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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-06-2007, 09:52 AM
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Koehler Method of Dog Training

What is the best training book to read? I am currently reading the Koehler Method of Dog Training (someone reffered me). It seems a bit harsh but has proven results. Its like a boot camp lol. Has anyone on this forum followed the Koehler Method? There are some very good ideas in his book. It gaurentees results in 13 weeks for off leash Heel, Sit, Sit Stay, Down, Down Stay, etc. I will not begin his training until I have completed my research on the best training method. I need to know what other training options I have and how much time will it take (for basic obedience) and gaurenteed results. My goal is to have a dog that pays attention to me regardless of distrations.

DISCLAIMER: I am not posting this to say that this is the only method of training in the world. Please dont post things like "the koehler method is inhumane" and "its cruel" and etc etc. Unless you have read the entire book. Koehler justifies his harsh methods and his harshest methods are meant for the most problematic dog that will be put to sleep unless he conforms with society. Thus calling for drastic measures. What catches my attention is the gaurenteed results and the extent of the results. The dog learns to watch you and follow your lead regardless of any distrations. And i mean ANY DISTRACTIONS (ie cat, squirel, person riding a bike, etc).

In terms of facts: The Koehler Method is still being used today. Just checkout this link. From what I read, Koehler had been trained over 12,000 dogs via this method at the time the book was written.

Whats other people opinion and can you refer me to other methods? This is my first dog and I certainly do not want to commit any injustice to him. He will be loved, taken care of, and of course trained :-).
post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-06-2007, 11:09 AM
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I haven't personally used any of the following methods - still working on getting a puppy. But I've been exposed to several. My favorite book so far is Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot The Dog". It's based on positive reinforcement - i.e. rewarding for correct behavior. However, my parents have raised 6 dogs using remote electronic collar training. I also hosted a seminar on remote collar training for my school, from Sit Means Sit, by Fred Hassen. I'll probably use a combination of positive reinforcement, as well as corrections for incorrect behaviors. But as far as 'getting inside the dog's head', I really have enjoyed Karen Pryor's book. It's good insight (IMO) into the dog psyche.


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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-06-2007, 11:46 AM
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I'm not familiar with the Koehler Method other than what I read in the link you provided. To me, it sounds like "common sense" training. First train with positive reinforcement so the dog understands what you are asking of it, then use corrections when the dog *chooses* to disobey a command that it definitely knows and understands.

As with everything in life, not just dog training, it's important to strike a balance and there is no substitute for hard work. I question anyone who espouses either extreme of 100% positive reinforcement or 100% compulsion training. If you do common sense obedience work with your dog everyday for 13 weeks, including structured 45-60 minute walks each day to build your relationship and cement your position as pack leader, I have no doubt in my mind that your dog will be able to perform the tasks you mentioned off-lead.

I know this doesn't answer your "which book" question, but I never found a single book to be Gospel for me. I think Cesar Millan and Patricia McConnell are a good places to start for dog psychology. Carol Lea Benjamin is another trainer/behaviorist who really resonated with with me when I applied her teaching to what I was seeing with Harley. This said, I've also done formal dog obedience classes, one 8-week session and one 6-week session, but the classes were really re-inforcement. The real work was done in between classes, and even in the classes, you could really tell who put in the time and who didn't. I also liked the Leerburg Dog Training DVDs.

I don't want to sound cliche by saying "no two dogs are alike" but as you go through the practice of training your dog, you'll see what works and what doesn't. There's no sense forcing a square peg through a round hole because "that's the Koehler Method" or "the Leerburg DVD said such-and-such."

Training is a journey. You can map it out all you want, but there will be unexpected detours and roadmaps. I truly think how *you* adapt with determine your dog's success.

Good luck!
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-06-2007, 12:57 PM
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I have some experience with the Koehler method. There are aspects of this method that are both positive and negative. The basic principal is that the dog self-corrects. Many trainers use some form or another of this method and aren't even aware of it, lol.

Bottom line is, train your dog with the methods you feel comfortable with. There are no hard and fast rules as to what the best training books or methods are. As the owner, it's up to you. A dog being distraction proof is nothing more than the consistency of the training he is exposed to. You can have that with any/all methods. Again, that's up to you. Once the dog understands the commands, reliability is a matter of reinforcing his training in any/all circumstances.


You should definitely read up on canine ethology and learning theory. That's where you'll find the best answers to your questions.


As far as the dog whisperer Cesar Millan goes....


You can form your own opinion on that one.

Hope this helps.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-07-2007, 01:35 PM
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I've read one of his books and think some of his methods could actually injure a dog. His choke chain method could injure a neck and the throw chain could hit an eye. I'd far rather use the e-collar for proofing than be tossing some chain at my dog. I'd either miss or hit an eye. Stupid in my opinion.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-07-2007, 01:42 PM
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I like the Koehler method, but I agree with eph94; 100% compulsion is as bad as 100% positive reinforcement. You'll find that a blend produces the best results. Some of Koehler's books are worth reading and his approach has proven successful. He wasn't stupid.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-08-2007, 11:56 AM
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I began using the Koehler method of dog training in 1982 when I got my first Dobermann. It is a very compulsion based method of training. Written in the early 1960's, for its time it was very good and for sure one of the best available training methods available in print . While there are aspects of it that are still useful, for the most part I would now say it is quite obsolete when you look at modern training methods. In the book, even teaching the dog the exercise at the very beginning is pretty much compulsion based.
While teaching(showing) the exercize, positive re-enforcment/Motivation training produces a dog that will be happier and have a better expression while working. Later once the dog knows the exercise then corrections would be introduced.
Here is a brief article by Lance Collins which provides an overview of the 3 phases of training:

“To achieve this confidence, having to resolve problems by itself should be a normal training situation for the dog. The dog must be taught that there is always a solution to the difficulty and no stress will come if it remains committed to solving the problem by itself. The dog must adamantly believe in a solution!”
This article is contingent on the handler recognizing that training (and learning) is a process developed in the three major steps of Showing, Proofing and Securing and that Proofing cannot come before Showing.
Showing the dog an exercise (motivationally manipulating) utilizes the application of positive consequences exclusively and is usually taught in an environment that is distraction free.
Proofing the dog in an exercise requires the strategic introduction of distractions and the application of negative (compulsion/ stress) and positive consequences (satisfaction). Proofing is dependant on the dog having a demonstrable understanding of the exercise in a motivational, distraction free environment. A dog that is made to be clearly aware of the consequences of wrong decisions and the benefits of correct decisions will be dependable and precise in the work.
In normal training situations, corrections should come only when the dog has “commenced to act in an incorrect manner” on a handler’s command.
In the early stages of performing under distractions, corrections should not be administered for the dog making errors or having difficulty in complying exactly with directions from the handler. That is to say the dog’s intent or commitment is initially more important than exactness. Rewarding the commitment is a small, but crucial, confidence builder for the dog, which provides the handler with a foundation on which to build precision.
Excellence is a product of the confidence that is generated when the dog successfully executes the handler’s commands. This is achievable only when the consequences are clearly and consistently applied.
Successful repetition is the key to the dog being secure in its ability to control the level of stress while working. With the repeated and consistent experience of pleasant rewards for correct decisions and unpleasantness for incorrect decisions the dog is able to make choices that control stress. Having the control of stress levels by making choices gives the dog the feeling of comfort.
To be effective, a correction should not be given in such a manner that the force or method of correction solves the problem for the dog.
For example;
While tracking, a dog searches an area next to the track and has decided to continue to search further away from the track.
The correction for the incorrect decision to search farther in a direction where there is no track should not move the dog back to the track. In order for the dog to clearly understand (and learn), it must experience the incorrect decision and the consequences of that decision. The correction should only block the dog’s willingness to continue to pursue the incorrect decision. After the correction, the difficulty for the handler is in keeping the dog working by itself until the dog resolves the problem.
The objective is to have the dog learn to get back to the track on its own and it must be convinced that to go where there is no track is uncomfortable.
When the dog receives stress for the decisions to respond incorrectly to a command, the stress should be significant enough to make the dog unwilling to continue with the undesired response.
Having the freedom to work out problems is essential for the confidence and well being of the dog. It is the single most important concept for consistent and reliable competition results and it is the single most important factor in the relationship between the dog and handler. It builds trust.
Irreversible tentativeness will be created if the dog is stressed (with compulsion) for having difficulty while solving problems. Artificial time limits (enforced by handler corrections) to find the solution will result in stresses that prevent the dog from enthusiastically working through a difficulty. Should a dog learn that after a period of time the stress will come regardless of the effort, the dog will become more concerned about the looming stress than solving the problem.
A dog that consciously makes decisions which avoid stress and generate rewards is comfortable in the working environment. Comfort results in confidence.
The handler’s ability to balance the dog’s motivation for correct work and stress for contrary decisions will dictate the picture of the finished work.

-This article was written several years ago by Collins. In recent seminars that I have attended he makes a clearer distinction between compulsion and corrections. At the time of the article he still used the words compulsion, stress and correction together to mean the same thing but clarified that the correction should not place the dog in the correct position. He now more clearly separates the words and reserves the word compulsion for clearly "correcting" the dog into the right position. He now uses the word correction for applying stress to the dog when it is not correct until the dog begins working to get back into the correct position.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-08-2007, 12:47 PM
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IMO Cesar Milan is NOT a dog trainer.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-10-2007, 10:32 PM
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I have used several different methods over the years, Koehler being the base of my training. One thing to always pay attention to is HOW your dog learns, you need to see how your dog reacts best to what training method, that will make a huge difference in the learning curve. I have three personal dogs that all learned slightly differently. My doberman was a huge challenge and I did have to be a little 'harder' on her. I don't use choke chains but I do use martingales, I am not a huge fan of e-collars unless it's for a last resort type situation, or a long distance situation aka hunt training. It's up to the individual what you want to do but again please pay attention to how your dog reacts and what makes them WANT to work for you, as that will help in ensuring your success.

The joy of having so many training methods available is we can customize what will work for the dog, I say there is not ONE method that will work for every dog out there as they are just as different as we humans are. I always tell people if a trainer says only their method works to run as fast as they can.....

Last edited by MIA; 10-10-2007 at 10:34 PM.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-11-2007, 10:13 AM
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I bought the Koehler Open and Utility training books (found them on eBay) but have yet found the time to read them! Opinions vary and every dog IS different....what works for one may not work for another. I believe when you're training, you have to look at everything you see, hear and read and pick out what's best for the dog you're working with.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-11-2007, 11:52 AM
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Dont get me wrong..........Reading is wonderful. (In fact the Schutzhund Club I used to belong to always made fun of me for reading TONS of a articles on the internet) but......... I dont think anything can replace meeting with a trainer. There is so much that you can learn from "seeing it" first hand.

I would go to a training class, or private lessons, and read secondary to that.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-11-2007, 01:28 PM
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I would also say that a good trainer will recognize that different dogs need different types of training. For example, the 1 1/2 yrs old lab mix from the humane society that is practically ripping it's new owner's arm out the socket is going to need a firmer training method than a papillon puppy that is cowering in the corner. You might need to speak louder/firmer with that lab x just to get its attention for a millisecond, versus if you spoke that way to the papillon it would probably pee itself

Last edited by reddobes; 10-11-2007 at 01:42 PM. Reason: typo
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-11-2007, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by MIA View Post
I don't use choke chains but I do use martingales, I am not a huge fan of e-collars unless it's for a last resort type situation, or a long distance situation aka hunt training.
Can a choke chain injure a dog? How sensitive are dogs necks?

After reading what everyone has posted I firmly believe that a combination of different training techniques along with the dogs learning patterns are the keys to success. I really appreciate all the posts from everyone. I have learned a lot from this forum. Thank you.
post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by BackInBlack View Post
Dont get me wrong..........Reading is wonderful. (In fact the Schutzhund Club I used to belong to always made fun of me for reading TONS of a articles on the internet) but......... I dont think anything can replace meeting with a trainer. There is so much that you can learn from "seeing it" first hand.

I would go to a training class, or private lessons, and read secondary to that.
I agree. I am fortunate to belong to an obedience club that offers competition classes free to members, and I also sometimes train with another trainer. Reading is a great backup to that hands-on experience. I have brought methods/theories that I've read about to classes/training sessions, and it's always resulted in a positive exchange of ideas.
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