Wondering about the Koehler Method of dog training?
A few weeks ago, I met a friend of mine by chance in the vet office.
She was worried because her dog Lucy wasn’t following commands.
My friend had a hard time taking Lucy for walks because the dog pulled and dragged her around like a sack of potato.
I immediately recommended obedience classes for her and the pooch.
A couple of days later, my friend called again and asked me what I think about the Koehler method of dog training.
She has read about it online, and she was wondering if it’s as efficient as it claims to be.
I imagine that many of you who have heard about this method are mulling over the same question.
So, since obedience training is an integral part of your relationship with your dog, today we are going to talk about what the Koehler method of dog training is.
Who is Koehler?
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The Koehler method is one of the oldest ones in the book. It goes back to the WWII when William Koehler worked for the War Dog Training Center and trained dogs for the army.
After the war, Koehler was the Chief Trainer of one of the largest dog club in the USA – Orange Empire Dog Club.
He was so good that he trained Walt Disney’s dogs for more than 20 years (“Shaggy dog,” “The Incredible Journey,” “Big Red”).
In 1962, he published the first of six books – The Koehler Method of Dog Training, which remains one of the bestselling books on dog training. His teaching was innovative because he developed a new philosophy of dog training and looked at the problem from the perspective of the dog.
During his life, William Koehler trained thousands of dogs successfully and managed to rehabilitate dogs which would have been killed otherwise.
While people heavily criticize certain aspects of his teaching, some of his methods are relevant today.
What’s the Koehler method of dog training?
*Disclaimer: Please note that we are not endorsing or condoning the Koehler method, we are simply informing you about it so you can make your own informed choice.
Some might call the Koehler method “yank and crank” because it uses a choke collar and a long leash (line) to control the behavior of the dog.
At its core, Koehler aims to teach the dog to make the right choice by punishing him when he makes a mistake.
Koehler states that you have to think of your pet as a living, breathing creature who has the right of choice. He develops the theory that dogs can make decisions and could be held responsible for their “bad” behavior.
The training’s goal is to teach the dog that his comfort/discomfort is the direct result of his choices and actions. Once your dog learns the importance of choices, you can teach him to make decisions by anticipating rewards when he makes the right choice and punishments when he doesn’t.
For example, we have Lucy wearing a collar and a very long leash.
- You start walking in one direction.
- The dog has to follow.
- When Lucy fails to do so or get distracted, you move in the opposite direction.
- Of course, the chain gets taunt after a while and your dog – uncomfortable.
- To relieve the discomfort, Lucy decides to move towards you and executes her right of choice.
By repeating this exercise, Lucy learns that staying close to you results in comfort and moving away in discomfort. As you can see, the method doesn’t rely on treats to encourage your dog to obey, but rather on correction.
We can call this the foundation of the Koehler method.
Other techniques used by Koehler are throw chain, electric shocks, slingshots, suspending the dog off the ground, and more. Koehler didn’t believe in gentle corrections, saying that they are “cruel” and disturb the dog emotionally.
Is the Koehler method suitable for my dog?
For most of you, the Koehler method seems like animal abuse.
Its proponents point out that Koehler techniques get the most accurate results from dogs and make them ready to excel in the obedience rings in 13 weeks.
However, many criticize the method today for being harsh and cruel.
Some experts also point out that it could lead to future behavior problems. A dog that anticipates punishment for his actions might get anxious and confuse how to act.
Moreover, the pet might get scared of the person holding the leash – you!
If I have to compare the Koehler method to something I would say that it’s similar to the old teaching methods when teachers severely punished students for the smallest transgression.
While these methods were effective, we don’t use them anymore. We know that even if something is efficient, it’s not always the best option. The same applies to dogs.
I wouldn’t recommend the Koehler method for a soft-tempered dog because it will probably do more bad than good and might leave your pet traumatized.
On the other hand, dogs with aggressive behavior could react better to strict obedience lessons than positive reinforcement or other training methods.
If you choose the Koehler method, don’t attempt it by yourself.
Get professional help because many things can go wrong in the hands of an inexperienced person.
Moreover, you’ll probably find it hard to comply with some of the lessons described by Koehler.
What do you think about the Koehler method of dog training? Have you ever used it? Would you? Share in the comments.