Are you a certified dog trainer?

Yes! Unfortunately, the dog training industry isn't regulated - meaning anyone could call themselves a dog trainer. However, there are nationally and internationally recognized bodies and organizations that provide certifications. The certifications mean the trainer has completed a set of requirements (usually testing and experience hours) in order to acquire that certification. I received my original dog training certification through Animal Behavior College (ABC) and earned a second certification/credential through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)! Though I have two certifications now, I believe learning never ends. I'm always reading up on all things dog, attending seminars, workshops and conventions, and consulting with dog training peers. Visit the Education page to see what I've been up to recently!

Where do you visit clients?

I visit clients throughout the Southeastern Wisconsin area; my service area generally covers about a 15 mile radius around my "home base" in Whitefish Bay, but I'm willing to travel to clients outside my service area (a Travel Fee may be applied, though).

How much does private dog training cost?

That's a great question - and one that's a little difficult to answer. The total cost of private dog training varies quite a bit and depends on the dog, the family, and the dog training goals we've set up. I can say, however, that all Private Training with me begins with an Initial Session - a 60 minute session for $130.00. From there, Follow-Up Sessions or Training Programs may be recommended to meet your goals. Visit the Initial Session or Training Programs pages to get a better feel for what these involve!

What breeds will you work with?

I love all dogs and I'll work with any breed of dog - big or small, short or tall, long-haired or short-haired. The variety of clients I've had through SideKick Dog Training and the dogs I've met while teaching classes at the Wisconsin Humane Society have given me the opportunity to work with a bunch of different breeds, personalities, and quirks!

Do you work with only puppies? Or only adult dogs?

I work with dogs of all ages! I've had clients as young as 8 weeks and as old as 12 years! Puppies and young dogs are fun because they're like sponges for learning; but a dog is never too old to learn new tricks and I have fun coming up with creative ways to make learning fun and interesting for the older pups, too!

What training equipment do you use or recommend to clients?

For me, a list of training equipment is a list of tools that can help us meet our dog training goals; additionally, they're usually tools that we use to keep the dog and ourselves safe. I often recommend (and even use with my own dog) a front-clip body harness, flat leashes of varying lengths, and a clicker (as a marking tool). Not sure what any of those things are? Ask! I'm happy to answer any questions!

Is there any training equipment that you don't use or recommend?

I don't use or recommend the use of punishment-based training tools or tools that are designed to cause a dog pain or discomfort or restrict essential bodily functions. This includes prong/pinch collars, choke chains, spray collars, or electric/shock collars. I've also signed the pledge to help eliminate electric shock in training, care, and management of pets by joining the Shock Free Coalition and encourage you to do the same!

Your website mentions positive reinforcement a lot; what exactly is that?

You're in luck! I wrote a post for the SKDT Blog that goes into pretty good detail about what positive reinforcement is. In a nutshell, though, I usually describe positive reinforcement to clients like this: we give your SideKick something they really like to see more of what we really like. It's a win-win for everyone, since your SideKick will continue to offer the behaviors we like more and more!

So, you use positive reinforcement training; what else do you use?

That's a great question! And, before answering, I think it's best to describe the difference between "reinforcement" and "punishment" in dog training (or learning theory). Usually, the word "punishment" conjures an image in the head of being forced to sit in the corner or getting yelled at for sneaking cookies before dinner or staying out past curfew. That's not the version of punishment I use in my training. The science-y, learning theory term "punishment" refers to a behavior happening less because of the consequence for the behavior.

  • Positive punishment means that a behavior decreased because the consequence was something added to the scenario (usually something unpleasant or uncomfortable or even painful); for example, a prong collar or choke collar tightens painfully as a consequence for pulling while on leash.
  • ​Negative punishment, on the other hand, means a behavior decreased because the consequence meant something was taken away, such as something pleasant or desirable (or just the opportunity for the pleasant or desirable consequence); for example, forward motion during a walk stops or access to a recently peed on fire hydrant is cut off as a consequence of pulling on leash toward the fire hydrant.
I do not utilize or advocate for the use of positive punishment in dog training, but I do, occassionally, use negative punishment for a limited number of behaviors.

When can or should I start training my puppy?

As soon as you can! Regardless of your new SideKick's age, I recommend starting some form of training as soon as you bring them home - heck, start teaching them their name in the car on the way home! Whether you know it or not (or like it or not), your new SideKick is always learning - from figuring stuff out on their own to interactions with you to formal training sessions or classes. Your best bet in teaching your SideKick how to operate in this difficult-to-navigate human world is to teach them yourself what you'd like them to learn! So, start early and have fun with it!

I'm researching trainers in the area, but I'm lost; what should I be looking for?

Unfortunately, the dog training industry isn't regulated; certifications and licenses aren't required for any Average Joe or Jane, who's simply had family dogs all their life, to open a dog training business and start charging folks for their advice. My suggestions for finding a trainer:

  1. Screen your dog training options: ask questions and be critical of the answers you receive. I think you'll find that most dog trainers are eager to talk about their training techniques and why they use those techniques; and, if they're not willing or hesitant to discuss either of those, I'd suggest moving on to a different trainer or training business.
  2. Consider cost and availability: does the trainer or the training business offer the type of training you need, when you need it, and at a price point your wallet is comfortable with?
  3. Most of all, choose a dog trainer you're comfortable working with you and your SideKick!
All of that in mind, here are a couple resources that give you a few ideas of questions to ask and pointers of what to look for when contacting a dog trainer or dog training business:

Do you offer group classes?

Yes! I offer group classes at two different locations - Central Bark Eastside (in collaboration with a training colleague of mine, Cold Nose Canine) and Central Bark Wauwatosa. Check out the Group Classes page for details!

I want to socialize by puppy; aren't group classes better for this (compared to private training)?

A lot of the time, socialization is advertised as plopping your puppy into the middle of a group of dogs and letting them get used to it. However, our SideKicks are just like people: they don't like everyone else they meet and they may not be excited to meet everyone else.

For some puppies - confident, relaxed, and not too easily distracted puppies, group classes can be a breeze and you and your SideKick may get a lot out of it. However, for other puppies - puppies who maybe aren't super confident or outgoing, who need to take things a little slower in learning and socializing, the group class setting may be too overwhelming or too stressful. The private, in-home dog training I offer takes place in the quiet, familiar surroundings of your boring living room - both you and your SideKick have very few distractions and get A LOT out of the training sessions. Plus, we're able to work together and with your SideKick to make a plan for socialization that everyone is comfortable with and confident in.

Can you train my dog to be a service dog or therapy dog?

I do not offer any special training or certifications for service or therapy dog work. However, I can help you and your SideKick learn basic skills and dog manners that might start you on that journey toward becoming a service or therapy dog!

Do you guarantee results if I hire you?

The short answer is No. The long answer is I'm generally with you and your SideKick for just a few short hours (in most cases) - while you're with them all the rest of the time and for the rest of their life. Because of that, I don't guarantee that there will be results. There are simply too many factors that go into successful training - and many of them I can't control.

Instead, I guarantee that I'll do my best to give you multiple tools to achieve your training goals with your SideKick and I can guarantee that I'll be available for you and your SideKick throughout your dog training journey. How you utilize the tools I give you will determine the success you see!

Do you offer training where you come to my house during the day or I drop my dog off with you?

These two options are often referred to as "day training" and "board and train." At this time, I don't offer either of those services, but, feel free to reach out - I can probably put you in touch with someone who does!

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI
SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI
SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI