Logo for A Better Companion Dog Training

What issues do you work with?

I work with minor behavior issues like pulling on the leash, barking, chewing, digging, begging, jumping up, play biting, mouthing, and general manners like crate and house training - all easily fixable through private lesson or residency obedience training programs.

I also work with bigger behavioral issues like not coming when called, chasing cars, leash reactivity, separation anxiety, dog aggression, people aggression and resource guarding behaviors.  These behaviors can generally be fixed or managed but often require a residency training program and additional lifestyle expectations and changes to help your dog be successful.

I offer private lessons at two locations:  The Yappie Cuttery/Blooms Crossing Animal Hospital in Manassas Park and at the house in Centreville.  All residency programs begin at the house.

Depending upon your dogs needs, program and progress we also go out on "field trips" in Fairfax or Prince William Counties.

Group of people with dogs walking politely down the street at a pack walk

The Pack Walking group also does regular (sometimes irregular) "field trips" around Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

​​The Pack Walking group is a free practice group for my clients after they have achieved basic control of their dogs to get them out around other people, dogs and places to further expose them to distractions in the real world.  We use it to challenge and encourage each other to continually practice and do better.  This group is not a dog social or play group.  Dogs will be challenged to walk politely with each other through crowds, do long down/stays or place commands and overcome the challenges of variable surfaces, noise levels and activities.  If you've got a great location suggestion we're always up to try new dog friendly places.

What equipment will we use for training?

And, what should we bring?

dog trainer Sarah with attentive dog sitting beside her

Yes, crates are required.  Roaming has no value for your dog or for you.  Dogs who roam through the house unsupervised get into trouble physically by ingesting stuff they shouldn't, destroying things, having accidents or getting into mental trouble like developing separation anxiety, nuisance barking, nervousness, fear or entitlement.  A dog who roams thinks he's king of the world which many people mistakenly think is just what the dog needs.  But from the dog's perspective he now has to "rule the world" and he just doesn't have the skills or equipment to do that making his "job" very stressful.  Your dog craves structure and guidance - he'd rather be a devoted friend and not have the pressure of ruling.  Crates allow us to keep him safe and secure.  Crates also help him not to develop any bad habits while you are away making it much easier to establish better, new and lasting habits.  So while your dog is in training, crates are a must.

Is my dog too old or too young to train?

Crates are required?

I've worked with thousands of families who were extremely satisfied but that doesn't mean I'm the right trainer for you.  It takes the right blend of personality, knowledge, understanding, and compassion to make the right match for you.  You owe it to your success to find the person who's personality is such that you enjoy working with them.  I would suggest you check out the rest of my site and my Facebook page to get a feel for me and the training I offer so you can make the best decision for your dog and ultimately are as excited to work with me as I am to work with you.

What is a Pack Walk?

dog trainer Sarah holding small dog


I like to begin with the end in mind and by offering packages, I know what level of competence my clients are aiming for.  My clients are committed and invested in the process rather than trying to get it done in the least amount of lessons in order to save a buck - they know what they are paying for instead of just having them come back again and again and never finishing - life is too short and people are too busy for that.  I'm sure you would also like to know how long it will take so you can get it scheduled in your calendar and done.  I also believe people are smart and they can do the math - hidden charges and never ending lessons at continuing expense frustrate everybody.

We will be using food, praise and toys to motivate them - after all everybody needs an incentive, a reason to want to work or as I like to say everybody needs to get paid including your dog or there's no incentive to work.  We want your dog to want to work.

I find that temporarily asking your dog to work for each meal gives the greatest enthusiasm for training.  Dogs who get normal in the bowl meals are rarely hungry and motivated enough to work on something new that might be challenging for them.  This does not mean withholding food - it means offering food  as an incentive to learn new behaviors.

There are some dogs who are toy OBSESSED and we can use toys to motivate them but most dogs are not obsessed enough to start with toys alone so I use a combination of food and toys.

All dogs will also be receiving praise verbally and physically (through petting).  For many dogs this becomes their most sought after reward.

Most dogs will be using prong collars (Herm Sprenger, Mueller, Micro-mini prong collars) and Ecollar Technologies e-collars (Micro Educator, Mini Educator or Boss remote collars).  I find that the quality, gentleness, effectiveness and reliability of these collars make them stand out from the pack.

Occasionally I will recommend a different piece of equipment based upon your dogs specific needs.

So please bring: a flat collar with tags, a flat non-extendable leash, your dog, a toy if that's his thing, his daily food, and possibly some yummy treats.  (If you are currently feeding a raw diet please dehydrate it or bring cooked meat to facilitate handling.)  If you are coming for a residency program please also bring his wire or airline kennel/crate.

Please do not bring bedding or fabric crates - we've never had fleas and would hate for your dog to bring home some unwanted guests if someone else brought in some hitchhikers.

Am I the right trainer for you and your family?

Life Appropriate Choices are decisions made by the dog that are socially acceptable.  Choosing to pull on leash, jump on people or bite them are not socially acceptable even though they are "normal dog behaviors" - dogs get surrendered to shelters for far less.  My goal is to keep dogs out of shelters by teaching them what is socially acceptable and desirable to keep them in their current loving homes.  We teach them that behaviors such as being quiet in the house, greeting people politely, walking with us, coming back when called, crating calmly, ignoring distractions and not chasing other animals are desirable.  This helps them to build habits and experiences that allow them to make better choices in the future - in essence they are learning to make choices appropriate to continued Life with humans.

Dog training - helping YOUR dog make

Life Appropriate Choices!

Training can not give you a new dog.  You might think your dog is a brand new dog but it can not replace personality or temperament any more than it can change the breed or the physical attributes of your dog.  What training can do is:

  • It can create a framework of language making it easier for you to communicate with your dog
  • It can teach your dog what you want it to do
  • It can teach you dog what is and is not acceptable behavior
  • It can deepen and enrich your relationship with your dog allowing you to have more fun
  • It can end frustration and stress both for you and for your dog
  • It can calm a hyper dog by teaching it to slow down, think, and relax
  • It can give confidence to a fearful dog so that they can cope
  • It can modify aggression making your dog safer
  • It can foster pride and teamwork

Training will always make any dog a better companion.  And, most importantly, training makes happy, relaxed, enjoyable dogs!

What are "Life Appropriate Choices"?

What training can and can not do?

Where do we train?

Attentive dog sitting

Nope!  Your dog is never to old or too young to train.  Dogs are like people - they start learning the moment that they are born and they don't stop until they die.

​Granted the older and more ingrained the previous behaviors and habits are the more we have to work to unlearn them but just like people, dogs learn new skills throughout their lives.

Also like young children, puppies have shorter attention spans and need a lot more rewards but they have few bad habits to unlearn and pick concepts up incredibly fast.

​So no matter their age, your dog can learn!

Client squatting next to happy sitting dog

Why packages rather than pay as you go lessons?