Q&A: Hollywood's Top Dog Whisperers Tell All

Sean O'Shea Good Dog Training - H 2014
Laura Morgan

Sean O'Shea Good Dog Training - H 2014

Ben Affleck, Ellen DeGeneres, Natalie Portman and Bruno Mars are among the Hollywood elite turning to these professionals who can tame even the most disobedient of dogs.

Hollywood's biggest names may come backed with an entourage of stylists, managers and bodyguards, but when faced with canine troubles, it's not their staff they call for help. Whether dealing with aggressive dogfights or lack of obedience in the household, L.A.'s most renowned dog whisperers have the solutions to resolve every celebrity client's four-legged problem.

Tamar Geller, The Loved Dog
2100 Pontius Ave.

Oprah Winfrey’s personal dog coach of 10 years and a New York Times best-selling author, Tamar Geller has 25 years of experience under her belt and a training method that has attracted more than 65 A-list clients including Ben Affleck, Ellen DeGeneres, Natalie Portman and J.J. Abrams. On-site training is $75 per session; a full day at the day care runs $30 for small dogs and $35 for large dogs. Private in-home coaching sessions with Geller average $250 an hour.

How do you know you need a dog whisperer?

When you experience frustration with the dog or when you feel like it's not listening to you. What I do is way beyond dog training; it’s about being in a phenomenal relationship. It’s the need for connection between the owner and the dog.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge is time. You can have a garden, but if you don’t spend time with it — watering it, fertilizing it — it’s not going to grow. If you don’t have time for your child — four-legged or two-legged—– they will not give you the relationship you want with them.

Bobby Dorafshar, K9s Only
2040 Cotner Ave.

Dorafshar — whose clients include Kaley Cuoco, Kevin Bacon, Allison Janney and Nicole Richie — specializes in dog socialization, a phenomenon he relates to human behavior. Just as humans become selective as they grow older, if dogs are not socialized, they become more demanding and selective in their interactions, often leading to cases of aggression and insecurity. In-kennel training is $800 a week for basic obedience, and $1,000 a week for aggressive training and behavioral modification. Private training lessons average out to six sessions for $150 per week.

What’s a common challenge presented by Hollywood dog owners?

Most Hollywood owners have a busy lifestyle. The dog becomes overprotective because it likes to hang around the parents all day, and it starts acting aggressively to strangers. Hollywood dogs start getting spoiled. The dog starts to not listen to others and the owners want the dog to completely listen to them.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Getting the owner to do the right thing is the biggest challenge — trying to convince the owner to take action in the right way. The problem is usually not with the dog. The owner is usually the one who causes the problems.

Sean O'Shea, The Good Dog
4867 Bellflower Ave., North Hollywood

Internationally revered dog behaviorist O’Shea has employed almost all methods of dog training over the course of his career — including the tips and techniques of Cesar Millan. In 2013, O’Shea was personally chosen by Millan to help teach students of his training seminar "Training Cesar’s Way." O’Shea’s training system based on leadership and structure has helped the four-legged companions of LL Cool J, Teri Hatcher, Bruno Mars and Kristin Bauer. “My beloved, wonderful dogs who were always best friends started to randomly fight. It was a mystery to us and other dog trainers,” says Bauer. “Sean O’Shea helped us fix it. We are so grateful to Sean that for now a year and a half our house is harmonious again.” One-on-one training sessions run $1,400 in-home and $800 on-site at the facility. 

What kinds of methods do you use, and how are your techniques different from other dog whisperers?

I’ve done pretty much everything, starting from Cesar Millan’s style of doing things. It’s about keeping it simple and helping the average person be OK with aggressive dogs.

What’s a common challenge presented by Hollywood dog owners?

In L.A., everyone is really driven and really busy. Everybody works long hours. The challenge is the L.A. lifestyle, and people struggling to make time for their dogs. It’s the lifestyle.

David Reinecker, Dog Remedy
269 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 975, Beverly Hills

Over the span of 29 years, Reinecker has saved the lives of thousands of dogs suffering from severe behavioral problems of fear and aggression, including those of celebrity clients Maria Shriver, Blake Griffin and producer Terri Kopp. “David was a miracle in my life,” Kopp once raved. “He saved my sanity and he no doubt saved my dog’s life." Using a holistic approach, he studies the dog’s vocal pattern and aggressive behavior habits such as chewing, digging, barking and jumping to make sense of the underlying cause for every unique situation. “Sound is very crucial to how I train dogs,” says Reinecker. He offers only private in-home training for $195 an hour for basic obedience and $250 an hour for aggressive behavior training.

What’s something most dog owners don’t know?

People tend to over-vocalize to their dogs. When the dogs bark, they yell ‘shush’ or ‘stop.’ They let dogs employ the human by letting the dog walk them and not the other way around.

What kinds of methods do you use and how is your approach different from other dog whisperers?

I think outside of the box. Each dog gives off a different energy and different personality. I make myself think like a dog and see from their perspective.