Build a relationship with your dog

OSGOOD – When teaching an animal how to behave, “I don’t care too much about the breed of a dog. A dog’s a dog.”

Canine behaviorist and educator John Rohrig answered area residents’ questions about their pooches and used shelter dogs during demonstrations Aug. 7 at the Ripley County Humane Society Animal Shelter.

“Dog training is really fixing your habits,” not the dog’s.

The 2009 Oldenburg Academy graduate gained his wisdom from experts. After attending a training course with Cesar Millan, known for his “Dog Whisperer” TV show, he also has picked up techniques from several other prominent trainers, including Marc Goldberg and Dr. Ian Dunbar.

One of the best ways to show your love for a pet is “to walk. Get them the exercise they need … get that energy out.”

“Tap tap,” Rohrig kept saying as he strolled with shelter dogs. Every time he said tap, he tightened the leash around the neck. “That’s a form of communication. This is not hurting the dog,” but getting it to move steadily and not bolt or dart.

When exercising an animal, “you don’t have to be looking at your dog to get it to follow.” A handler should relax the arms and remain “nice and calm. Stand up straight.”

“If you’re a leader, they know how to act. Don’t be a tyrant or a pushover.”

What about unexpected encounters? “You don’t ever want dogs to meet face to face, especially when they’re super excited.” Gradually introduce them to each other.

“Two females together are actually worse than two males.” When he is walking two dogs, “I’m in control so they don’t have to work to establish dominance.”

The former Milan resident has three siblings. “Mom taught us … to co-exist. Same thing here.”

Being a good dog owner is knowing how to strike a happy medium in coaching acceptable behavior. “You can have too much praise, just like you can overcorrect.”

He advised petting a dog on the back, but not the belly, head or butt. Even better than petting is massaging. “A massage is relaxing. If you pet, that says, ‘Good job.'”

It helps if an owner can understand body language. Do you see the whites of the eyes? That means the canine is afraid. When dogs perk their ears up, they are thinking about reacting to something.

Shelter workers asked the presenter how to help a scared shelter dog become less apprehensive. “We’re going to walk with her to get her comfortable,” he decided. First Rohrig somehow threw a leash loosely around the dog’s neck like it was a lasso. “We want to help her get through this fear.”

The trainer spoke about the advantages of using aromatherapy to aid animals. “If you smell something, it can bring back powerful memories.”

He suggested trying CBD oil, which “helps to calm them down and relax them. It makes it a lot easier for them to learn.” He said the oil, which is cannabidiol extracted from hemp plants, “won’t get dogs high” and is “so much healthier and so much better” than what he called puppy Prozac.

Other essential oils can lessen the pain of arthritis and hot spots.

Don’t apply an oil to an animal’s head. Let the animal come to you and sniff, Rohrig advised. Then put a few drops of oil in your hand and pet the dog’s back. The oil takes effect in 15 to 30 minutes.

He observed, “You’ve got to make sure it’s the right oil.” Brands that people enjoy are not manufactured for pets. He recommended Young Living Animal Scents, which Rohrig distributes.

To calm more than one dog down (such as a room containing a dozen or so dogs at a shelter or boarding kennel), he suggested using a diffuser to spread Stress Away or lavender oil throughout the facility.

The speaker concluded, “Dogs don’t want to be crazy. They don’t like it. They need help to get out of that state of mind.”

His business, Bark for Help, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, “provides next level, relationship-enhancing training for you and your dog. We teach respect on both ends. Respect your dog and your dog will respect you by you proving to be the great leader they want and need,” according to Facebook. “We do private lessons, board and trains, seminars and retreats.”

More information is available at Bark for Help Inc. on Facebook or by contacting Rohrig at 812-621-0428 or

Debbie Blank can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.


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