Eric Goebelbecker


Eric owns and runs Dog Spelled Forward dog training part-time in Maywood NJ, while working full-time as a software engineer on Wall Street. He hopes to transition Dog Spelled Forward to full-time in a few years. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT.)

After adopting a puppy that was a "bit of a handful" in 2000, Eric discovered modern dog training via classes at St. Hubert's Dog Training School, experiencing first hand what can be done with dog-friendly techniques.

He has since attended an Internship at Pat Miller's Peaceable Paws, level one and two Instructor Training Courses with Dogs Of Course, and became an instructor at St. Hubert's. Eric also serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

Eric lives with Dagmar, his very patient wife and Christian, their son. Caffeine, the bit of a handful puppy turned still-a-bit-of-a-handful dog, shares their home with Gage and Buddha, two other rescues. (Caffeine and Buddha are pictured.)

More information about Eric, as well as his personal blog, can be found at the Dog Spelled Forward web site.


(Photos copyright 2009 Ars Magna Studio.)


Blog posts by Eric Goebelbecker

Two dogs playing rough

Dog Parks and Why You Should Avoid Them

Yesterday on twitter there was a brief discussion of dog parks among a few of my friends. The story that triggered the discussion was familiar: there was a fight at a dog park, one owner was redirected onto trying to break it up, the other was unhelpful because the fight was "not his dog's fault."

I'm not a fan of dog parks. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a trainer that is.

The idea behind dog parks is laudable. Who can argue with a place where dogs can run free and play with each other? Even in suburban areas, space is at a premium and many people lack large fenced-in yards where their dogs can safely play.

Pug with chewed shoes.

Consistency is the Key

I have been having a terrible time recovering from my knee surgery. It seems like every time I head in for physical therapy there's a new ache or pain in a newly discovered part of my right leg. The doctor tells me it all boils down to one problem: I'm not being consistent with my exercises. Without that consistency, I won't just fail to make progress. I'll continue to regress.

There's no secret to dog training, but there certainly is a key: consistency.

I often refer to dogs as "pattern matching machines." I'm being facetious – of course I think of dogs as more than machines – but dogs are very good at recognizing and storing patterns. It makes sense too: predators and scavengers that can quickly recognize where prey or food might or might not be are rewarded by nature.

dog sniffs boy

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

This year National Dog Bite Prevention Week is Monday May 17 - Sunday May 23.

The CDC has some interesting information on their site.

As I have discussed before, children are the individuals most at risk for bites. But according to the CDC, men are bit more often than women. Interesting, especially given my post last week.

They also include a great list of tips for children. Here are a few of them.


Why do women dominate the dog training field?

Over on my blog I have started a series called "The Real Man's Guide to Dog Training." The intent of the series is to use how and why I began a dog trainer as a way to explain basic training concepts, juxtapose them with many common myths about dogs and dog behavior, and hopefully attract some men to dog-friendly dog training.

In the first chapter I brought up the fact women far outnumber men in the dog training field and how I find this rather puzzling. This question was interesting enough that one commenter expressed disappointment that I didn't try to answer it in the second post.

Problem is, I don't have an answer!


Training with Distractions

I made a mistake last week. This isn't really news. As a matter of fact I probably made a mistake every day last week, so I should probably say "I made a mistake last Sunday" or maybe even "I made several mistakes last Sunday night around 11:00PM and I'm thinking of the third or fourth one right now."

Anyway, I was asked to answer an e-mail interview (man I hate that picture) and one of the questions struck me funny. Funny enough that I outsmarted myself. Again, not news — I'm an engineer and experienced in outsmarting myself. (Ask me about the SSL redirector and CPU utilization sometime over beers.)

The question was : What are your views on negative reinforcement? What do you think about dog owners using spray collars and even shock collars?


BlogPaws 2010 - Being the Change

BlogPaws 2010

I attended the very first BlogPaws conference this weekend. I had a fantastic time and learned quite a lot. The conference was very well organized. The panel discussions were very informative and there were three great keynotes from Andrea Arden, Dr. Larry McDaniel and Elisa Camehort Page.

Hard Day at the Spreadsheet

The Big Lie of More With Less

It's popular — and pretty easy — to complain about our modern culture of instant gratification. Almost everything;  the credit crisis, the obesity epidemic, the popularity of certain dog training TV shows, can be tied to our desire to get everything now-now-five-minutes-ago.

But instant gratification has a far uglier and more dangerous cousin. You don't see this cousin on TV or in big box stores - you see it at the office. It's "More With Less."

More With Less is the idea that a group or process is somehow inefficient and if we remove the excess...whatever...we won't just get the same results for less, we'll somehow get more. This idea is rampant in business, rampant enough that it was beautifully satirized in "The Wire" on HBO (and most likely watched by people that later went and tried to implement it at their jobs while believing the show didn't apply to them.)

No PC!

No. It isn't.

Lisa Whelan started a great conversation over on her blog, and I want to chime in over here.

Is punishment a bad word? I say "no."

First let me get the easy stuff out of the way. As Lisa said in her post and as Dr. Dunbar said a few months ago, punishment doesn't always have to be bad. No reason to cover that ground again.

And, as Lisa also pointed out, punishment doesn't fully cover the "bad stuff" either. Negative reinforcement can be pretty nasty. But punishment, both as a concept and even just as a plain old word, takes all of the heat.

Baby and dog with frisbee

What is anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism is "the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts." It's a natural human tendency that is almost unavoidable, and something we need to be conscious of when we are dealing with our dogs. We often put very human ideas and feeling into our dog's heads — and they don't really belong there.

It's easy to come up with unhelpful examples of anthropomorphism:

A case could be made for much of the training based on pack theory being a big exercise in anthropomorphism. Are dogs really keeping a mental tally of who is in charge based on who walks in front of whom or enters a doorway first? Are dogs really in a constant battle with us for supremacy? Or is this just an example of something that an insecure human frets over?

hippie dog

See it big, keep it simple

"Whenever there is a simple error that most laymen fall for, there is always a slightly more sophisticated version of the same problem that experts fall for" - Amos Tversky

It's been a while since my "Rocket Surgery" post and recent events have wanted me to revisit the subject of simplicity.



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