travels around the country.

If you’d like to get a sample of Jeff’s teaching style, check out this video (below) he did on dog separation anxiety: It’s one of the best explanations I’ve ever heard on the subject. And if you’re in Rhode Island, he’s got a local dog training company called Solid K-9 Training.

I’ve watched Jeff’s videos over the past couple of years and (despite the early 90’s pony tail and trademark black frame glasses) he just keeps getting better and better.


NY Dog Trainer Blake Rodriguez Should Have His Own TV Show

Move over Cesar, NY dog trainer Blake Rodriguez should have his own TV show.

“Baxter is a dog who came in for our board-and-train program,” says Rodriguez.

Blake does an amazing job of explaining how to use a remote collar as he demonstrates in this clip with Baxter. (below)

In this video, he’s using a Mini Educator remote collar from E-collar Technologies.

This is the same e-collar Adam uses with his clients at his Reno Dog Training company, Katz Trains Dogs.



Morning Rituals For Your Dog

Larry Krohn is a special agent for the U.S. Government Department of Homeland Security.  He also leads a secret double life as one of Nashville’s top professional dog trainers.  Although in truth… that’s probably not a secret to anybody living in the Nashville area.

Larry recently wrote about his morning rituals with his dog, Luca.  I think Larry is right on the mark with this approach (below):  He makes his dogs work by incorporating their training into his every day lifestyle– which is exactly what I advocate in my dog training books, too.  (You can read more about those  in this article.)

In fact, it’s something that you’ll find pretty much all top trainers do.

Here’s how Larry describes it:

Larry Krohn

Luca’s Morning Ritual

“I open his crate in my kitchen and make him calmly walk with me to the garage door or else he will run circles around the table. I enter the garage, have him sit while the garage door is opening. I go outside first, I call him to me and I place him in a down-stay while I fill his water bowl.

He is already working because he is ready to run.

He holds a down-stay while I go to get his ball and chuck it. Then I release him and give him his bathroom command.

After he pees, we are ready to play. Every time before I throw the ball I will have him do a few different commands, mixing things up. I throw and he runs and retrieves.

Sometimes I let him just run around for a while and sometimes I have him bring it right back, it’s never the same. When I am done, I down him, put his toy away while he stays in a down, then I release him so he can drink. The point here is that this all took ten minutes or less and he has received mental and physical stimulation, plus good exercise before he eats and I leave for work. Now he can relax while I’m gone all day. If you have a dog you must do something to feed his mind and body, and it dies not take long.”

Larry owns Pakmasters Dog Training that serves Nashville and Kentucky.

The Seven Best Dog Trainers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Before

If you thought the dog trainers on TV were the best of the best… you’d be wrong.  Sure, Cesar Milan is (for the most part) pretty good at rehabilitating dogs with problems.  And that British woman who walks around with the knee-high boots and the bad attitude?

Don’t get me started.

There are hundreds of trainers who are much, much better than they are, but they don’t have television shows because they’re too busy training dogs.  Here’s my pick for seven of the best you’ve probably never heard of before:

The Seven Best Dog Trainers You’ve
Probably Never Heard Of Before

Needless to say, the seven dog trainers below make the trainers on Animal Planet look like amateurs. [Which in many cases, they are!]

For basic training, most balanced trainers will cut it– and what makes an exceptional companion dog trainer is their ability to teach the owner by explaining difficult concepts in an easily understood manner and by combining techniques into a methodology that builds on both the dog and owner’s previous skill set.  I’d like to think that my dog training book does a good job of this.

But When You Want To Move Beyond Basic Dog Obedience Training And Behavior, These Are The Folks At The Top Of My List…

(In no particular order)

1.  Fred Hassen

Fred HassenI first met Fred Hassen when he interviewed me for a radio show he was doing in Las Vegas, back in the late 90’s.  But that was only a phone interview and although I was aware of his reputation as a mostly “e-collar” trainer, it was a long time before streaming flash video and Youtube gave me the opportunity to actually see him train.  It wasn’t until 2007 that we met in person for the first time.  Fred had invited me to attend one of his seminars that was being held in Los Angeles.

What I saw blew me away (see some of the video I filmed at that seminar, below).

Hassen is the father of advanced e-collar theory, in my opinion.  Sure, e-collars have been around long before Hassen started using them.  But Hassen was the first to combine an attention-based training approach with the e-collar.  That allowed him to work his dogs around any type of distraction and maintain the kind of attention and precision you would normally only see inside the obedience ring.

What makes Hassen a great dog trainer?  Like most masters of any discipline, he is obsessive-compulsive.  But unlike most obsessive-compulsives, he has been able to channel his proclivities into dog training.  I’ve met Hassen at least a couple dozen times.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without an e-collar in his hand, whether he had a dog with him or not.  The man is obsessed with dog training and his training is at a very high level.  As the founder of one of the largest dog training franchises in America, he’s got a lot of eyeballs on him.  But even if he didn’t, I have no doubt that Hassen is the kind of guy who would devote every spare moment to training his dog (or anyone elses!)

Atlanta dog trainer Darin Shepherd once told me, “When I was going through the Sit Means Sit dog trainer school, I had my RV parked in front of Fred’s house.  At 3:00 AM in the morning, I was startled to find somebody walking into my RV.

“Go back to sleep, Darin,” said Hassen, “I’m just taking your dog out to work him.”

Another trainer told me that Hassen called him when his plane was delayed in Boston and suggested that he come to the airport for an hour to schmooze.  The trainer showed up to find Hassen on the tarmac, working his dog.   That’s the kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior that makes for a master dog trainer.


2.  Dave Skoletsky

Dave SkoletskyThe Belgian Malinois is a tough breed.  They’re not for amateurs.  Naturally, I had to have one.  “The Dude” was actually my second Belgian Malinois.  A Sheriff in Nevada had bred “The Dude’s” parents and then sold him to a civilian.  By about eleven months, he’d had enough.  The dog was too much for him.

When I saw the ad on Craigslist, I knew I had to go see the dog.  The owner begged me to take him.  He was asking $600 for the dog.  I only had about $125 in my pocket.

“Sold!” he said.

I took the dog home and it wasn’t long before I realized that the dog was way too much for my mostly sedentary lifestyle, too.  “The Dude” was a very strong, dominant dog.  And he also had some very serious fear aggression issues.  Way more than I wanted to deal with at this point in my life.   For a dog like this, you never know how far you can go with fixing a behavior like that: Best case scenario, you can completely eliminate the behavior.  Worst case scenario: You can control the aggression, but you’ll always need to be on top of it.

I gave the dog to another trainer, who put more work into the dog (and renamed him, “Yeager”) before that trainer gave Yeager to Massachusetts dog trainer Dave Skoletsky.

I won’t bore you with the details, but Skoletsky absolutely transformed Yeager into an amazing dog he could take anywhere and do demonstrations with.  At the same time, Skoletsky began competing in the Dock Dogs sport with Yeager and even set a world record!

The best way to know how good a trainer is, is to watch him work the same dog you’ve worked and see how he does with the dog.  In this case, Skoletsky did with Yeager better than I could have expected almost anyone to do.  A total turn around (see video below)

I’ve seen Skoletsky work all kinds of dogs… including little Chihuahuas.  It doesn’t matter: Skoletsky gets them to do high level obedience and enjoy the process, too.  I’d have no hesitations about sending a dog to Skoletsky for training if I was otherwise over-booked.

As a side note: Skoletsky set up Team 21 and along with Yeager, works to raise awareness about Down Syndrome … an all-around admirable endeavor.


 3.  Bart Bellon

Bart BellonBart Bellon grew up in East-Central Africa and then later moved back to his native Belgium where he quickly became enthralled with Belgium Ring Sport.  Shunned by the older trainers because he was “too young,” Bellon resigned himself to standing in the corner and watching the club members work their dogs… for six months!

When the club decoy/agitator didn’t show up one day, Bellon volunteered to put on the padded suit and the rest is history: Years later, he would win his first working dog national championship in 1992.  From 1992 to 2002, as training director of his local working dog club, Bellow helped his members take home seven national championships– two himself, with two different dogs.

Bellon is the thinking man’s dog trainer.  You can read more about his background in training and how he developed his “NePoPo (TM)” system, here.  Bellon is a master at getting a dog to work with both precision and attitude and is a popular attraction on the dog training seminar circuit.


4.  Leri Hanson

Leri HansonI first met Leri Hanson at a Schutzhund club in Southern California over twenty years ago.  And to be honest: She scared me!  She looked like a biker chick with a bandana wrapped around her head and a pit bull on the end of her leash.  Scratch that: Not just any biker chick, but the kind of biker chick who would be riding at the head of the pack.

“I would later come to find out that Hanson has a heart of gold– and once you get to know her– you’ll learn that she is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.”

Hanson is the real deal, the genuine article.  She is passionate about the pit bull breed as well as training in general.  She is an active advocate against breed-specific legislation, too.  But what’s really cool about Hanson is that she puts her money where her mouth is: She is a top trainer who has devoted much of her training career to working the Bully breeds and showcasing their wide versatility by competing with these dogs in a very impressive manner.

Hanson has very high standards for both herself and the people she trains with, which is one of the things you’ll find with most top trainers: They have a picture in their head of what the dog’s behavior should look like and then they work tirelessly (or motivate you, tirelessly!) to reach that training goal.

Hanson has been a competitor and promoter of French Ring, Mondio Ring and several other working dog sports.  And she’s fantastic at thinking up new and creative ideas for working her dogs around distractions: Have you ever made your dog hold a down-stay when a man is walking two feet from your dog with a leaf blower?  What about when that same man is spraying your dog with a hose? Sounds easy? It’s not.  That’s the kind of training I like, because if your dog will listen around the most crazy, inventive distractions you can think of, then the typical stuff you might run into around town is a piece of cake.  I’ve seen Hanson train around some truly crazy distractions!   And lest you think the dogs wouldn’t like it… she gets them to do it with a big smile on their faces.  Dogs love working with Hanson almost as much as Hanson loves working with dogs.  Because for the dogs, being on the training field with her is just a whole lot of fun.


5.  Robin MacFarlaine

Robin MacfarlaneRobin MacFarlane owns That’s My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa.  But that’s only part of the story: Are you interested in learning the art of remote collar training? Is your existing dog business in need of supercharging? Are you ready to take your skills to a new level?  MacFarlane is “a trainer’s trainer.”  She runs workshops and seminars to teach the art of remote collar training, and she’s darn good at it!

What’s unique about MacFarlane is that she is a natural teacher: She has the ability to demonstrate and explain the new approach to e-collar training like nobody else.  I know a lot of really good dog trainers, and a lot of them use the modern approach to e-collar training.  But while many are excellent dog trainers, very few have the ability to teach the concepts the way that MacFarlane can.  Her two-dvd series on using the remote collar is a “must have.”  A competent dog trainer can use those two dvds to build an entire training system around and then take their dog on to incredibly high levels.  I’ve used them myself and they’ve been a worthy addition to my bag of tricks, especially when preparing a dog to be a future demo dog.

Robin is a tireless advocate for the remote collar and works hard to dispell the myths surrounding this amazing dog training tool with her blog:  The Truth About Shock Collars.


 6.  Kyra Sundance

Kyra SundanceKyra Sundance is in a category of her own.  She is the author of the best selling dog training book: 101 Dog Tricks, as well as several others.  If you’re interested in teaching your dog performance-style tricks, this is hands-down the book to get.  It’s beautifully photographed and it breaks each trick down into “bite sized chunks” (no pun intended) that make it easy for the trainer to understand and for the dog to learn.

Sundance’s world-acclaimed acrobatic Stunt Dog Team performs on premier stages internationally at circuses, professional sports halftime shows, and on television shows such as The Tonight Show (twice), Ellen, ET, Worldwide Fido Awards, Animal Planet, Showdog Moms & Dads, and more. Kyra and her dogs starred in Disney’s Underdog stage show, and starred in a command performance in Marrakech for the King of Morocco.

Sundance is nationally ranked in competitive dog sports, works as a set trainer for dog actors, and lectures for international professional dog organizations.


7.  Francis Metcalf

Francis MetcalfI’d heard about Francis Metcalf for years, but it wasn’t until Youtube really started to catch on that I had a chance to see some of his training in action.  As it turns out, Metcalf lives in a 100 year-old house in Oakland, California that’s just five hours from where I live.  I need to make time to get over there and train with him, as it’s obvious he is a master at what he does.

Metcalf has a flare for the dramatic and his marketing positions him as an old-timey Circus dog trainer.  Which I think is cool as hell!  He even runs a, “Circus Dog School“.

From an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Metcalf has worked in the past with the SFSPCA, training dogs to work with people with disabilities. He trained Izzy the poodle, a 15-pound therapy dog who worked with kids in the oncology unit at UCSF Children’s Hospital. He’s also trained dog and cats for TV and stage appearances.”

You can watch some of his videos on his Youtube channel “Master Of Hounds” and you’ll see just how good this guy is…


I’ll probably do another article at some point in the future titled, “Another Seven Of The Best Dog Trainers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Before,” as there are so many great dog trainers out there now– and the internet has given us all the opportunity to connect with each other and share our skills.

Your Chance To Be A Fly On The Wall And Read A Real-Life, No-Holds-Barred Letter From One Professional Dog Trainer To Another

Here is a letter I received from another professional dog trainer reads:

Hi Adam, I’m Jim Haines. My partner Brenda and I graduated from Tom’s [Tom Rose’s School For Professional Dog Trainers, in St. Louis, Missouri] 20 week program, four years ago. We have trained just over 1000 dogs/owners (the vast majority being in-kennel training & privates one-on-one).

I love your internet chat room and plan to throw my hat in the ring. We deal with the same pinch collar issues from the well meaning psuedo-experts all the time. It’s tragic that people judge a book by its cover. Anyway, this is the hyper-sensitive PC era that we live in.

People just do not understand that nothing worthwhile comes easy. I get similar feedback from good parents. One lady told me that her child threw a huge fit in a Wal Mart. He dropped to the floor and started screaming. This lady simply walked away to another isle, the child quickly got up, shut up and returned to good behavior.

I guess someone had the audacity to pass a remark to the effect that what she did was unbelievable and no way to raise a child. My client calmly responded to this woman that she loves her son more than she could ever know and that walking away from a fit will prevent him from pulling the same stunt ever again. [Note: This works for kids, not necessarily for dogs… but your point is well taken.] This is a new client of mine.

I will bet that she is a great mom and will be a great trainer with her new dog. We need to continue to educate the well meaning pseudo-experts that the benevolent use of correction in dog training is an essential part of having a well mannered, happy and confident dog that is a pleasure to be around. I have a big mouth.

We get our facts straight before we praise or knock a particular method. So I can say we have tried the purely positive approach, head collar systems (you know what I am talking about), operant conditioning, training in drive, etc… Some things have some merit in some situations (our approach to working dogs is very different from the spoiled pet, but these are not our pets… these are dogs who live in a strict working environment). The pet owner with the vast majority of pet dogs should train a la the pinch collar & praise for awhile.

Dogs trained this way learn that obedience while not optional… is still fun. They learn respect (not fear). They learn that the human has control over all situations so they worry about nothing… and so they become confident. THEY DO NOT HAVE BROKEN SPIRITS AND ARE NOT ROBOTS!!! I concur with your statement somewhere in your web site about customizing the training to the dog. “Canned” dog training fails the majority of dogs.

The positive-only approach to training has not yet reached its apex. The majority of our society will continue to avoid the sometimes tough (but necessary), and look for the easy way. The bad news is, thousands of good dogs will continue to be euthanized each week in this country… the majority of which I believe end up in the pound due to poor behavior that was created by– or could have been prevented by– proper action on the owner’s behalf.

The good news is, some of these people will be open-minded enough to try an approach like yours or mine. Despite the bashing we get, behind our backs… and will get the results they seek (a happy, well mannered dog). These are the ones that will sing your praises louder than all others. I know this because 30% of our business comes from other dog trainers.

Veterinarians and other animal medical professionals not only refer to us, but do training with us as well. We do charge substantially more than the competition, and we are out in the boonies, but they still come. They come from town. They come from other cities (several have come from different states)… all from referrals.

I know what I’m talking about when I use the term well meaning pseudo-expert… I used to be one. I thought that pinch collars were cruel. Crates were cruel. Those who dared use “shock collars” should be arrested… as well as those who cropped ears and docked tails for the sake of appearance. I thought no one knew more about dogs than me and those who thought like me.

Now dogs are my full time life. Just about 24 hours a day a dog is with me. I love dogs. We all love the animals… that is why we are in this. I know that what I tell a client to do is in the dog’s best interest, first and foremost!

The well meaning pseudo-experts often think that if you train with a pinch collar, you can’t possibly love the animals! I have to go now, I just wanted to introduce myself before I jumped on your chat site (I have never participated in any of these groups). Best Regards, Jim Haines


Pro Dog Trainers Never Yell or Scream Commands At Their Dog

I never yell at my dog. Never. Well, okay. There’s one exception. And that exception is if: I’m already working with the dog at such a far distance that he can’t audibly hear me. And usually this is the case only if I’m teaching the dog to respond to hand signals.

Why don’t I ever raise my voice if I’m working with my dog, otherwise?

Because the only thing that raising your voice achieves is to communicate to your dog that you really DO NOT have control. And since I train with a modified working dog approach, I want my dog to know that I’m ALWAYS in control. Because I’m the “Alpha dog.”

Now, if I issue a command, and the dog I’m training does not respond to that command… then I will stop to figure out why he didn’t respond. If it’s because he didn’t understand the command, then I need to go back to basics and do more repetitions.

If the dog is simply not responding because he’s being stubborn or head-strong, then I’ll make my correction more motivational. But one thing that many observers will realize about the way I work with animals is that my commands are practically whispered. Never yelled or screamed. In fact, your commands should only be loud enough for your dog to hear. No louder.

So… do you want to know how to spot an amateur dog trainer?

He’s the one yelling at his dog.

A word or two on consistency and teaching your dog to “come.”

If I’m teaching a dog to come on command, it’s my job to convince the dog that he MUST come EVERY time I call him. But if he thinks that I’m only going to make him come every other time… or only under certain conditions… then I’ll never get the dog to be 100% reliable.

So, where am I going with this line of reasoning?

Well, just remember that you should NEVER give a command that you cannot enforce, until your dog is 100%. And you’ll know when he is 100% when his responses to commands are immediate! Even when you’re asking him to respond around the most tempting of distractions!


How I Train Dogs: A Letter I Wrote Back in 1997 Reveals My Training Techniques To A Dog Trainer On The East Coast. Part III of III

Hand Signals. Hand Signals I teach by linking the hand signals with the verbal commands I have already taught. So what you do is, give the new command and THEN the old command, and then go and enforce the behavior.

For instance, if I wanted to teach the dog to sit with the hand signal, I’d start by reaching out to my right (the new command) then say sit… and then with my other hand pop up on the leash. I usually do these for sit, down, and come. Heel usually isn’t necessary.

Advanced Handling Techniques. Basically this is where I put anything that any specific problems that the individual client may be having that needs more work on. On how to use your body language to get the most results with your dog, or anything else that might fall into that category. For example, using your left leg, which will guide the dog more, when you start heeling. And leaning slightly forward as you start, with more of a briskness in your step, than you’d normally take. Drop or Down on Recall. I usually teach this with two handlers. I’ll hold the dog on the long line and then have the owner put the dog on a sit next to me.

Next, I’ll make the owner walk 50 feet off and then call the dog and right before the dog hits the end of the 30 foot line, the owner yells out the down command… so the dog immediately gets a pop… and sometimes the owner may have to walk toward the dog to actually make him go down. You can repeat this in different areas and in different places, and then you can go back and incorporate the hand signal with the down as well.

Send the client home to practice this on their own time by teaching them to tie the end of a long line to a post, or a tree. Have the dog in a sit stay, or a down stay next to the post or tree and then have the owner walk off. So if you are using a 30 foot line, have the owner walk off to about 50 feet away from the dog. Call the dog, and right before the dog hits end of the line, give the command… the dog gets the correction and goes down. But you want to make sure you have them vary the length of the long line. So sometimes tie it off at 15 feet, and sometimes tie it off at 20 feet… so that the dog never associates one specific length.

Development of Perfect Attention: If you have done competition heeling, then you know what I am talking about here. You’re teaching the hot dog trick (dropping small pieces of hot dog from your face level… and then gradually from your mouth, to focus attention on your face. Eventually, you link a command like ‘watch me’ or ‘look’, and then can start proofing the dog with distractions, once he understands, and still looks away. And then you start to incorporate motion) Or you can teach them how to use the Halti or the Promise Leader.

Again, if you’ve had experience with competition training, this should be a piece of cake. Recall with Wrap Around Finish. I teach the dog to sit front, and then I teach the wrap around finish by stepping back with my right leg, bringing the dog around.

As the dog passes behind me, from the right side of my body to the left side of the body, I’ll pass my leash off to my left hand, pivot my shoulders so that they are now facing the dog on the left side behind me, step forward… and as I step forward, repeat the command, “heel” and make the dog come in to the sit position in the heel. With enough repetitions the dog is going to pick this up and start becoming conditioned to wrap around you when you say, “heel”. [For the inexperienced, this is something you really need to SEE a few times.]


How I Train Dogs: A Letter I Wrote Back in 1997 Reveals My Training Techniques To A Dog Trainer On The East Coast. Part II of III

Onto the Level II. I teach the recall predominately with the long line. I get a 20 foot or a 30 foot long line… you can get one from a horse and tack store… and “set the dog up” so that the dog gets distracted and runs off from you… and as he gets to the end, call his name and give him a pop on the line.

Move your body backwards so that your body language is encouraging the dog to come in to you. And praise him as he comes towards you. If he decides to run off in the opposite direction, do the same thing. Then what you need to do is gradually repeat this exercise around different distractions, especially other dogs, and birds, and cats… in many different settings. You’ll need to go home and practice this in a parking lot, at a gas station, in a park setting, in a rural setting, in the woods, at the beach… basically, anywhere you would want the dog to work off-leash… you need to practice with the long line.

What I tell my client is to make sure that when they come back to the next session, they are 100% certain that they can let the long line hang on the ground and that the dog will come back to them every time. This is actually a lot easier than it sounds… it just requires a bit of practice. When they come back for the next session, at that point I switch the long line for the tab… or at least have them start using the long line as if it were a tab. The tab is the short leash… the 1 foot leash… which I substitute for the long line.

If you have done your long line work correctly, the transition to the tab is going to be easy. But at that point anyway, I’ll substitute the tab and teach them how to properly use it. The Down Stay and the Sit Stay off-leash, we do the same as the Level I. The dog already understands the command, but now what we’re focusing on is just advanced proofing.

I start out with the long line. I tie the end of the long tine to a tree. I’ll walk off 50 or 60 yards and I play the game of walking back to the dog with praise if he does the exercise correctly. And going back and correcting him if he breaks the position. When you’re working at a distance like this with the dog, you can bridge the dog’s memory for association… their ability to associate the correction with the behavior… but you need to say “No, no, no, no, no,” as you run all the way back to the dog and then put him back into the place and the position where he was.

After you’ve done this, and the dog has tries to bolt the opposite direction, and he hits the end of the leash… and you’ve run back, saying, “No, no, no, no, no,”… corrected him and taking him back… then you can start doing this with the long line NOT tied to the tree. Actually… at this point you should be beyond the long line, to the tab, since you taught the dog the recall and he is not running away anymore.

The second thing I do is to put the dog in a place where he can’t see the handler. I’ll put the dog in a down-stay position, in the middle of park, and go and hide behind a building or a wall… and teach the dog that he needs to stay there. Again, if he gets up and breaks the position, I’ll run out of my hiding place, put him back into the down-stay, and then go into hiding again. If he then does it right, I’ll go back and praise him.

Heel Off Leash is done through a process of holding the tab and then dropping it… holding the tab and dropping it… until the dog gets conditioned to recognize that he can’t run away from the owner (again, first done with the long line) and I am going to make him stay in heel position, emphasizing more praise. If you’ve done your foundation work with the Loose Leash, all your On Leash obedience and transition should to Off Leash should be very smooth and fast.

As for distance work and advanced distraction proofing… you’ll just need to get creative. The more distractions and the variety of the creativity you can bring into your training will make the dog more reliable. I look for the holes in the training that the owner has done during the week in-between session, and exploit them. So, likely the owner hasn’t had another person tempt the dog by laying on the ground… or doing something crazy. What you want is for the owner to be really creative in their proofing process, so that there’s really nothing you can do to tempt the dog into breaking the command.


How I Train Dogs: A Letter I Wrote Back in 1997 Reveals My Training Techniques To A Dog Trainer On The East Coast. Part I of III

I was rumaging through the outer regions of my hard drive last week when I came upon a letter I’d written to a dog trainer on the East Coast.

He’d asked me how I run my private lessons for my clients at South Bay K-9 Academy. (I’m no longer accepting new clients). So, I dictated a 20 minute spiel to my secretary, and then had her type up a transcript of my ramblings and send it off in the mail… but not before saving it to my hard drive. And now, two years later, I thought sharing this letter with you might help unlock some of the mysteries of dog training.

However, keep in mind that there is actually A LOT in this letter that I LEFT OUT … as I was corresponding with another professional dog trainer, and I only wanted to get across the basic points I incorporate in how I teach my lessons. Also, please note how much I stress placing the burden of the work on the owner, rather than taking the dog myself and training their pet. As I’ve said before… the trick is to teach the OWNER how to train their dog. In other words:

Give a Man A Fish And You
Feed Him For One Day.
But Teach Him How To Fish,
and You Feed Him For Life!

Without further ado, here is the first of a three part letter. I’ll publish the other two parts in upcoming issues of this e-zine.

Beginning of Letter: (Keep in Mind This Was Dictated, So It’s A Bit Choppy.)

Dear Mr. [Name Omitted]: I am going to speak very briefly because you inquired about how I actually do the training. My basic emphasis in putting together the kit [a marketing kit for dog trainers] was to teach people who are already professional dog trainers how to market their services and make money with their skill at training dogs. But even professionals who have already been training dogs for a number of years have inquiried as to how I do my training and what techniques I use.

So I am going to touch very quickly on the three different levels of obedience training and how I teach the techniques. But for now I am just going to run through each of the exercises in each of the levels and speak to you about how I do this training. The other thing that you may want to look into are a number of books that are readily available at your local library or book store.

I recommend a book called “Good Owners Great Dogs” by Brian Kilcommons. [You can order this book through our web site]. Another good dog training book is called “Dog Training by Bash”, the author’s name is Bashkim Dibra. You might look into the Monks of New Skete book. And there’s a problem behavior book that is also written by Bashkim Dibra… as well as a book called “Dog Problems” by Carol Lea Benjamin [also available through our web site] and a number of others… but most of these aren’t geared specifically toward the professional dog trainer.

If you have had experience training competition dogs (sport dogs) scaling down to work with pet owners is going to be very easy because it is just no where near as demanding. All they want is rliability. They don’t care if the dog does it with style or pizazz or how fast they do it per say, as long as it’s reliable and its functional. And if you look at my Temperament Evaluation and Consultation Card (It should be the yellow card that came with your kit) I am going to run through each of these very quickly.

The Down Stay:  remember… when I reach these behaviors, I teach the owners how to teach the dog or how to work with the dog, but usually I’ll get the dog doing the behavior during the session, but then it’s up to the owner to take the dog around town and do the proofing exercises to make sure the dog will do the Down Stay or the Heel or Recall under various circumstances.

There is no way you can do that in the number of sessions that you can spend with the owner to keep it profitable, nor should you. The real benefit to the client is to get the client to do the bulk of the training and that way they are going to develop a more proper relationship between themselves and their pet and they are going to have the experience and the practice and be able to come back to you with questions they wouldn’t otherwise.

The Down Stay…I teach the dog the down first by teaching the dog to sit. Basically I tell the dog to sit, I pop straight up with the right hand and then guide the dog down with the left into the sit position and then you give the dog the release command. For the Down… I tell the dog Down, I pop in a downward and forward direction with my right hand on the leash and with my left hand, I put right behind the dog’s shoulder… it’s kind of a pressure spot, where if you push down and rock, the dog’s legs will collapse under him and he’ll go down.

And after guiding the dog through the behavior, you reach a point where the dog starts to understand and associate the command with what you want him to do and then you can stop with the physical part of actually touching the dog and just start popping the dog in the downward direction.

Walk with a Loose Leash: This is actually the first exercise I do. Basically, I teach the owners to walk with the dog on a loose leash by holding the very end of the leash and walking up and down a straight line using “right abouts” or walking straight backwards, so if the dog goes forward the owner goes backwards… and the dog hits the end of the leash with a sharp “snap” or “pop” and then the owner calls the dog’s name after the pop and encourages the dog to come in to them.

So, if the dog stays near the handler, then the dog gets nothing but praise. If he decides to run off to hit the end of the leash to bark at another dog or chase after a cat… he learns that he’s going one direction, and the owner is going the opposite direction… and the dog is the one on the leash so he gets the correction and then the chance to make the right decision again.

Heel is a process of modifying the Walk on a Loose Leash by teaching the owner to do a series of maneuvers to encourage the dog to walk in heel position on the left side and emphasize praising when the dog is in heel position doing a right about turn if the dog forges too far ahead; a left about turn if the dog is not paying attention and forging just a little bit. And pulling gently forward… if the dog is lagging… until the dog makes the effort to come up into heel position at which time we then substitute praise.

Get In the Car, Get Out of the Car: I teach by teaching the dog to climb up onto a raised platform such as a park bench or a box. I tell the dog “Climb” and then drag him up as fast as I can… pulling him up there. As soon as all 4 feet are off the ground (on the box) I give immediate praise and then I teach the release command as well by using a little bit of touch and motion. I tell the dog, “Take a break” and take a step to the left and pull the dog off the box top.

So the dog learns that safety and loving is only attained when he is on the box top after I have given him the command and if he jumps off too soon, it’s like jumping up onto a hot stove… I pull him back up immediately. Once the dog understands climb, he can associate that to the car (or anything else). Climb in the truck. Climb in the car. Climb on the scale. Climb on the grooming table. The applications are endless.

Wait at the Door. Basically I have the owner teach the dog to wait at the door the same way they do by teaching the dog not to run in the street… which we’ll get to in just a minute. But a very fast way to show them how to teach the dog to wait at the door is to have them imagine that they are holding the dog on the leash with their left hand– standing inside the house– and open the door with the right hand… As soon as the dog decides to bolt out the door, immediately slam the door closed. It may clip the dog in the head a couple times but he’ll get the picture real quick.

And then open slowly and close, open a little bit more and then close again, and then open wide and close until the dog realizes that he has to wait because the door will come slamming closed very fast if he decides to bolt through.. And we have the leash on the dog just in case our timing isn’t good enough and the dog does get through… we can direct him back in.

Teaching the dog to not run in the street or basic property perimeter training can be applied to teaching the dog to stay off the carpet in the house or only go on the tile and linoleum, or even stay out of certain bedrooms. This is a very good selling point.

What I do is I teach them how to do it on the curb, so they’re teaching the dog not to run in the street. What I do is, I step in the street… then tempt the dog to go into the street. But I want to be fair, so I don’t use the dog’s name. I just say, “do you want to come in the street?” If the dog comes in the street, I immediately correct him back up onto the sidewalk. The correction must stop as soon as all 4 legs are up on the sidewalk. Then I tempt the dog again. If the dog steps in the street, I repeat step 1. If he decides not to go in the street, I’ll go back and praise. Then what I’ll do is I’ll pull a little bit… just gently pull, so that the dog has to actively resist. If he makes the right decision, he get’s praised. If he makes the wrong decision, he gets the correction.

The second step is to now work the dog in various different streets. What happens is that, when the dog learns… it’s very situational. So I need to practice on 3 or 4 different streets and then have the owner go home and practice on 5 or 6 or 7 different streets. When we are ready to tell the dog to cross the street, I start incorporating the release command. What I use is “Take a Break.” I tell the dog. “Take a break” in the same way we did when we taught the dog that it was okay to jump off the box or the park bench (the way we did it with the climb.) So this is the street training.

The third step in the street training is of course the proofing which goes as well as with the Down Stay and the Sit Stay. Proofing the dog…once the dog understands the exercise… you can take a ball, throw the ball in the street, if the dog chases the ball you correct him back up. You continue doing this until the dog learns that, just because the ball goes in the street DOES NOT MEAN that he is allowed to run into the street AFTER the ball!

The second proofing exercise I do is with a little bit food. I take some kibble or some meat, and toss it into the street. If the dog goes after the meat into the street, I again correct him back up onto the sidewalk. Then, the third step is take another dog, play with the dog in the street.

If the first dog, the one that you are training, decides to go in the street, then once again he should learn that he gets a correction AND THEN the chance to make the right decision. When he makes the right decision… we reinforce with praise.

Elimination of common behavior problems are solved by discussing the issue the the client, and demonstrating through a variety of examples how to administer a correction, or how to erase a negative associationg… depending on what we’re doing.