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Looking for a Dog Trainer in Virginia Beach or Norfolk?

Looking For A Dog Trainer In Virginia Beach or Norfolk?

trainingstikyDid you know? January is National Train Your Dog Month. Meanwhile, your sweet little poopkin is jumping all over your furniture, or barking at the mailman, or using your wrist for a chew toy, or you just need your pup to go lay down for 5 minutes so you can finish making dinner. You’re looking for simple and basic things such as stranger manners, crate training, leash walking, and a little peace in your life. Or.. you need something a little more, because your adopted shelter pup has some issues that arose after the first few weeks.

Two Kinds of Dog Trainers, Positive and Not

Let’s start with what force-free, positive, reward-based training means to you, the dog’s human. It is essentially teaching dogs behaviors without causing pain, intimidation or fear. Scientific studies have been underway trying to determine exactly what dogs understand, feel and think about. This recent study seems to show that dogs do feel emotions. This is groundbreaking research, but let’s face it: every person who loves a dog can tell you they know with certainty their dog can feel emotions. If this is the case, and I think we can all agree that it is the case, it hits you in the heart when you realize that your dog can actually feel fear, and uncertainty and insecurity and trust and love.. and by choking or shocking or manhandling your furry vessel of trust and love is much like doing it to a human child. This is why we choose positive over punishment, and why we hope you will too.

The Good

What is positive training? The basic principle of positive training is to reward good behavior and ignore the bad. This approach gets a bad rap from the aversion, also known as a punishment- or compulsion-based trainer, almost certainly because it takes time, patience and effort. A reward based trainer wants to train you and your dog – teaching you to teach your dog – and wants you both to be a success. Positive training is successful because dogs ultimately want to do the thing that makes you happy. You learn to show them what makes you happy, by making them happy.

A few key words: Teaching, science, positive, force free, PPG, +R, reward, clicker training and learning

The Not So Good

What is aversion training? Use of tools such as prong collars, choke chains, shock collars (aka “e-collars”), slip leads, instilling fear, or physically manipulating a dog into a desired behavior, among other methods. Yes, this means they will hurt your dog, and they may teach you to hurt your dog, too. Sometimes they’ll use treats, praise and clickers at the same time as using prongs, shock or choke devices. You will hear how “proper” use of these devices does not hurt a dog, and how, “in the right hands”, these tools are (queue the angels singing) downright miraculous. Take a moment to look at your hands. Do you have “the right hands”? Anyone can be a dog trainer. Really, we could go get our certifications right this minute on the internet. Many of these trainers have done that very thing.

A few key words: dominance, corrections, pack leader, off-leash, guaranteed, discipline, control, K-9, and training collar

The Analogy

You go to work every day. This morning you were changing the toner in the copier when you tipped the toner cartridge slightly and inadvertently made a huge mess. Your boss came over and grabbed you by the neck, shook you and said “No!” You didn’t want that to happen again, so you nervously tried to finish your day staying as far away from the copier as possible. Later, you saw your neighbor come home from work with a smile on his face. He’d also had a toner accident, but once he’d cleaned it up, his boss thanked him for handling the messy problem. What did each of you learn today? You learned to fear your boss AND the copier. Your neighbor learned there’s praise for working hard and he won’t think twice about cleaning up a mess in the future. Which one of you is going to be happier to go to work tomorrow?

Our Experience

trainingjinxSo.. why are we, the pet sitters and dog walkers of Team PPP, telling you all of this? We aren’t trainers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to train a dog. It means we don’t offer training as a service, because we ourselves are neither trained nor certified to train your dog. We respect positive trainers, and the effort they have put towards their education, enough to write to you and tell you how to find them. We will then support that training with our careful, positive handling of your pets.

Why no Cesar? Hey, we get it. We liked him too, at first. We thought he was personable, and hey he loves dogs, right? We nearly scoffed at the idea of the “science” behind dog training, but then we saw treatment and behavior we should never have seen and we started to research. We saw people begin to copy what they saw. This is what changed our lives and our direction.

One day I was at the oceanfront and a man was walking his dog off-leash on 50-something street. Narrow street, quiet car, she drifted in front of me. I waited patiently, she was a beautiful pale Golden girl and I enjoyed watching her gait that beautiful afternoon, ambling along with her people. Then that man realized I was there, picked up his dog by her scruff and put her in an alpha roll right then and there, finger in her face, yelling at her. She literally quaked in fear. I wanted to DIE. Our company name was all over my car, what do I do? I wanted to yell, “HEY! It’s YOUR fault, not hers! You pay attention to your surroundings and leash your dog! How could you do that to that beautiful dog?? She doesn’t know what you want!” But I didn’t. I glared, don’t get me wrong. I rolled by very slowly, staring in disgust and horror, but I said nothing. Should I have? I think so, it still haunts me, though I don’t think he would have felt he was in the wrong. Heck, Cesar does that, right?

On to the Search

If a trainer you have found is not listed on one of the following directories, there’s a very good chance they are not positive trainers and should be avoided.

Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Directory of force-free pet training and pet care professionals around the world.

Karen Pryor‘s Academy for Animal Training & Behavior

Victoria Stilwell‘s Positively Dog Trainers

Pat Miller‘s Certified Dog Trainers

Do you want to learn to apply positive training techniques right now? Emily Larlham has many videos! Emily Larlham of

Our inspirations, and what we read

Who are some of our inspirations?

Patricia McConnell
Karen Pryor
Victoria Stilwell
Pat Miller
Jean Donaldson
Susan Clothier
Emily Larlham
Jessica Dolce of

What is on our Kindles?

Turid Rugaas Calming Signals
Pat Miller The Power Of Positive Dog Training
Patricia McConnell The Cautious Canine

Final Tips

trainingjupiterYou are your dog’s advocate. We’ve seen many dogs suffer at the hands of aversive trainers, and many times it’s because the owner didn’t know they could just walk out.
If your trainer claims to have trained thousands of dogs, this is a person to avoid.
We’re not aware of local positive trainers who offer “boarded training” and recommend you avoid trainers who do so, unless you are convinced that they are positive only.
Your trainer should be working with both you and your dog.
Once you have a training schedule set up, feel free to call us and tell us about it. We’ll gladly work with you, your dog and your trainer to continue your efforts!

The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid.
-Temple Grandin

  1. What a wonderful article! So well written, succinct and to the point: positive is better. Positive reinforcement training has already been proven to be more effective, faster, easier than aversive or punishment based training. There is no controversy. The proof is in. I am a Victoria Stilwell trainer, here in the Hampton Roads area. If your clients need help, they can contact me via my website. Thanks for writing this and helping to spread the word!!!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Dale! Your comments mean a whole lot to us, and we appreciate you taking the time to write to us. For anyone that would like to know more about Dale, click her name and it will take you right to her site.

  2. Excellent blog! I made the decision to fire any clients that use aversion training and refuse to try a more humane approach to training. It hurts my heart to see dogs with prong collars, shock collars (bark collars), etc. It’s just not necessary.

    • Thank you Jenna, we know just exactly how you feel! It’s wonderful to see so many pet sitters and dog walkers raising their standards!

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