'Russian Dog Wizard' Trains Pooches To Paw The Line Vladae Roytapel grew up in what is now Azerbaijan, learning to train paratrooper dogs for the Red Army under the tutelage of a famous deaf-mute Russian dog teacher. Today, he uses his expertise to help Americans get their pampered pooches to behave better.

'Russian Dog Wizard' Trains Pooches To Paw The Line

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Southern California is not only a land of celebrities, it's a land of celebrity dog trainers. And now, a new trainer is making his mark in that crowded field. He calls himself the Russian Dog Wizard.

And as NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, he speaks a special language that dogs seem to understand.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Meet Vladae Roytapel, trainer of dogs and their people.

Mr. VLADAE ROYTAPEL (Dog Trainer): Every leash has two ends. If you don't pick one end, somebody will pick another end. Today, it's your dog. Tomorrow, it's your husband or kid, whosoever.

BATES: Some people think of Vladae as a sort of canine Dr. Phil.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: My methods works with one stipulation, if the people works. The difficult part of my business is to put the owners on my side.

BATES: And more and more owners are on his side, pulled by the use of what Vladae calls Doglish.

(Soundbite of dog howl)

Mr. ROYTAPEL: That's how a canine mom is praising a child.

BATES: Vladae was born in Azerbaijan and grew up working with his grandfather, a biologist who specialized in animal behavior. That led to work with the Soviet government as a dog trainer. American dogs, he says, are treated vastly differently from the ones he knew in Europe.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: I do believe dogs must be treated and can be treated as the humans, but before you must treat them as the dogs. And even if you want to treat them as the humans, we humans pee and poop in one place. Why your dogs should pee and poop all over the world?

BATES: Good question. I wanted to see how this self-proclaimed Russian Dog Wizard gets a pooch to straighten up. So I followed him down to Orange County where he did a follow-up visit to Ginger and Joel Oviatt(ph) and their Brittany Spaniel Rova(ph).

Mr. ROYTAPEL: When the first time I came in this house, that dog was barking like a Russian AK-47 downtown Beirut. Now there is no barking.

(Soundbite of knocking)

Mr. ROYTAPEL: Hello.

(Soundbite of bark)

BATES: Well, maybe just a little barking. Vladae gives Ginger a refresher.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: Okay. So your dog is barking. So you need to approach the dog and snap the crate (unintelligible). Go ahead. Snap the crate.

BATES: After a little thump on Rova's crate, she gets it and settles right down. Then she's led out to greet the visitors. Ginger says she's noted a definite change in Rova since Vladae's visit.

Ms. GINGER OVIATT: The day after he left, the first lesson, it was a day-and-night difference.

BATES: No wild barking, no jumping on the sofa or on visitors: a calmer dog. Ginger says Vladae showed her how to verbally correct Rova using tone.


BATES: What was that?

Ms. OVIATT: Ah, ah, ah.

BATES: That sharp sound does bring you up short. And tone, Vladae says, is what dogs understand. It's the basis of Doglish. To illustrate, Vladae guides Ginger and her daughter Nancy in praising Rova in Doglish.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: Now say to her, good girl.

Ms. OVIATT: Good girl.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: Happy, like a doggie mama. Good girl. So you say, good girl in English, in Doglish, the dog is hearing…

(Soundbite of howl)

Mr. ROYTAPEL: That's how a canine mama's praising her child.

BATES: Maybe Vladae is the Russian Dog Wizard. It works. Rova is all ears and waggedy tail.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: When I came to your home, what did I tell you?

Ms. OVIATT: That you were going to make sure that she was changed and we were changed.

BATES: The Oviatts did their homework, and Rova is a changed canine. So Russian Dog Wizard is on to next problem dog. And on the way out, a little confession.

Mr. ROYTAPEL: In general, if you want to know Vladae's opinion, people are crazy. Dogs are okay.

BATES: Or as we'd say in Doglish…

(Soundbite of bark)

BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

SIEGEL: And you can see a video of the Russian Dog Wizard training his pups at the new npr.org.

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