“Russian Dog Wizard” Vladae Roytapel has always had a natural affinity with animals. Growing up in the former Soviet Union, Vladae was just 6 when he began what would become a lifelong journey working with animals, eventually becoming one of the most sought-after animal behaviorists in both Europe and the U.S.
I met Vladae earlier this week at the home of my friends Deidre and Peter, whose adorable Maltese, Riley, has been having some separation and barking issues. I watched in amazement as Vladae worked patiently and effectively with them; it is clear this is his life’s calling.
Dee said it best: “Wow.”
Her husband was smiling. Riley wagged his tail with fervor. Clearly, things were on the right track and she tells me that since just that one session, she has seen improvement and plans to schedule a series of sessions as a result.
Training the owner, says Vladae, is just as crucial to success as training the dog.
“If you expect change only from the dog, the problems will likely continue,” he says.
Vladae told us that growing up with a grandfather who was a famous Soviet zoologist known for his “Pavlov-style” research on wild animal behavior had a profound impact on him. It also gave him access to all types of animals early on.
By the time he was 13, he was the youngest Russian “schutzhund” competition champion, essentially winning the Super Bowl of dog training in his country. As his career unfolded, he began training dogs for the Red Army – as guard, paratrooping and patrol dogs – and even trained spy dogs for the KGB.
With all the military training in his background, one might think Vladae’s approach would be harsh. In fact, the exact opposite is true. His method is gentle and essentially mimics how a mother dog treats its pups.
Vladae has refined and perfected his techniques into “doglish,” and this has become his unique trademark. It is an integral part of his successful training and behavioral instruction, which is rooted in balancing positive reinforcement, structure and discipline.
Vladae went on to tell us that he, his wife and two small children came to the U.S. when the former Soviet Union collapsed and significant civil unrest in the Muslim state of Azerbaijan, where he was born and raised, became unbearable. So with only $100 cash in their pockets, they moved to Michigan to start a new life.
It wasn’t easy, but Vladae worked tirelessly and over the past 15 years he has been featured on countless television and radio shows including CNN, NPR, NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS affiliates, even making an appearance on David Letterman’s show. In Michigan, he had a regular show on the local news station FOX Detroit, and he is a regular contributor to many print and online news outlets.
“My dream has always been to have my own dog show, and I knew I needed to be closer to the entertainment capital of the world,” says Vladae. So they packed up again and moved to sunny Southern California.
Vladae currently hosts a segment on Animal Radio® called “Ask Vladae the World Famous Russian Dog Wizard” and has recently finished filming a pilot for his show currently under consideration by Animal Planet.
Now living in Newport Coast, Vladae works with clients locally and across the country. As a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, he is not just a trainer; he is a certified dog behaviorist and firmly believes in integrated training.
“My philosophy encompasses three simple guidelines,” says Vladae. “The value of prevention (training before bad behavior surfaces); the importance of providing a loving but structured, disciplined environment; and making sure that both the owner’s as well as the dog’s needs are being met.”
To watch Vladae in action, visit his website at socialdogtraining.com or listen at animalradio.com/ARNPROG.html. To schedule a behavior modification or canine training camp consultation, call 949-274-3445 or 949-244-0615.
Vladae encourages dog owners not to wait to call him until bad behavior arises. “As my grandfather always told me, ‘don’t try to cheat Mother Nature, you will always lose.’”