Tag Archives: Koehler Method

The Koehler Method: Should I use it on my Puppy?

The Koehler method of dog training has been used for many, many years to train a great number of dogs. It has fallen out of favor in recent years because of its dependence on corrections and complete avoidance of food and toys in training. While effective, this method is largely thought of as cruel and inhumane by today’s standards.

In this post, I will discuss what motivates the dog with this method, whether correction-based training is effective or not, and my personal tips for someone who wants to use the Koehler Method. I will not be using this method on my new pup Maple. While I will use corrections when necessary, I like using food and toys in training, and I think dogs enjoy their training more this way as well.

What is the Dog Working For?

Many, many people who support correction-based training do so under the premise that the dog should work for the relationship and love for his master, not for food or toys. Let me make this clear… when using this method, the dog is obeying to avoid the correction, not purely because he loves his person so much. Sure, he might like getting petted for a job well done, but if that were enough the choke chain and leash wouldn’t be needed. When dogs are trained with food or toys, they are also working for that reward, not purely because they love their handler. From my own experience, with time some dogs do work for the owner purely for the joy of working with their person after being trained on food and toys, but most will still want the occasional treat or game for motivation.

Does the Koehler Method Work Better for Some Dogs than Others?

I think correction-based methods work better on some breeds than others. This type of training will probably completely destroy certain dog’s self-esteem. Personally, I theorize that many more dogs probably would do poorly with this form of training in today’s world than the dogs of fifty years ago, simply because dogs are probably being bred who respond well to positive reinforcement as opposed to corrections-based methods. A Belgium Shepherd that comes from a long line of dogs bred, raised, and trained for personal protection – where dogs are often trained with corrections – is a very different animal from a Cocker Spaniel that comes from a long line of house pets. But, this is just my theory.

Also, puppies tend to respond better to positive motivation, and because they are so young and immature, it is important not to expect too much from them.

Is the Correction-based Training more Effective than Positive Reinforcement?

This is purely my opinion, but I would say in some cases, yes. With the Koehler Method, the dog will be trained within 13 weeks to the point of off-leash obedience (at least, this is the claim). Typically what I have noticed is that trainers who set hard and fast timelines of when a dog will reach a certain point use tons of force and corrections in their training to reach these results, whether they are using the Koehler Method or electric collars. Koehler’s method does not take into account different breeds in the claim of off-leash obedience in a relatively short period of time. Most positive trainers recognize that some breeds are harder if not impossible to train to be reliable off-leash with positive methods. These breeds include sighthounds, scent hounds, and huskies. Amusingly enough, these same people say that positive methods are just as effective if not more effective than correction-based training such as Koehler’s method.

Does this make it better? I would say it depends upon what you want and how the dog handles the training. I used an electric collar (but not the Koehler Method) to train my dog, Lady, to be reliable off-leash. She was stubborn, confident, and took corrections pretty well. Training her not to run off was imperative, as she was an escape artist when we first brought her home, and she would bolt through doors and try to get out of her collar. After training with the e-collar, she was able to enjoy being off lead in the yard and when I took her to woods near our home without leash restrictions, and we were able to enjoy the peace of her not taking off every chance she got. Lady additionally was not food or toy motivated, so training was always a challenge.

With Raina, I didn’t feel comfortable with the amount of force that would probably have been required to get her trained to an off-leash recall, because her prey drive is even stronger than Lady’s, and she is scared of loud noises. To get her to a point where she would listen in the occurrence of a scary sound was something that would probably require a huge amount of force, and I feel would have damaged my relationship with her, as she took corrections more to heart than Lady ever did. Also, Raina does not actively try to back out of her collar or bolt through doors. So, for me I am ok with her only being off-leash in fenced in areas. Also, Raina doesn’t have the same desire to be off leash in an un-fenced area the same way Lady did, so the trade off isn’t worth it to either of us.

Take into consideration how you think your dog would respond to heavy handed training, and if you are comfortable with using such force, possibly at the cost of your relationship with the dog. Also keep in mind the dog’s safety. If a dog is at risk of being hurt or killed because of their behavior, more corrections and force may be warranted. Generally, when raising a puppy, positive training can be used since you can avoid severe problem behaviors that often necessitate lots of corrections, but every dog is different.

You Think you need to use the Koehler Method?

If you want to use the Koehler Method, I would at least have these suggestions.

  • Make sure the dog preforms the behavior without a correction before adding corrections. It simply isn’t fair to the dog to be corrected for not doing something when they don’t understand what is being asked of them.
  • If you have to use the choke chain extensively (ie. If the corrections are not having much of an impact), please try a prong collar. Prong collars do less damage to the dog’s neck muscles than a choke chain, and I have heard some state that they do less damage than even a regular flat collar, due to the way pressure is evenly distributed across the dog’s neck. But remember, the correction needed on a prong is much, much less than what is required with a choke chain, so start with extremely light pressure on the leash when using a prong until you discover what the minimum correction is to get your dog’s attention.
  • Don’t use the method expecting a quick fix. This method, like any training method, requires one to spend considerable time working with the dog. On koehlerdogtraining.com, the author notes that the owner must be prepared to spend 45 to 75 minutes per day on training. The site states that it will take 10 to 13 weeks of consistent training to get the desired results. No matter what training method you use, you are going to have to put the time into your dog if you want results.
  • If you just got the dog, take some time to bond with him/her first. I can’t help but feel that one shouldn’t start off the relationship with their dog by correcting them constantly. It just doesn’t seem like a good way to build a bond. I would recommend taking 2 weeks or so getting to know the dog first before starting this type of training. Obviously don’t let the dog be a brat for 2 weeks, but don’t start obedience training with this method right away before the relationship has had time to be established.
  • Wait until the dog is 6 months old. This is Koehler’s recommendation as well. Don’t use this method on young pups! While some dogs may be mature enough at a younger age, err on the side of caution here. Also, beyond the mental maturity of the dog, a young pup’s neck is more likely to be hurt when he is younger than 6 months.
  • If you want to do competitive obedience, this probably isn’t the best method for you and your dog. Today, obedience competitions seek for dogs to be intently staring at their owners during many of the exercises such as the heel. In my personal experience, this level of focus does not happen in dogs trained purely with corrections.
  • If you have a tiny breed, I would recommend against this method. Most tiny breeds have delicate necks, choke chains and possibly prongs are not likely to be safe. When in doubt, ask your vet.
  • DO NOT use Koehler’s recommendations to fix different behavioral problems. Koehler recommended very cruel methods of ending behavioral problems such as digging and barking. Do not use these methods, there is no reason to use them, and these will most certainly destroy or severely hurt your relationship with your dog and would be absolutely abusive to any dog or puppy.

For more information on the Koehler Method, check out my post here, where I discuss some of the controversial aspects of this method.

Thanks for reading!

Always take into consideration your dog’s individual personality. Different methods work for different dogs and different situations.

Are Euthanized Pets Really in Commercial Dog Food?

Are Euthanized Pets Really in Commercial Dog Food?

A big question among many dog owners when they begin to research dog food ingredients is whether or not euthanized dogs and cats end up in pet food. The thought is disgusting to most people, as loving pet owners want to make sure they are only feeding their pets good quality foods; this does not include euthanized pets. While some sources are adamant that deceased pets are not in dog and cat food, others are just as passionate in their belief that some pet foods do contain such unsavory ingredients.

In this article, we will look at why some people believe that unspecific terms, such as meat meal, lead owners to believe that dogs and cats may be present in a pet food. We will also look at pentobarbital and why it is concerning if present in pet food.


If you want to give your dog the best commercial food possible, be sure to read the ingredient label, as many foods can have ambiguous meanings.

Who Determines what Ingredients on the Pet Food Label Mean?

First off, it is important to know who is responsible for setting standards for pet foods. Several different organizations have a hand in the world of pet food.

  • Definitions:
    • The job of defining pet food ingredients primarily rests in the hands of the AAFCO (Associations of American Feed Control Officials). On their website, the AAFCO states that the “AAFCO is a private non-profit corporation featuring a process for defining ingredients used in animal feed and pet food…”(https://www.aafco.org/Portals/0/SiteContent/Announcements/2019_AAFCO_The_People_behind_Animal_Feed_and_Pet_Food_082919.pdf?v20190926) While the AAFCO performs this task, it does not regulate pet food. Pet food manufacturers either choose to follow AAFCO guidelines or they choose not to (I have never come across a pet food that didn’t choose to follow their guidelines).
  • Regulations:
    • The agencies responsible for the regulation of pet foods are the FDA and local and state agencies. With this being said, the FDA’s website acknowledges that the “FDA and local and state agencies all play a role in regulating pet food and participate in the AAFCO”( https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/fdas-regulation-pet-food). Both organizations have separate rolls, but both work together to help determine the safety of pet foods for pets and the owners handling the pet food.
  • The speaker for the companies:
    • Another player to be aware of in the world of pet foods is The Pet Food Institute (PFI). On the about section of their website, the PFI states that they are the voice of pet food makers, as has been the case for about 60 years.

So, the AAFCO defines pet food ingredients, the FDA regulates pet foods, and the PFI is the voice of pet food manufacturers.

What Ingredients are in Question?

Obviously, no pet food on the market lists dog and cat on its ingredient panel. Pet food manufacturers want owners to believe that they make their foods with only the best ingredients (and many manufacturers really do use quality ingredients). Yet, there are many ingredients present in pet foods that are extremely vague in there meaning. Terms such as meat and bone meal, animal by-product meal, meat meal, and meat by-products are all items that appear on many pet food labels, and are all items that can mean a range of things. Directly from the AAFCO’s website (https://www.aafco.org/Consumers/What-is-in-Pet-Food), hear is the definition of the above mentioned ingredients:

  • Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that part which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
  • Meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
  • Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. …. {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}….. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”
  • Animal By-Product Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissues that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section. This ingredient is not intended to be used to label a mixture of animal tissue products.”
  • Meat and Bone Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. …. {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}….. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

Some have made the argument that terms such as meat meal, animal by-product meal, and meat and bone meal do not specify what type of animals are part of the rendering process (if confused on what rendering means, don’t worry, we talk about that below). The terms meat and meat by-products specify that the animals used are slaughtered mammals, which would rule out euthanized pets, but meat meal, animal by-product meal, and meat and bone meal do not specify that the animals used were slaughtered, leaving the possibility open that some animals that died by other means are part of the finished rendered product. The argument is that since the ingredient definitions are not specific enough, they could include dead dogs and cats in some cases.

As an interesting aside, the PFI talks about the definitions of pet foods on their website. When talking about AAFCO ingredient definitions, the PFI states “The AAFCO approves strict ingredient definitions, which are then published in the AAFCO Official Publication (OP). These definitions can be highly specific!” (https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/the-whole-bowl/a-to-z-of-pet-food-ingredients/) I think it is interesting that they specify and emphasize how specific definitions for pet food ingredients can be, but they don’t put the same emphasis on how completely vague others are.

What is Rendering and What do Rendering Plants have to do with Pet Food?

If you are unfamiliar with the term rendering, here is a definition from North Dakota State University’s website: “Rendering is the process of converting animal carcasses to pathogen-free, useful byproducts such a feed protein. In the process of rendering, the carcasses are exposed to high temperatures (about 130 C or 265 F) using pressurized steam to ensure destruction of most pathogens.”

Anytime an “meal” is listed on an ingredient panel, it means that the said ingredient was the product of rendering. This isn’t necessarily bad, as long as the meal is specified, such as chicken or beef meal. It is concerning when the rendered products are not specific.

While rendering is a way to create a concentrated protein source, the rendering process is also used to get rid of slaughterhouse waste products, animals unfit for human consumptions, and dogs and cats euthanized by animal shelters. In her book Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food, Ann Martin talks in depth about the whole process. In her investigation of what goes into pet food, she found that the possibility exists that euthanized dogs and cats may end up in pet food. All the details contained in her book are beyond the scope of this post, but I would recommend the book for those interested in what really goes into pet food (just don’t follow the recipes at the end of the book, they will NOT provide balanced nutrition for your dog).

Pentobarbital: Does it Suggest that Euthanized Dogs and Cats are in Pet Food?

As many pet parents know, pet foods are often recalled for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons pet foods are sometimes recalled is because of pentobarbital being present in products (Example: In 2018 the FDA recalled pet foods produced by the J.M. Smucker Company. Smucker produces several pet food products, including Gravy Train and Skippy. (https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-alerts-pet-owners-about-potential-pentobarbital-contamination-canned-dog-food-manufactured-jm).) Pentobarbital is a drug used to euthanize animals. While horses and cattle are sometimes euthanized with this drug, many take the high levels that are sometimes found in pet foods as evidence that dogs and cats, which are very often euthanized with pentobarbital, are ending up in pet food.

It must be stated that anytime pentobarbital is detected in pet food, the FDA pulls the affected product from the market. The drug is not affected by rendering or other production steps in the making of pet food (https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/questions-answers-contaminants-pet-food), and being that the drug is used to euthanize animals, you can imagine that it is not an inert substance. Even though the FDA recognizes that food containing pentobarbital must be pulled from the market, it is concerning that the drug ends up in pet food in the first place, and that there may be instances when the FDA doesn’t catch contaminated batches.

Has the FDA Investigated the Possibility of Dead Pets being in Pet Food?

In 2002, the FDA released a report on research that the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) conducted to look into pentobarbital being present in dog food. The researches also investigated whether or not the amount of pentobarbital present in the food could be dangerous to dogs that consume the food. When checked for traces of pentobarbital, the researches did find that the some of the foods did have the drug, yet the CVM also determined that adverse effects of the low doses shouldn’t pose a problem.

Tests were also done that supposedly could detect dog and cat DNA in the foods as well: these tests showed no dog or cat DNA present. Interestingly, I have read some question how DNA of dogs or cats would be detectable after the extreme heat and processing that pet food goes through.

Referenced study: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/cvm-foia-electronic-reading-room/food-and-drug-administrationcenter-veterinary-medicine-report-risk-pentobarbital-dog-food

Final Thoughts:

Personally, I am not completely sure whether I believe that dog foods contain the contents of deceased pets. Still, I only feed foods that use specifically listed ingredients, such as chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Also, I buy from companies that I trust and avoid companies that have bad track records (i.e. Evangers, any cheap, low quality products such as Pedigree, Ol’Roy, etc.). While the FDA found the levels of pentobarbital that can be present in pet food to be unlikely to cause adverse effects, I would rather my dog not eat any of the stuff. Thus, it is important to keep up to date on recalls so pet owners are aware of reported contamination, and it is equally important to feed reputable brands that choose quality ingredients for their foods.







Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food by Ann N. Martin



The Koehler Method: Dog Training or Dog Abuse?

Who was William Koehler?

William Koehler was a dog trainer for over 50 years. During his career, Koehler trained dogs for the army, Walt Disney Studios, and wrote 6 books on the subject of dog training. While he passed away in 1993, his training methods are still used by many today. Koehler’s techniques are effective, or else he would have not been so successful in his career. Although Koehler’s method works, it is criticized by many for its excessive use of force and harsh corrections.

The Koehler Method:

The Koehler method of dog training relies heavily on the use of the leash and choke chain. I have not read all of Koehler’s books, but I have read The Koehler Method of Dog Training. In the introduction, this trainer makes it very clear that he is not a fan of using treats in training, which he refers to as the “tid-bit training technique.” He does encourage the owner to profusely praise the dog when the dog obeys so the dog knows he has done well.

Koehler emphasizes early on in his book that most dogs do not want to do as they are told just to please their masters; rather, they need to be taught the consequences of not obeying. It is true that most dogs don’t want to do as they are told simply to please their masters, but there are ways of teaching behaviors that use motivations that are meaningful to dogs.

One issue for people with puppies who wish to use this method is that Koehler recommends beginning training once the pup is at least 6 months of age. Since most people get new puppies when they are around 8 to 10 weeks of age, waiting this long wastes a whole lot of valuable time that could be used to introduce the puppy to training.

This method of dog training begins with teaching the dog to be attentive to the owner on a long line. Basically, you have the dog on a long line, and you move about. If the dog is not paying attention, they end up getting checked by the long line. This attentiveness training sets the foundation for the basic obedience commands.

The basic obedience commands are taught through use of the leash and by manipulating the dog into position. As stated above, no food rewards are used, even when teaching new behaviors. Excessive force is recommended when ‘necessary.’ For instance, if a dog is reluctant to sit, Koehler advises training with the dog next to a fence to avoid the dog’s ability to struggle. Then, he recommends that the owner “put a lot of downward pressure on the rear and sufficient upward pressure on the leash to make his breathing quite a chore. Don’t ease up until he weakens and sits.” (The Koehler Method of Dog Training). Needless to say, it is much kinder and just as effective to teach a reluctant dog the sit command with a food lure or through clicker training.

When teaching the down command, Koehler once again uses lots of force and corrections. For dogs that don’t want to lay down on command, he recommends being in front of the dog, so if the dog doesn’t obey a correction can be given. If the command is given and the dog doesn’t listen, but moves to the down when the owner gets into the position to issue a leash correction, he states that this should be corrected as well, as the dog obviously is trying to avoid the correction without obeying as soon as the command is given. Sadly, he fails to consider the real possibility that the poor dog simply hasn’t learned the word ‘down’ yet but recognizes when he gets a harsh correction and is trying to avoid the pain. This theme of harshly correcting the dog before the owner is certain that the dog knows what commands mean is seen throughout the book and is unfair to the dog. Why should a dog be corrected for not obeying a command when the dog didn’t know what the command meant in the first place?

Controversial Aspects of the Koehler Method:

Koehler’s training requires the use of either a choke chain or a prong collar (he seems to prefer choke chains). Both collars are considered inhumane by many. Choke chains in particular can damage a dog’s windpipe, but people who quickly snap the leash and release the pressure, which is recommended by most trainers who use a choke chain, may limit damage to the windpipe. I had also previously read that lifelong use of a choke chain can damage the muscle on a dog’s neck, and I believe this was when the collar was correctly used. So while damage to the windpipe may be avoided by correctly using the collar, muscle damage can still result. Prong collars and choke chains both provide uncomfortable (possibly painful) stimulus to train the dog, and some people are against the use of any such tactics when handling dogs. Personally, I think that prong collars and choke chains can be very useful, particularly the prong collar, but I don’t like the way Koehler uses them.

The use of the choke chain is not the most controversial aspect of Koehler’s method. When training the recall, Koehler recommends a throw chain, which is flung at the dog when he does not come on command. But this is not the only time this trainer suggests physically punishing a dog into behaving. For dogs that bark when left alone, Koehler recommends beating the dog with a leather belt. If a dog is difficult to housebreak he advises taking the dog to the place where the accident happened and smacking the dog while holding his face at the mess.

One of the most disturbing recommendations of Koehler is when he advises owners to dunk their dog’s head in water to break him of digging holes. Koehler states that if a dog digs a hole, that the owner should fill the hole with water, take the dog over to the hole, and dunk his head in the water and hold him there until the dog really feels that he is about to drown. Needless to say, I don’t know many people who would feel comfortable doing this to any living creature, let alone a beloved dog.

When justifying his methods of correcting bad behaviors, Koehler mentions that often times if the dog does not learn to stop doing the said behavior, euthanasia is the only option left. While behavior problems can result in a dog being given up to a shelter or put to sleep, there are many gentler methods that won’t damage the relationship between dog and owner that are very effective. Koehler ignores this, and offers his harsh punishments as the only alternative.

Overall Thoughts on the Koehler Method:

Corrections can be very useful when training a dog. I have used electric collars, prong collars, and other forms of correction when training my dogs. The trouble with Koehler’s method of training is its over reliance of corrections and the use of abusive measures for many problem behaviors. All the training techniques revolve around some sort of physical punishment, whether that be the use of a throw chain, choke chain, or a leather belt. While such forceful methods can be VERY effective, they can also be very damaging to the dog, and can create problem behaviors in the dog, such as fear and aggression. For dogs with behavioral issues, Koehler’s solutions are nothing more than animal abuse. Many effective, humane techniques of dog training exist, but they are not to be found in the Koehler method.

With this said, I do want to mention that I think Koehler was doing what he thought best. Several of the recommendations in his book for dogs with severe behavioral issues are abusive, but I believe he thought his solutions were the best way to prevent dogs form being killed over training issues. So while I do whole-heartedly disagree with many of the methods, I think he did his best to save dogs from being abandoned or killed for behavioral problems. Today, we have better ways and more options in training, so no one should have to resort to such harsh tactics.

There are many ways to train a dog. The Koehler Method may be effective, but it can also damage the bond with one’s beloved pet.

Koehler’s book is an interesting read for anyone who wishes to see just how far dog training has come, but not the book I would recommend as a “how-to” manual to produce a well adjusted, happy dog.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out: The Koehler Method: Should I use it on my Puppy?, where we further delve into the Koehler Method. 


The Koehler Method of Dog Training