Koehler method of dog training

Cesar Millan and the history of dog training

Dick Koehler and Tony Ancheta presents
a cybertech lecture on
The Koehler Method of Dog Training

“Reliability off lead should always be the most significant criterion when evaluating and comparing training methods.” (Koehler 1962)

This site, and the links accessible through it, have been prepared and approved by Dick Koehler and Tony Ancheta. Anyone interested in using The Koehler Method of Dog Training as the foundation for a companion dog, competitive dog, or a dog with other specialized training will find it useful.

Advisory note: There are those who will find this method offensive...so be it; even Jesus Christ couldn’t please everybody. But there are many more who would bet the life of their dog on it’s result...a reliable off-lead dog.


The Koehler Method of Dog Training produces a dog capable of performing the following exercises: Heel, Come, Sit, Down, Stand, and Stay, both on & off-leash in about 13 weeks; all exercises conform to American Kennel Club standards. Your dog will perform these exercises willingly, happily, and with uncompromised reliability. More importantly, the method will provide you with an understanding of canine behaviour unclouded by today’s petty insecurities. You will be able to employ this understanding to achieve other training goals. Best of all, you will be able to confidently enjoy the companionship of a well behaved dog.
This is achieved by recognizing your dog as a living, breathing, thinking animal who possesses the God given right of choice. You will learn how to “naturally” influence his behaviour by concentrating on a sequence of essentials. Your dog will learn from this experience, that his own comfort or discomfort is the consequential result of the choices he makes...naturally.

A dog can be made accountable for his own misbehavior and, at the same time, responsible for his own good behavior. Koehler was right, then and now.

The bases of the philosophy, simply stated, is that a dog acts on his God given right of choice. Mr. Koehler once explained that a dog’s learned behavior is an act of choice based on his own learning experience. And that when those choices are influenced by the expectation of reward, the behavior will most likely be repeated. And, that when those choices are influenced by the anticipation of punishment, they will most likely cease. This is Nature’s recipe for learning.

This one statement: “that when those choices are influenced by the anticipation of punishment they will most likely cease” is the genesis for most criticisms of Koehler’s methods. The critics argue that teaching a dog to anticipate punishment will produce a condition of anxiety which will permanently colour his behaviour; and that the anxious dog will become, at best ‘apprehensive’, or at worst ‘afraid, ’ of his own behaviour.

I would like to debunk this argument by analyzing a part of our own human behaviour where an action is, in fact, motivated by the anticipation of punishment ... stopping for red lights.

Everyday on every street in every city you will see pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers stopping for red lights. How did this come to be? We are not born with a gene that predisposed us to this behaviour; we were programmed by punishment, or the threat of punishment, to do so. Once we have learned that not stopping for the light produces punishment, but that stopping for it somehow prevents punishment, we simply learn to stop in the presence of the stimulus (the red light) to avoid punishment. Therefore, when we approach a red light we do not feel apprehension nor fear for the stimulus, we feel instead, only the need to stop.

Stopping for red lights is really a matter of choice. You may choose not to stop for the light, in which case you will then have to endure the anxiety which follows. Or, you may choose to stop for the red light, in which case you will feel the calmness which follows right action. Either way, it is a matter of choice.

The Foundation (chapter 3) for The Koehler Method of Dog Training is a process using the dog’s own “right of choice.” Allow me to outline the foundation work for those not familiar with it (it’s a real attention getter). As early as day number three, the dog is brought onto the training field from a place of solitary confinement where he has been for about two hours. He has not eaten in 4 hours, nor has he consumed any water for one hour. He is wearing a properly fitted choke collar and a fifteen foot longe line. You arrive at a predetermined position on the field, which you have selected as a starting point.

While at the starting point you place the thumb of your right hand into the loop of the longe line and close your fist around the handle. Place your left hand directly under your right and close a fist around the line and let the balance of the line drop to the ground. Now, silently move toward a fixed object of reference 50 feet ahead. Oh but wait, you exclaim, does this author not understand that if I drop the fifteen feet of slack to the dog he will move directly toward anything that might distract him? Yes, and so did Mr. Koehler. We fully recognize, as should you, that the dog who goes toward the distraction does so as a matter of choice.

You too are granted the right of choice, and in this case, your choice will be to turn away from the dog’s line of travel and move, with equal determination, in a direction opposite his. Before long the slack is consumed and the dog is made very uncomfortable. His good senses will tell him that the resulting discomfort was something other than what he expected when he chose to go in the direction of the distraction. His instincts will be to somehow lessen the discomfort around his neck, and when he finally moves toward you, also an act of his choosing, the line will indeed slacken and the dog will have made a more correct choice; one which results in comfort.

With only six days of longe line work, the dog has learned that moving in your direction is more comfortable than moving toward the distraction; or the dog has learned that moving toward the distraction results in discomfort. This experience will teach your dog that comfort and discomfort are the direct results of the choices he makes.

At this point Koehler will have you teach your dog how to make decisions based on exercising his new understanding of choice making. A dog making decisions? Yes, and we can prove that a dog is capable of utilizing his decision making process with as little as a single learning experience.

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