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  • What is your service area?
    We primarily serve Hyde Park and the surrounding areas. This means everything on the east side of the Dan Ryan from the South Loop to South Shore. We will also serve additional areas downtown and on the near south and west sides if we have space in our calendar to allow for the additional travel time. Virtual sessions take place regardless of where you are and allow us to get right to business for the fully allotted time! Please reach out to us if you think you might be outside our service area.
  • What do you mean when you say your training is modern?
    Our methods are science- and evidence-based and reflect the most up-to-date practices. The animal training and behavior world continues to make discoveries about animals and our relationships with them. We subscribe to the tenets of positive reinforcement training, which is rooted in operant conditioning and learning. An easy translation is "reward-based training": we reinforce the behaviors we want to see from our dogs with the expectation that they will increase. The field of animal training applies the psychological principles of learning theory to teach new and/or change current behaviors. These methods, along with empathy, compassion, and respect, are repeatedly shown to get the effective results. We focus on the good things your dog does. Dogs trained with positive reinforcement methods are better learners and experience greater welfare overall. We also continue our education via conferences, classes, and seminars to keep up with current ideas and practices. When choosing a program or method, you should ask one simple question: Will this make my dog happy? In 2021, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior issued a position statement paper on the benefits of rewards-based training and recommended that only rewards-based methods be used in all dog training, including behavior problem-solving. A great list of science-based resources can be found here.
  • How does private training work and which package should I choose?
    After your initial consultation, over a few or several weeks, we’ll work together as a team to improve or change your dog’s behavior and teach new behaviors. Based on your dog’s prior history, your family’s situation, and the dog’s daily environment, we create a training and enrichment plan that can be implemented quickly and effectively. Following the plan means outcomes will align with your goals. Which coaching package to choose should depend on your goals. If you or your dog are seeking relief for one issue, you may not need 10 or 15 sessions. You can pick up loose leash walking basics in 5 sessions. Larger packages are typically selected if you are new to training and want a rock-solid foundation or if your goals include behavior modification along with some basic training. The bigger the feelings your dog has, the bigger the package you will most likely choose. At the same time, you might have the skills necessary to handle your dog and just need a bit of coaching. These details are usually discussed at the end of our consultation. If you don't have the time to do all the homework or get to classes, or to even do the dog training, day training is your best option. During our coaching sessions, I’ll observe and explain your dog’s behavior. I’ll then demonstrate and instruct you on how to implement safe training techniques to change your dog’s behavior or to learn a new skill. You’ll learn about the science behind the behavior and the methods. Questions, concerns and communication are welcome. Day training clients may also receive video of solo sessions.
  • Why does your training cost so much? You guarantee you’ll fix my dog, right?
    We could simply say that you get what you pay for but instead will tell you we aren’t here to offer you a quick cheap fix. Be wary of trainers who do. Not all “nuisance” behaviors are fixable. They are, after all, normal dog behaviors that your dog may have been rehearsing for quite some time. They may be your dog's way of coping with their emotions. Often we are working to change your dog’s emotional response and that is a committed process. You are choosing us because you want quality and you’re ready to make a commitment to your dog. We are about addressing your dog’s needs, changing relationships, and helping you work toward your goals in small achievable steps. You aren't just paying for our time. You're paying for our expertise, guidance, and support. Think about how much money you spend at the barbershop or hair salon. How long do the results of that visit last? Hiring a private dog trainer gives you tools and skills that will last the lifetime of your dog--and can be used with the next dog...or cat...or guinea pig...or goldfish. Our services are valuable, and we charge a competitive rate, especially for private training. Dog training is an unregulated industry. As such, people can say and charge as much or as little as they like. Cynthia is certified by Karen Pryor Academy and continues her education by regularly attending conferences and seminars. The recommendations, personalized plans, and training you receive will always reflect the most up-to-date best practices and ideals. Some spots may be offered on a sliding scale for those truly in need. We also offer occasional classes, keeping the class size small, so you can get the feel of a private session without the private session price.
  • Do you offer just plain old basic obedience training?
    If you want to teach your dog to sit, we can do that. Our style is a little different though and goes beyond the traditional obedience and manners training you’re accustomed to seeing or may have already attended classes for. Your dog probably already knows how to sit, lie down or even stay. And if they don’t, these common behaviors are easily incorporated into our training plans. We’ll spend more time focusing on unique foundation behaviors so you can get to the good part: living your best life with your well-behaved dog. We work according to your goals and provide you with a plan to get there. If you’re interested in formal, competition-style obedience training, we can recommend other positive reinforcement trainers in the area or online who offer formal obedience classes.
  • Why do you offer virtual sessions?
    Virtual sessions allow us to help even more dogs during a day as they reduce travel times and free up our schedule. With modern technology, we have the opportunity to be more flexible when it comes to scheduling and between-session feedback. Plus, we can help anyone, anywhere! We keep our virtual classes small so you get the feel of a private session without paying the private session price! Meeting virtually for training or coaching sessions means we're able to record and discuss behaviors for follow-up. It allows for stronger collaboration. You and your dog can work in real-time without the added stress of having a new person in the environment. Some dogs are more reactive to strangers in their homes and we want to spend your valuable time focused on your goals. If you need help with Zoom or FaceTime, we can walk you through the process. If you have a spouse, partner, children, or roommates who are also handling the dog, they can be invited to join in as well!
  • What is your cancellation policy?
    All training and coaching packages are prepaid, non-refundable, and non-transferable. Sessions may only be rescheduled in the event of an emergency or illness such as testing positive for COVID-19. Because our services are private, space is limited so we cannot easily accommodate changes. We also want what's best for your dog: commitment and consistency. Rescheduling is not guaranteed and in rare instances will be done at the discretion of the service provider and may incur a fee of $55. In the event of inclement weather, illness or transportation issues, an in-person session will be moved to virtual so you can stay on track with your program.
  • I use a certain type of collar to prevent my dog from pulling on walks. Can I continue to use it?
    Should you use tools such as prong or electronic collars while working with us, please know this will diminish the effectiveness of the training you have hired us to implement. Ours is a force-free program where we abide by the principles of positive reinforcement. Therefore, we do use or recommend aversive training methods or tools in our programs or classes. There are more modern solutions available. We have other tools at our disposal and will not teach you how to punish or correct your dog. In 2021, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior issued a position statement paper on the benefits of rewards-based training and recommended that only rewards-based methods be used in all dog training, including behavior problem-solving. See our recommendations for gear and more here.
  • What kind of treats will I need? And doesn’t using food mean I’m bribing my dog and that I’ll have to give them treats for the rest of their life?
    I’d like to start by asking, doesn’t your dog deserve treats for the rest of their life? But no, you won’t need to use food to reward your dog for a specific behavior with no end in sight. We’re working on new behaviors, and new behaviors need reinforcement if they’re ever going to be repeated. Eventually behaviors are placed on cue, proofed and we fade the food. "Treats" are something humans associate with rewards and something special. We’re not bribing our dogs. We’re increasing the chances of ensuring behaviors we prefer will be routinely offered by our dog. Reinforcement drives behavior and we use food as reinforcement. Training treats need to be small (think pea-sized or even smaller for a small dog) and preferably soft. Some of our favorite, foods to use are hot dogs (which can be quartered lengthwise and then sliced into over 100 reinforcing pieces), string cheese, FreshPet, Ziwi, Real Meat (food not treats). And if your dog thinks blueberries or jicama slaps, then use them!
dog with questions on whiteboard


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