Barking commands

Newport Beach residents Guy Lugo and Ashley Minami were at the end of their leash with beloved Jack Russell terriers Rusty and Riley when they decided to hire a dog trainer.

Rusty and Riley were a terrible twosome on walks, barking and picking fights with the other neighbor- hood dogs. The dogs would lunge for stray balls in the courtyard of Lugo’s and Minami’s apartment complex. So frightening was Rusty and Riley’s behavior around other pets, the couple eventually began waiting only until late at night to walk their dogs, when no one else would be outside.

“It was embarrassing and scary,” Lugo said. “And it was unfair to them.”

Lugo and Minami watched the dog training reality show the “Dog Whisperer” on cable and interviewed several dog trainers, but struggled to find one that was affordable and effective.

“One said it would take over three grand to fix the dogs,” Lugo said. “One guy didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing.”

Lugo and Minami stopped watching the “Dog Whisperer” the day dog trainer Vladislav Roytapel walked into their home.

Roytapel, or “Vladae, the Russian Dog Wizard” to his clients, is something of a Rasputin with dogs. He claims he can speak five languages — including something he calls “doglish.”

Lugo and Minami said they saw vast improvements in their dogs after only one session with Roytapel. The couple recently walked Rusty and Riley to a nearby Starbucks and enjoyed a cup of coffee on the patio with no embarrassing dog faux pas, Lugo said.

When the doorbell rings, Rusty and Riley now head straight for an oversized pillow in the living room, sitting calmly when Lugo and Minami have guests, Minami said. Before Roytapel, the dogs would jump excitedly, much to the chagrin of their owners.

“People have so many problems with their dogs because they don’t speak doglish,” Roytapel said with an accent as thick as borscht. “Most dogs think ‘no’ is their nickname.”

With a few gestures, a high-pitched squeal or a throaty growl delivered from under his dark mustache, Roytapel can make even the baddest of bad dogs behave.

The word ‘no’ in doglish sounds something in between a growl, a hiss and a sneeze according to Roytapel, or “haaaathh.”

“This is the same sound that the doggy mama uses when the dog is small,” he said.

Roytapel’s passion for dogs began when he was a boy growing up in Soviet Union. His grandfather was a Soviet biologist who conducted behavioral experiments on farm animals based on the theories of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov. Roytapel won his first prize for dog training at the age of 12 at an obedience championship in Azerbaijan with his pet Siberian Husky, Berta.

Roytapel later went on to train dogs for the Red Army. During his 13-year tenure as a Soviet dog trainer, Roytapel taught dogs to do things such as search for leaking gas in broken pipes and deliver mail between military ships. He also trained dogs to sniff out bombs, and work for customs officers on the Soviet-China border — even jump out of airplanes as “doggy paratroopers,” Roytapel said.

Roytapel and his family immigrated to the United States in 1995 to the Detroit area. In Detroit, Roytapel’s clients traveled from all over Michigan and beyond for help with their naughty pets. Roytapel was once a guest on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” He recently moved to Newport Beach for his wife’s job.

Dog owners frequently fail to remind their pets who holds the leash in the relationship, said Roytapel, who believes a dog with an assertive owner is an obedient one. A dog will walk all over an owner who treats it as a child, he said, but rewarding good behavior also is important.

“Since this is an American dog and we are in the United States, every job is paid,” Roytapel said on a recent morning at Lugo’s Newport Beach apartment before giving Riley a treat for good behavior.

“If it were a Russian dog, I would give her vodka,” he quipped.


For more information on Vladislav Roytapel’s dog training services, visit www.socaldogtraining. com. Roytapel also is a host on Animal Radio, a syndicated pet program on more than 90 AM and FM radio stations and XM Satellite Radio.

BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at