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Frequently Asked Questions


Yes! But we encourage you to ask us more. The animal training field is unregulated and a simple answer isn’t enough to ensure you are working with a qualified professional.

To better understand the methods that we use...
We use classical and operant conditioning and are always aware of all four quadrants of operant conditioning while training. In behavior, there is never only one quadrant of learning taking place. Clever Critters trainers use methods that promote fear free and force free learning with a focus on choice, cooperation, and positive reinforcement while eliminating the need for aversives (pain, fear, intimidation).


The definition of "punishment" in psychology is the reduction in frequency or intensity of a behavior. "Positive Punishment" is the addition of a stimulus to decrease the frequency of a behavior. "Negative Punishment" is the removal of a stimulus to decrease the frequency of a behavior.

The use of "positive punishment" has the risk of fallout, or unintended side effects, including higher risk for fear, anxiety, aggression, reactivity, learned helplessness, avoidance, and more.
Clever Critters trainers focus on management (prevention) of unwanted behaviors and their triggers while using Positive Reinforcement to teach more appropriate and alternative behaviors. The use of Positive Punishment is inhumane, not backed by science, and risky to the overall well-being of the animal physically, emotionally, and to the human-animal bond. We make all training and behavior modification choices very carefully based on the individual animal and circumstances in each case.


The professionals at Clever Critters use science-backed and up-to-date information as a guide for animal training. The current literature does not find a "dominance-hierarchy" approach to any animal training to be effective or humane. Also, the definition of "dominance" in the animal behavior literature is quite different from how pet professionals (who are not behaviorists) or pet parents might define dominance. We have found that most of what our clients have heard about dominance is misunderstood, steeped in myths and misconceptions. When we are working with an animal who has difficulty navigating their environment or difficulty in social situations with other animals or people, we focus on the individual animal, his behavioral history, his experiences, his environment and what we can observe to determine appropriate treatment. We do not try to fit his behavior into a dominance model.

Other prominent professionals agree that we need alternatives to dominance-based dog and animal training:


Sydney Warner graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia with a BS in Psychology, focused on animal behavior. She has multiple certifications in dog training and canine behavior science, and is always pursuing continuous education. Additionally, she has trained under an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist in canine and feline behavior, and modern training methods.

You can read more about our consultants' qualifications on the Our Trainers page.


Clever Critters does not currently have a facility. We offer all of our services in your home, on-site, or virtually. Examples of on-site work include working with you and your pet while on a walk, at the park, or at the veterinarian's office. Our service area ranges across the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and some surrounding areas. Now with virtual consults, we can provide consults almost anywhere! Contact us for more information, providing a zip code. 

For in-home appointments, please be aware that a mileage fee may apply for some locations based on trainer's proximity.


Clever Critters professionals believe in problem-prevention before problem-solving. We can help you teach puppies and kittens these preventative skills immediately, however, we also know there are many pet parents needing help with problem-solving of behavior concerns in adolescent, adult, and even senior pets. We treat a variety of behavior concerns for dogs, cats and even other pets including aggression, fearfulness, anxiety, inappropriate elimination, hyperactivity and so much more. In addition, we can help you teach manners and life skills, and help you and your pet engage in "for-fun" activities such as agility and nose works. You can read more on the Training page.


Clever Critters trainers use up to date, science-backed, and humane methods. Whether you call it positive reinforcement, force-free, fear free, or choice-based training, we focus on teaching with communication, cooperation, and care for the whole animal - physically and emotionally. Learn more on Training page.


The animal training field is not regulated and anyone, regardless of their education, knowledge, or experience, can advertise themselves as a dog trainer. There is currently great misunderstanding by the general community in what to look for when seeking help or basic teachings with their companion animal. Just like a parent would want to critically assess the daycare and school they send their child to for the best education and learning, so should we use that same critical consumerism in choosing a teacher for our pets (and pet parents!).

It is important to know How to Choose a Dog Trainer to ensure you set your pet up for success and reduce the risks of fallout or behavior concerns later in life.

Thanks to Jean Donaldson we can ask:
-What exactly will happen to my dog when she gets it right?
-What exactly will happen to her when she gets it wrong?
-Are there any less invasive alternatives to what you propose?

If you don’t get clear, concrete answers or you are at all uncomfortable, keep shopping.

AVSAB Position Statements - The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior


Client Cancellations and Rescheduling:

By booking with Clever Critters, LLC, I understand that I, the Client, may cancel or reschedule one or more scheduled appointments with notice to Clever Critters, LLC in person, by telephone, voicemail, or email. To receive a refund for cancellations or avoid late cancellation fees, a minimum of 48 hours' notice is required. I understand that appointments cancelled or rescheduled with less than 48 hours' notice or no notice at all may be considered a "no-show" by myself, the client, and are subject to the full cost of the scheduled appointment. Repeat late schedule changes are subject to discontinuation of services. Exceptions can be made at the trainer's discretion.

Trainer Cancellations and Rescheduling:

I understand that Clever Critters, LLC, trainers will make every effort to give 48 hours' notice to me, in person, by telephone, voicemail, or email if they are unable to keep a scheduled appointment. I will have the option to reschedule this appointment. If another appointment is unavailable, I, the Client, am entitled to a refund for the missed appointment including deposit.


Packaged services are at a discount. If services included in a package are not completed within the allotted time due to cancellations caused by I, the Client, and not rescheduled, I, the Client am responsible for either a) the full cost of any completed appointments or b) the total cost of the package. This is determined by the number of sessions already completed. If services included in a package are not completed due to cancellations caused by the trainers at Clever Critters, LLC and not rescheduled, I, the Client, am entitled to a refund of services not completed at the discount rate reflected in the package price.