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Meet Your Dog Trainer


Meet Your Dog Trainer

About me, Madeline Aronson Friedman, insured NY Dog Trainer, NJ Dog Trainer and Dog Behavior expert: Madeline has lived with dogs since she was a toddler over four decades ago, and raised and trained dogs for all her adult years. She is a state certified educator and instructor, permanently certified by the state of New Jersey (something that’s hard to come by in dog trainers, who have no STATE certifications and aren’t required to have any as the field is largely unregulated). Madeline has gone the extra mile in finely honing her education and teaching skills and passing this professionalism on to her clients. She was one of the first dozen members since its start in October 2009 of Animal Behavior Associates’ ‘Behavior Education Network’ (BEN) where she frequently accessed continuing education about canines, and felines as well since many of her clients’ k9 companions live with cats. More recently, in July, 2010, she took a live webinar called: ‘Making Sense of Risk Factors for Dog Aggression.’ She is well versed in canine training and behavior and is an observant, intuitive, talented and true professional teacher. She owned and operated her own school from 1998 – 2001 where she was state certified head instructor to children and adults from six years old to eighty-plus and managed seven employees; and, later taught at the college level to undergraduates. Now her mission is to instruct, train and educate people about and with their dogs.

About My Certification – How to Hire a Trainer

This is the part where I know I’m supposed to dazzle you with a list of my celebrity clients, the few thousand dogs I’ve trained, my shelter volunteer and rescue work, my graduate degree, my animal science and psychology studies, as well as all the titles my dogs have earned, which don’t necessarily translate in to a well-behaved dog out of the ring and in the home. We can discuss all that p.r. stuff over a Starbuck’s after the lesson.

Did you know that many of the dogs you see winning conformation or obedience titles may not spend most of their time in a home? What good is a dog who can ‘heel’ on leash going to do for your counter-surfing dog, or the dog that lunges and growls at other dogs, or people? While you might be able to get your dog to ‘heel’ even in those situations, your dog will always be tense unless you have addressed what made the dog FEEL bad about the things that caused the behavior in the first place. That’s where someone like me, who likes to get in to the dog’s brain and has studied dog behavior in addition to training for almost a decade, comes in. My best clients are the ones who have the home-owned companion dogs who eat, walk, sleep and LIVE with the owners who seek to UNDERSTAND their dogs, not just make the dog bend to their will or wishes. I want your dog to COOPERATE with you because your dog TRUSTS that you UNDERSTAND and can COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY with him, or her. Don’t listen to trainers who say your dog needs to ‘respect’ you and that you need to be the ‘dominant leader.’ That’s just shorthand for a trainer who will defend the use of coercive, non-positive methods with your dog, and for someone who really doesn’t understand how dogs behave with humans. Your dog, first and foremost, needs to TRUST you. I can teach you how to make that happen. If you’ve lost your dog’s trust, I can work with you so that you can get it back (but, please call me quickly and DON’T WAIT if you have done anything which has caused your dog to lose trust in you!). See my FAQs on this Web site for more information about leadership, dog myths debunked, and more.


Right now, you want to know if I have the chops to train your dog. I certainly do, and while most of the ‘verbal’ is covered here, what I do is largely visual, and you’re welcome to meet me and see how my own dogs are trained, as well as watch me train them (I’m always training them new skills and tricks), before you hire me. In fact, you can call out a new trick and watch me start to teach it to my dogs so you can see how I approach a task with them that’s new to them. You can also Facebook ‘friend’ me at NY, NJ and Florida Metro Areas Dog Training. I post things about dogs, including my own, and will answer questions posted to my Page. What better way to get to know me and my views about dogs? What more could you ask than a trainer who’s a transparent, open book about her methods with her own dogs?

You can also get a good sense of who any trainer is by speaking with them during a 15-minute free intake call, which any trainer should be pleased to offer. Does the trainer sound educated and articulate? Do they ask the ‘right’ questions about your dog and your situation? Can they take charge of the conversation and guide you to what you should be paying attention to about your dog using their communication skills, or do they allow you to waste precious time? Do they try to sell you on useless services just to “make the sale?” Can they ‘connect the dots’ well regarding your situation? Are they honest about what you can expect and secure about what they can do? Do they share circumstances under which they might lower (or have to raise) their fees when they meet you? Do they have a sense of humor which will make them fun to work with? Do you feel comfortable making sensitive disclosures and being honest with the trainer about your dog, such as a biting history or a bad experience? If you don’t, hire another trainer with whom you do feel comfortable being honest! While no trainer should be expected to ‘give away the store’ during an intake conversation, you should be able to get a sense of that trainer’s knowledge, professionalism and personality, and you have certainly have a right to feel comfortable with your trainer.

One more thing: IF YOU’RE ONLY SHOPPING PRICE, DON’T CALL ME – AT LEAST NOT FIRST! Talk to everyone else first, and then call me. This is a really good way to tell the difference between novice trainers and experienced, more expert trainers! FYI, there is really *no way* any trainer can give you a wholly accurate fee or assessment without having met your dog. An expert trainer can give you a guideline only. Novices may work for a set fee to which they may stick. Many trainers will ‘close the deal’ on the telephone, using fear and urgency tactics, showing up at your door and making a habit of using these fear tactics to increase their fees. I have actually LOWERED my fees for some clients, because when I arrived I found that the problem was less severe than the client reported over the phone. I can give you references to people for whom I did so. I admit, too, that in a couple of instances I raised my fee when I met the dog, because the client’s reporting of what the dog was doing was based on a lack of their knowledge of dog behavior and was more severe than they thought. In each case, I was happy to explain what I was seeing and why I thought so within minutes of meeting the dog, and let the client know what the adjusted costs would be. In all cases, the clients agreed with my assessments once I explained them, got to decide whether they wanted to continue with the lesson, agreed to and were happy with fee adjustments. I am fair. I am honest. I AM a professional. I do this because I love what I do and I love dogs, and I also love working with people.

When you do hire me, I’m on your time and am a guest in your home as well as a trainer. I am careful of your surroundings. You have the right to terminate services with me any time you want to, including while I’m in your home. You call the shots. You determine the length of the lesson, and how many lessons you want. I come to you for lessons. Your dog benefits, as do you, because your dog learns to practice good behavior in your environs – your neighborhood, your home, your yard, with your neighbors. Is there a particular neighbor, or dog, or event in your home that’s triggering your dog’s undesired behavior? I can’t really see what your dog does in those situations if you have to shlep to me at a big, fancy, over-priced dog training facility with your dog panting and becoming sick or nervous in the car (yes, I can address those issues, too!) and dirtying your windows while you drive – but I will get to see the behavior where it’s occurring, and see how it’s occurring and what’s allowing it to occur, when I come to you. I make what I do really “Easy” button for you as much as is possible.
Some things to consider: My pricing remains competitive because my state certification is permanent, while other non-state dog trainer certifications such as CPDTs are not permanent and have to be renewed annually for a fee. This means that some certified dog trainers’ pricing may not be as competitive as mine, because of their annual certification renewal costs. I don’t have any of those issues. My certification is permanent because it’s a truly professional certification requiring a college degree which required more rigorous educational and practical requirements. What evidence do you have that the certified dog trainer you hire even has the requisite skills in order to formulate, write and implement a lesson plan and curriculum for training your specific dog – and for you, as a human? The ability to do so is not a skill considered to be self-taught! There is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to writing a plan for you and your dog – I write a well-organized, truly professional and customized plan for every client of mine, because each situation is unique in many ways. That means – no impersonal handouts that ‘everyone else’ gets. If you want to take a look at exactly how much is demanded of state certified and licensed teachers in the state of New jersey, take a look at this Web site link: http://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap9.pdf

In addition, in order to obtain my certification, I had to have my fingerprints taken and checked and had to be clear of any kind of CRIMINAL RECORD. Do you think you know who you are inviting into your home when you hire a different type of ‘certified’ trainer…? The truth is: you really don’t.

Publications: Some of the publications for which I have written articles and/or been quoted are APDT, which has published many of my articles regarding dog behavior and dog training in their peer publication, Chronicle of the Dog; Dog Fancy; the Tonawonda News; the Popular Dog Series Housetraining issue; Chronicle of the Dog; Boston NOW; and other well known publications.




More Thoughts on the CPDT and Other Dog Trainer Certifications (Optional Reading)

Remember, a trainer is primarily a teacher; or, should be, since they are teaching you a skill – to train your dog – and as well teaching your dog who is developmentally similar to a toddler of two or three!

Another question you may want to ask yourself is whether the certifying body which certified your trainer has any ‘teeth’ when it comes to problems or unprofessional behavior on the part of your certified dog trainer should such arise. Based on my own experience, I have no evidence that the certification council for the CDPT truly upholds their Code of Ethics for any dog trainers certified through their organization. To me, that’s scary!! Unfortunately, I have seen, and been the object of, appalling behavior on the part of certified dog trainers toward humans which would clearly violate the Code of Ethics for any certifying body, replete with put-downs of their clients! I felt compelled, in fact obligated, to report very unprofessional behavior by one CPDT-certified trainer who sought to discriminate and exclude a trainer with a mild processing disability from her seminar, which I sent in writing to their certification council and Board, which sent me a letter back informing me that they would do nothing to even look in to the situation! I cited the Code of Ethics clause clearly applying to the certified trainer’s violation, which clause was posted on the CPDT Web site at the time. As far as I know, they never attempted to speak to the trainer in question about the serious violation, which violation was put in writing by the discriminating trainer!


In addition, some of the requirements can be faked. That is right, FAKED! I have been asked to write, rather recently at the time of this writing, trainer recommendations for other trainers seeking a CPDT. The recommendation required that I had actually observed that trainer training a dog. In all cases when asked for the recommendation, I NEVER saw the trainer actually train a dog, but wrote the recommendation based on what they told me they wanted me to say and what was needed for their letter of recommendation. I did so after expressing my concerns directly to the trainer that I had not ever observed them training a dog. In one instance, the trainer accompanied me to a training session of mine and observed me teaching-training the dog and the humans for over an hour, and raved to me about my skills afterwards…but, I never got to see her train a dog and a human which was supposed to be “the deal” between us!

The trainer made excuses, saying they needed the time at the moment to submit recommendations and other items quickly to the certification board to look over and approve so that they would be able to take the certification exam coming up. The CPDT exam is given only several times a year, and if one is missed, a trainer might need to wait months to take the next one given, and then wait almost a couple of months afterwards to find out whether or not they passed the exam. If they find out they didn’t pass, then a lot of time will have passed until they can take the next exam. Because this sounded reasonable to me, and I (wrongly, as it turns out) trusted that person, I agreed.

I wrote these recommendations based on promises from the trainer that I would get to see them work with dogs, which never did take place as they didn’t pursue this (even though I asked) after I sent the recommendation they asked me to write for them out to the CPDT certifying council. Given that the promises that I would get to see them train a dog were made by ‘friends’, I did not see how I could reasonably deny a recommendation to a trainer-friend without being concerned that I would lose the friendship and networking opportunities associated with that particular trainer if I were to say ‘no’ (this happens to be a very small, competitive, and often backbiting field I’ve chosen). After all, they were promising that they would fulfill the terms of the recommendation I was writing for them soon enough; so, I wrote the recommendation. I regret that I did so, and will never do so again. The trainer ‘friend’ dropped me shortly after I sent her the recommendation.

As well, a trainer ‘friend’ admitted to me that she faked the required veterinarian recommendation for attaining her CPDT. She told me that she did not have a relationship with any vet where she could ask for a letter of recommendation, and indicated that she did not feel she had the ability (nor had she put in the time) to form this type of working relationship with such a professional. So, she asked around (and asked me if I knew a vet who could help her out as well, but I declined to “share” my vet) until she found a remote relative who knew a veterinarian somewhat locally who agreed to write the recommendation for her as a favor. She never met the veterinarian, and the veterinarian had no idea about her skills, methods or her knowledge, which he was supposed to know about in writing the recommendation. But, she still got her CPDT certification!! To be fair about the vet relationship requirement, most vets are super busy, and trainers often don’t have direct access to vets, only to staff who control access and the information they pass on to a vet. Most vet office staff are overwhelmed by many local trainers’ requests for referrals and requests that the vet be informed about them, as well as overwhelmed by their challenging office responsibilities. With staff this busy, it is quite difficult to get them to pay attention to a trainer’s needs, to remember to refer many different trainers, and to make informed decisions about any trainer’s methods and skills, since they probably see very few trainers actually train a dog. As well, staff may simply like one trainer more than another, and which trainer they recommend may have little or nothing to do with the trainer’s actual teaching skills. So, trainers, then, feel the need to fake the vet letter of recommendation, as my ex-friend did, in order to obtain certification. While I don’t think doing so is right, and I wouldn’t do it, I can see why some trainers feel they need to fake the recommendation. it’s very difficult to build a rapport with a vet’s office. Many trainers are ‘animal’ people because they’re shy with humans and don’t have great “human” skills, and developing such a relationship can be difficult, if not impossible, for some trainers. This explanation doesn’t excuse faking a vet referral – but it explains it. I don’t know what can be done to resolve these problems, short of making the public and vet office staff aware of what to look for in, and a little bit more sensitive to, trainers; but I know that these things ARE problems for dog trainers seeking to obtain at least a simple dog trainer certification of any sort. Don’t get me wrong – I think the least, the minimum, a dog trainer can do who has not earned a state certification as an instructor is to obtain a CPDT or other non-professional certification. But, mind you – although many CPDTs erroneously like to call their certification “professional,” it is NOT a professional certification.

With a state-issued teaching certification, the requirements for being a dog trainer are ‘built-in,’ with one exception – a state certified teacher must obtain hands-on experience with dogs applying the learning theory education they obtained. Since the state-certified teacher already has a huge amount of hands-on experience with humans, making the transition to dog teacher-trainer is really seamless – and the human clients get the benefit of someone who is very experienced working with the human part of the equation, including children of all ages in an age-appropriate manner! The human element is built-in with me, as it is not with many other “certified” trainers.

So, ask yourself which certifications have meaning to you when seeking a ‘certified’ trainer and weighing that trainer against a state certified professional teacher. I hope I have been able to educate you a bit on the difference between certified trainers and professional teachers! The choice is yours. In any event, educate yourself and ask questions of the trainers you seek to hire. Don’t be afraid to ask about their eduation! Are they articulate and communicative? Do they ask intelligent and relevant questions during your phone conversation? Do they sound not only articulate, but ‘user-friendly?’ Do they have a process by which they work, and a Training Agreement; or, do they just show up at your door? Are they insured? These things protect the trainer, and they protect you, too! Make sense of that information you get, sleep on it, and really think about and weigh it before you decide who you’re going to hire to enter your home and train your dog! Don’t just shop price – your dog’s well-being is at stake!

Madeline is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and is listed as on the American Kennel Club Web site at www.AKC.org

Madeline responds to questions from dog owners as a volunteer (since 2006) on the www.AllExperts.com Web site in the categories of dog training and dog behavior once they have read her bio listed there.

Madeline has almost a decade of extensive experience working in classroom, shelter and real-life family situations with dogs behaving fearfully, or behaving aggressively, with both other dogs and humans utilizing scientifically sanctioned techniques such as desensitization and counter conditioning techniques, shaping, meta-communication, and other methods including operant conditioning Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian methods as her ever-present foundations and guides. It is said that we Trainers are always perched on Skinner’s shoulder!

Other Animal Experience: A few years ago, Madeline worked with swine on a farm two days a week for for five months as part of her formal animal-related, hands-on education. She also took riding lessons in south Jersey and in Florida and is used to working with horses in hand.

Madeline’s Dogs: Madeline is guardian to two companion dogs, a schnoodle (the second she and her husband have owned) and a Welsh terrier. Both dogs have earned their Canine Good Citizen certificates from the AKC, independently evaluated by another evaluator, and have worked quite well towards competition obedience titles. Our schnoodle passed a test before he was two years of age that enabled him to become a Volunteer Pet Therapy dog. He has volunteered a portion of his time sensitively visiting at the bedsides and homes of chronically and terminally ill patients and also visiting assisted living homes locally in New Jersey and in Florida, doing tricks to the applause of the delighted and generous residents.

Madeline grew up with mostly wire fox terriers, an often challenging breed she lived with until 2006, this most recent companion a two-plus year survivor of T-cell lymphoma until he succumbed to the disease in August of 2006 at age 12. Madeline extends her heartfelt thanks to Garden State Veterinary Hospital for prolonging this dog’s life, and sustaining his good QUALITY of life, for over two years. He is greatly missed, and Madeline dedicates her commitment to her training in part to this dog, Buster, who was a challenging mill-raised dog “rescued” from a pet store at almost four months of age, and who became a wonderful companion, teacher, and eager learner. Madeline’s dogs are always continuing their education and learning through classical and operant conditioning techniques, praise, lure and reward, shaping, clicker training, and other positive, motivational techniques.

Madeline has volunteered over 250 hours to various animal shelters, giving of her time whenever possible with both shelter dogs, cats and rescued birds at Raptor Trust. Her best assets are her strong knowledge base of dog behavior and training combined with her keen intuition and timing; her curiosity and desire to continue learning about cutting edge, positive techniques; her deep love and respect for all animals, including the human ones; her education; her excellent communication and writing skills on the subjects of dog training and dog behavior; her multi-species experience; and, her ability to patiently and enthusiastically articulate thoughts and ideas to dog owners and dog related groups, and communicate with dogs themselves. It won’t be overtly mentioned here that dogs are pretty much her passion!

Education and Experience: Madeline holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration and is a published and award winning illustrator; a N.J. K – 12 Permanent State Teaching Certification; a Master’s Degree in Painting; pursued a psychology degree; pursued an Animal Science degree; took a short course in Dog Grooming.

Teaching: Madeline has been a professional teacher for 17 years and has spent eight of those years, since 2002, teaching people to train their dogs. She taught undergraduates painting and drawing at St. Elizabeth College; taught primary grades in the public school system; taught Adult Education for six years in Metuchen, NJ; and is the former owner of an art school and retail store in central NJ where she taught children and adults the pleasures of fine art, ceramics and jewelry making, hosted ceramic painting parties and managed seven employees at a time. Her pursuit of art and her experience as an illustrator for 20 years has finely trained her eye to notice subtle nuances in dog behavior and dog body language that others often miss, and as well in human behavior. Her formal study of music (voice, violin, and drums) and acting in her ‘teens and 20s (Madeline appeared in two M-TV videos and on stage, and was a union member until her mid-20s) also serves her well in both the visual and aural (hearing) departments, making her very sensitive to sounds and other subtle details which affect dogs as well as informing how she and others move and behave around animals.

Personal Information: Madeline comes from a theatrical family, her mother having been one of the famous and beautiful Feder Sisters (read about Madeline’s mom, Sylvia Feder, at http://www.klezmershack.com/archives/008151.html), along with Madeline’s aunt, Mimi Sloan (to hear my Aunt Mimi’s beatiful voice, go to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mimisloan), both having recorded on the United Artists label and heard on many recordings. The Feder Sisters appeared on film and t.v., including the Victor Borge Show, and they hosted their own radio show, the Maxwell House Coffee Hour. They appeared in such movies as Catskill Honeymoon (go to youtube.com and type in Catskill Honeymoon – my mom and aunt are the lovely young women on the left). To hear the beautiful voices of The Feder Sisters in the song Yass, cut and paste this link in to your browser, and be sure to wait until the song ‘takes off’ at about 2:40 minutes: http://www.rhapsody.com/player?type=track&id=tra.12066576&remote=false&page=&pag eregion=&guid=&from=&hasrhapx=false&__pcode=

My mother’s voice leads the song and is slightly lower in timber and deeper in this recording (although she was a coloratura soprano) than my aunt’s, who has a slightly higher timbered and ‘bright’ voice. They blend beautifully and sound similar to each other. I was so fortunte to have grown up constantly surrounded with these beautiful voices and this kind of talent, even on car rides.

Both my mom and my aunt worked with theatrical and recording greats such as Molly Picon, Ben Bonus (who directed me as a young girl in my first play, The Blacksmith’s Daughters), Mina Bern-Bonus, Seymour Rechtzeit, Abe Ellstein, Leo Fuchs, Zalmen Mlotek, and many others. Bruce Adler was a beloved friend of my mother’s and my aunt’s. He is also greatly missed.

What’s lesser known but still very important about my mom and aunt is that they were avid dog lovers and dog guardians themselves, and introduced me as a baby to my first dogs, creating the beginnings for me of a lifelong love of this amazing species. I recently found my mother’s loving diary entries about her first dog from the time when she was a young girl in the ’40s. I feel fortunate to have gotten those genes, as well as some of the musical and dramatic ones. I guess we can all be called Birds of a Feder! This proud daughter and niece of these two accomplished, talented and oh-so-missed women also will paint and draw commissioned dog and cat portraits when a customer twists her drawing arm to do so. The artistic talent was also inherited, and encouraged, by Mom.

Madeline has worked with breeds of all types and ages, from small Chihuahuas to large Mastiffs and Rottweilers in the NYC and NJ metropolitan areas, and started training dogs and humans in 2008 in Palm Beach County, Florida as well.

Madeline studied counseling psychology at the college level, and knows what every Trainer worth their salt knows: that dog training and the study of psychology are highly complementary to one another. In 2002 and 2003, she instructed chronically mentally ill patients in art therapy at a partial care facility in New Jersey. She is grateful for everything those wonderful patients taught her, and as well for the lottery numbers they contributed one day that she still plays, although they haven’t been the winning numbers yet. Madeline earned a red belt (two away from black belt) in Tae Kwon Do that she earned over two years’ training with Grandmaster Tiger Chong, a former Olympic martial arts coach for the Korean team (and hopes to never need to use any of what she learned!). She is also bilingual and speaks Spanish, but is rusty and could use more practice – so, if you speak Spanish, feel free to speak to me in Spanish (despaciomente, por favor!)