FAQs & IMPORTANT INFORMATION
What locations do you serve?
I serve clients nationwide/internationally, and of course locally too! Simple, user-friendly technology allows my behavior modification and training practice to help people almost everywhere achieve goals with their dogs. Since many dog behavior problems involve not liking strangers, oftentimes it is better to have your Behavior Consultant coach you in live, private sessions via video conference instead of in person Also, you don't have to worry about how your house looks in video conferences! Most importantly, though, you can get a lot more because you really learn to implement the needed protocols yourself, thus equipping YOU with the lifelong skills you need. My wish for you is that you retain the skills long after our work together is completed, especially if there are more dogs in your future! In some cases, a drop off for training may also be appropriate. In-person training in your home or other location is also an option, post-covid.
Why hire a Behavior Consultant like yourself instead of a vet behaviorist?
Good behavior consultants do essentially the same behavior modification/training work as vet behaviorists. Aggression, anxiety, fear, phobias, reactivity, trauma, and feral dog behavior are all part of my practice. Veterinarians and vet behaviorists do differ in that they prescribe and sometimes provide prescription medication, since they are veterinary doctors. If you want your dog to have psychotropic medication in addition to behavior modification/training, I can connect you with a vet behaviorist and the three of us will work together for you and your dog's needs--or, if your regular veterinarian is savvy about and stays updated regarding behavior-modification-supportive medications, that may be an option for medication as well, and again the three of us will work together to help you meet your goals. In most cases, you can save a lot of money using a well-educated and experienced behavior consultant for behavior modification and training.
How much do your services cost and how long does this take?
Each case is different. You might need only a consultation, or just a few sessions to learn the most important skills, or you might prefer a more immersive learning experience. One aspect of figuring what you invest in your goals is what type of service you seek. Another aspect is rates. Rates for each service are based on a number of criteria, including not only my time, but also my expertise, certifications/credentials, the depth and breadth of my experience and education, and in some cases by where you are located if you need me to come to you. Rates vary depending on your needs, but plan to spend a minimum of $250 to $500.
What methods do you use?
I'm an anti-aversives professional, which means that I believe I must do everything possible to provide positive reinforcement and positive behavior modification services, avoid aversives, and help you to do the same. It also means I refuse to use pain, force, intimidation, or fear on your dog in order to provide my services. While no one can completely avoid aversive experiences since stimuli outside our work and plans--for example, a sudden thunderbolt that startles a dog--are beyond human control, we can refuse to cause or leverage fear and other aversives, and we can do tons to protect our animals from exposure to them. That is my stance. Pain, danger, force, intimidation, and scaring are all tactics I refuse to implement, and from which I will work to protect your dog. I'm happy to explain further if you'd like more details about the anti-aversives stance.
Do you offer a guarantee?
My Promise to You and your dog is outlined on the home page of this website. If someone has offered you a guarantee that seems too good to be true, it probably is. There's a very good reason why it is unethical to make guarantees--and risky to trust guarantees--about dog behavior / training, and here it is: There is no humane way to achieve absolute control over or perfection in an animal's behavior. Anyone who guarantees they will "cure" your dog's behavior issues or that they can turn your dog into a perfect specimen of manners and obedience is therefore either unaware of how behavior works, or is using tactics that create the illusion of cure or perfection; such tactics involve pain, fear, and/or force to temporarily suppresss, not resolve, undesired behavior through emotional violence, and sometimes also through physical violence. Please do not take that risk.
Because you and your dog are individuals with your own lives, thoughts, feelings, and behavioral preferences, because you and your dog can make independent decisions and are free to take actions other than those I recommend, and because I refuse to impose or recommend emotional or physical harm, such guarantees are not a part of my practice.
What's a cookie pusher?
This misleading phrase is a slur used by some people to insult trainers who use food during training and handling, sometimes mistakenly calling the use of food "bribery." Use of these terms may suggest a lack of understanding of how positive reinforcement works, what primary reinforcers are, why they are important, and how they are chosen and deployed. Someone using terms like "bribery" and slurs like "cookie pusher" may not understand the difference between the corrupting lure of bribery and the science of positive reinforcement.
What does aversive mean?
In animal training and handling, something may be said to be aversive if the animal would prefer to avoid it or escape from it. Force, fear, pain, intimidation, corrections, coercion, "pressure" and "compulsion" et cetera, would be considered aversive by most R+ trainers and, I think it is fair to say, by most animals. Some behavior consultants advise that anything that creates distress (as opposed to eustress) or a negative emotional state in the animal is aversive to that animal and therefore should be avoided if possible, even if it does not fit a strict scientific definition of "aversive." It is important to respect that, especially in these uncertain cases, if the recipient of the stimulus finds the stimulus aversive, it IS therefore aversive.
What are E-collars / remote collars?
A euphemism for shock collar, the piece of equipment that electrically shocks a dog into submission via pain, fear or startle, and / or intimidation, the phrases “e-collar” and "remote collar" make the device sound less painful or scary than it is. Other misleading terms used, such as “tickle,” “buzz,” "tap," “vibrate,” "stim," and "remote communication device" also are meant to soften shock devices' image with the public. Some countries have outlawed the devices, and humane trainers and citizens of other countries, including ours, are working toward the same. Research suggests that these and other aversives often lead to more behavior problems--and since behavior problems are one of the leading causes of surrender and elective euthanasia, it's important to do your best to avoid aversives.
What is balanced training?
The word “balanced” (or "blended") in dog training is a euphemism used by trainers who employ aversive (painful or otherwise unpleasant methods and / or equipment), but might sometimes or occasionally use “rewards” or other methods as well. Their position is that mixing up the methods provides balance to training, but many others (and modern training science!) strongly disagree. If I sometimes eat cereal, sandwich, and salad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and other times eat cake, ice cream, and pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, does that make my approach "balanced"? Nope! Though semantically it may seem convincing, and that's how it fools people, logically and honestly, it makes no sense. What it really means is that sometimes I am taking care of my health and sometimes I am NOT taking care of my health. Do you want your dog to only be properly cared for, physically and emotionally, sometimes? Aversive approaches, which "balanced training" includes, are the wrong choice in teaching, and in handling, voiceless creatures who have no means by which to request advocacy. Even if they also get treats and praise. The data from current research continue to pile up, and they show that aversive training methods often lead to increases in problem behavior and even new aggression. The most lasting, humane, and ethical solution to canine behavior problems is not "balanced" training, which typically includes the use of shock, pain, force, intimidation, or fear, etc., but instead is achieved through R+ training and classical conditioning, without the use of inhumane crutches like shock, prong, pain, force, fear, and intimidation.
Close attention to detail is helpful in parsing terms and definitions. For example, if you ask five trainers what kind of training they do and they all say positive reinforcement, does that mean they are committed to positive reinforcement and oppose shock, fear, force, pain, etc? -- or does it mean they do some 'positive' but also use, say, prong collars and squirt bottles? Many of my clients have reported that a previous trainer they hired turned out to be a punitive/inhumane trainer even though claiming they were positive reinforcement trainers. Caregiver beware. If someone uses rewards sometimes but uses "corrections" or other aversives other times, that someone is not a positive reinforcement trainer.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A GOOD DOG TRAINER OR BEHAVIOR CONSULTANT
Since our government does not regulate dog trainers and behavior consultants, anyone can claim to be a dog trainer or dog behaviorist with no legal consequences, whether s/he has 50 years of experience or zero years of experience, whether they have signed a humane code of conduct agreement or use pain, force, and fear on pets. There are very few laws to protect your dog from even the most harmful tools and methods being sold and used under the guise of "dog training." Collars that choke dogs, for example, remain legal even though choking a dog with one’s hands would be considered abuse and probably get you arrested.
Ask yourself whether you would allow a person to do to your dog with their bare hands or raw materials what a trainer does or recommends with equipment. It's a question every pet guardian should carefully consider. Even something commonly minimized, like a leash-collar pop, would not be considered humane or ethical by most dog lovers if done with bare hands--How would you feel if someone executed a throat-tug on your dog with his bare hands? You may realize that the leash and collar have been providing a false sense of propriety to what is in reality an unkind and potentially quite harmful practice.
The onus is on pet guardians to select their animal service providers carefully. Whether a walker, groomer, trainer, behavior consultant or behaviorist, or veterinary behaviorist, the adage “trust but verify” is best changed to “verify before trusting” when it comes to identifying an ethical, truly humane, qualified service provider. To start with, ask what if any aversives might possibly be used on your dog. A service provider who considers aversives as an acceptable part of their services may not be prioritizing your dog's safety and well-being. Furthermore, aversives have been shown to result in behavior problems. If you are looking for resolution to behavior problems, why then would you accept aversives?
Here are a few questions you might ask to help you evaluate your candidates:
ARE YOUR ACCREDITATIONS/CERTIFICATIONS FROM AN INDEPENDENT-BOARD CERTIFICATION COUNCIL, E.G., CCPDT.ORG?
HAVE YOU SIGNED AN ANTI-AVERSIVES CODE OF CONDUCT? (LIMA/HUMANE HIERARCHY MAY BE ACCEPTABLE, BUT ALSO MIGHT NOT SINCE SOME PEOPLE INTERPRET THEIR RULES LOOSELY RATHER THAN AS THEY ARE INTENDED)
A LIST OF ALL THE METHODS AND EQUIPMENT YOU USE ?-MAY I HAVE
-HOW WOULD YOU GET MY DOG TO BEHAVE AS DESIRED?
-WHAT WILL YOU DO IF MY DOG DOESN'T BEHAVE AS DESIRED?