FAQ – Smarty Dog Training


What do I need to bring to class? 

Please see this page for what to bring to class.

Do you you allow training collars?
No. We require dogs to be on a flat collar and nylon or leather leash. We do not train using training collars because they inhibit the training process as they are a tool that must be transitioned from.

Do you you allow training harnesses?
No.  We do not allow harnesses which inhibit the motion of the dog.  Harnesses that are not designed to obstruct a dog’s moment are permitted.

Do I have to use treats?

Yes and no. Treats are part of the learning process and allow us to reinforce the behavior we want. To reinforce a desired behavior we must use a reward and treats are one type of reward. Other rewards include toys, tug and affection. Treats can be phased out as a dog demonstrates their competency and knowledge of the cues we request.

What kind of training do you do?

We are considered modern dog trainers who use Positive Reinforcement.

What tools don’t you use?

  • prong collars
  • choke chains
  • e-collars also known as shock collars
  • bark collars

What does positive reinforcement mean?

In terms of operant conditioning, Positive Reinforcement means to add something to increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur again.

What is operant conditioning?

Also called instrumental learning, Operant Conditioning is attributed to Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner. It is a learning process in which behavior controlled by consequences. Operant conditioning has four quadrants which are:

Positive Reinforcement is the addition of something to increase the likelihood of a behavior

Negative Reinforcement is the removal of something to increase the likelihood of a behavior

Positive Punishment is the addition of something to decrease the likelihood of a behavior

Negative Reinforcement is the removal of something to increase the likelihood of a behavior

Are you a behaviorist?

This is a complex question. A board certified behaviorist is a person who has completed a graduate degree (such as a masters or Ph.D.) in biological or behavioral science with an emphasis on animal behavior. A person who has obtained their Ph.D. would be referred to as Dr., but without a focus in animal behavior they would not be considered an animal behaviorist. An individual who has completed the necessary graduate coursework may apply to be a board certified behaviorist.

Additionally there are other programs and independent verifying organizations that can allow someone to designate themselves as a dog behaviorist. A great question to ask a behaviorist that you are work with is what coursework, hours or examinations did they have to complete to obtain their credentials. Ask what organization they are certified through if any, and research that organization to determine if the values are aligned with your own.

Please visit the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists if seeking a behaviorist.

How are you licensed?

Dog training is not a profession that is regulated by a universal standard in the United States. We do not hold any certificates, licenses, or certifications. We utilize our experience with dogs in training and behavior modification as well as study the science behind the methods we use. We believe that we are always learning and constantly seek knowledge so that we may better help our community.

What is your educational background?

Jessica has a Bachelors degree in Studio Arts with a concentration in Graphic Communication Arts and works as a product designer.

Whitney has a Bachelors degree in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics and Asian Studies, and currently works for a local IT company.

Are dogs pack animals like wolves? How do I prove I am the alpha?

The short answer is that no, the domestic dog is not a wolf and will not behave as a wolf does. Dogs are social, however they do not follow pack theory. See this link and this link to learn more.

We are not proving status, such as alpha status, to our dogs.

How do I change the state of mind of my dog? Can I change the state of mind of my dog?

Please consider this link about changing the state of mind of your dog. We can assist with behavior modification and training however we cannot change the personality of your dog. We can help you redirect challenging behaviors to help you connect with your dog.

Can you fix my dogs problems in one session?

No, or not likely. We believe that the key to success in your relationship with your dog is YOU. We can give you tools to help address training or behavior challenges as well as suggest behavior modification techniques but we cannot guarantee that all problems are fixed in one session. People are dynamic and so are our dogs, therefore our relationship is ever changing. My drama teacher once said “you are always auditioning”, and the same is true for our relationship with our dogs. They are constantly learning whether we are aware of it or not. Building and maintaining a relationship with your dog does not end in our classroom, it is a journey that you will share with your dog for the rest of your life together.

What is a service dog? Can you train my dog to be a service dog?

Training a service dog is a full time job. Unfortunately we do not offer a board and train facility at this time.  We may be able to give you the skills to teach your dog the cues you require but not all dogs possess the temperament to become a service dog.

Please know the following:

  • There is no central registry for service dogs.
  • There are no official vests or patches that are mandated by the government.
  • A person/business may ask if a dog is a service dog and what it is trained to do however they cannot inquire about the humans medical condition.
  • A service dog is not allowed in areas  where the public is not allowed (e.g the kitchen at a restaurant) but a person cannot be denied housing or charged a pet fee because of their service dog.
  • A service dog must be trained to mitigate the disability of their human.

From http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

  • Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds
  • Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
  • Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

While we are able to teach the skills necessary for service work, we do not currently offer service dog specific classes.  We will happily refer you to a trainer who specializes in service dog training.

What is a therapy dog? Can you train my dog to be a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a pet dog that can accompany a human volunteer. Therapy dogs are not protected by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Many organizations that perform volunteer therapy work accept dogs into their programs that have completed the AKCs Canine Good Citizen test. Completion of our course structure will prepare you to take the test. Click here to learn more about the CGC.

While we are able to teach the skills necessary for therapy work, we do not currently offer therapy dog specific classes.  We will happily refer you to a trainer who specializes in therapy dog training.

What is an emotional support animal? Can you train my dog to be an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal or ESA provides therapeutic support to a disabled or elderly owner. The ESA must be prescribed by a doctor and an ESA may live in “no pet” housing and travel with their human in the cabin of an aircraft. An ESA is not required to be trained to perform any tasks to mitigate any health conditions of their human.

If the temperament of the dog is adequate for being an ESA we can assist in training your dog to be appropriate in public. Please notify us of your intent so that we may work with your doctor to suit your needs.

While we are able to teach the skills necessary for ESA work, we do not currently offer ESA  specific classes.  We will happily refer you to a trainer who specializes in ESA dog training.