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He's a Dog's Best Friend

One of the first lessons that dog trainer Brian Kilcommons teaches pet owners is never to tell their canine companions no. Although such advice may seem indulgent, his reason is practical, not philosophical: often dogs have no idea what the command means. "Most of the dogs in America think their name is No," jokes Kilcommons, who says the word is too vague for dogs to grasp because it doesn't correlate with a specific action. Instead, he advocates using commands such as off or stay, which dictate precise behaviors, then rewarding pups with praise--and the occasional treat--when they get it right.

Rethinking the way people communicate with their pets is a cornerstone of Kilcommons' approach to training and a big reason that the author of seven books, including Good Owners, Great Dogs, and star of the just released puppy-training DVD My Smart Puppy, has emerged as one of the premier dog trainers in the country. Whether an animal is pulling on the leash, jumping on the neighbors or quietly relieving itself on the living-room sofa, Kilcommons has a remedy. He has trained more than 35,000 dogs, ranging from abandoned shelter pups to the poshest celebrity pooches, including Harrison Ford's Labrador retriever, Diane Sawyer's Cavalier King Charles spaniel and Candice Bergen's two mixed breeds. "He can practically make dogs do anything," says Bergen, who adds that she still can't believe it when her golden-retriever--poodle mix, Jerry, lies down on command.

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