William Koehler; Animal Trainer for Disney Studios

William Koehler, a writer and animal trainer whose innovative methods were seen in animal performances in dozens of Disney motion pictures and TV shows, and read about in best-selling books, has died.

Koehler, 79, of Sequim, Wash., died of a heart attack Wednesday at his home, his family said.

Koehler trained dogs for movies such as “The Shaggy Dog,” “Big Red” and the original “The Incredible Journey” during 23 years as chief animal trainer for Walt Disney Studios.

He created the “Koehler Method of Dog Training,” widely considered a key text for serious dog training. During his 50-year career, he also wrote six books about dog obedience.

Koehler trained tens of thousands of dogs during his lifetime, including guard dogs for the Army during World War II. Many were problem animals that other trainers and owners had abandoned.


“Lay down a set of rules, and see that your dog lives by them,” Koehler said in Disney publicity material when “The Shaggy Dog” was released.

“And never blame your dog for something that’s really your own fault,” he said. Koehler preached consistency and a firm hand in the handling of dogs.