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Dog Training Reviews

Teresa and Mike Kostecki of Fort Lee write (March, 2011):

Madeline treated our dog with gentle understanding and care so that he trusted her. Bailey was not a trusting dog and we took (another trainer’s) advice which was making Bailey’s aggression problems worse before we hired Madeline. After paying bad money (for a trainer) that made our dog’s problems worse, Madeline’s rates are very reasonable…she gave us the humane tools we needed to have everyone interact safely with our dog in a reasonable amount of time. Madeline always has explanations about why something will be gentle and appropriate for Bailey and how it will also be effective. She peppers our training with interesting anecdotes of stories about her own dogs, other clients’ dogs, and science studies which explain why she would want to do things a certain way with our dog and what outcomes we can expect. She was only right on the money to the point where we thought she could predict the future for Bailey! Some stories were surprising and very entertaining. Our biggest ‘epiphany’ of training were the laughs we would have during training for a serious problem. Madeline’s honesty and optimism lightened the whole atmosphere up and put us at ease, even when she was being “brutally honest.” The training was customized to our needs and if we felt we needed to be shown an alternative way to do something Madeline always had other suggestions. Madeline is a creative thinker and problem solver, very communicative, explains everything, upbeat and optimistic. Great personality, funny and serious, and you can see she really loves dogs AND people. Bailey loves her and so do we! 10+ out of 10 rating for Madeline!

Robert Andersen of Jersey City writes (July, 2010):

“Madeline, Thank you so much for contacting me. I’ve been very busy in an effort to get all my ducks in order before the puppy’s arrival. I simply cannot thank you enough for helping me to select the puppy. Not only am I much more comfortable and secure with my choice, I learned a ton about dog and puppy behavior in the process. I am looking forward to all the hard work and commitment that will go into raising a wonderful dog. We bring home the puppy (we’ll likely give her a different name) this Friday. I’ve been reading up on Ian Dunbar and getting the necessary supplies. Melissa and I will certainly be in touch about training…We’d love to keep up on not only training, but also socialization, in a safe and puppy-filled environment. Thank you again and talk to you soon, Robert and Melissa”

Carina G., Branchburg, NJ, writes (July, 2010):

quoted: Hiya Madeline! Five years ago you trekked all the way to our home in Hamilton, NJ to train our standard poodle, Zen. To this day Zen remains the most obedient and polite dog any of our friends and family have ever met. In fact, two people that I know that are AFRAID of dogs, are not only comfortable around Zen, but they will even dog-sit him for us. So, for what its worth, thanks again for all of your amazing teaching. Anyway, the reason why I contact you is because we have a second dog…”

Karen Riesenberg, Parkland, FL, wrote (March, 2010), re: Rocky, her recently rescued Yorkshire terrier:

Rocky is doing fine. He is an adorable, loving dog, and has calmed down a lot since you saw him. (Trainer’s note: I met with Karen and Rocky for one almost-three-hour training session). I did put him on medication (Trainer’s note: Karen visited her veterinarian as I suggested, who put Rocky on the medication I suggested) and worked with him on getting used to me leaving him. I’ve chosen not to crate him or gate him in since he doesn’t seem to be interested in destroying anything anymore. He only liked the window treatments, and now I just raise them so he can’t get to them. He does respond to the treats and now gives me his paw, his “other paw” and does do “down” the way you taught him. (Trainer’s note: The rescue organizaation for which I volunteer and from which Rocky was adopted told me, before I met with Karen, that Karen had called them after adopting Rocky, and that it was likely that Rocky would be returned because of his separation distress issues. They referred Karen to me, and I feel very gratified that my work with Karen and Rocky has resulted in Rocky’s staying in his Forever Home. He has been there almost three months now!)

Corinne and Donald DeWitt of Lake Worth, Florida, originally from Canada (February, 2010):

Madeline is a delightful person and trainer. Weeks after training ended with Shadow, she called to find out how he was doing as a courtesy call. The training with Madeline was nothing but extremely pleasant and informative. She had remarkably knowledgeable responses to all our questions, and all her responses made sense the way that she explained them – and she explained ALL her responses.

She asked us many times throughout the three hours she spent with us whether we wanted her to continue with an explanation, or whether the information she had already given us was enough. She expressed concern that we might be overwhelmed with too much information. The fact that she monitored our attentiveness, and the politeness she displayed was adept, courteous and very professional. She was concerned that we were taking accurate notes, that we understood everything, and that we weren�t overwhelmed with information, a very good manager of our time and our understanding (Madeline comments: both Corinne and Don are retired teachers and are speaking �teacher-ese� in their comments about �classroom� management, which are well understood and appreciated by me as I am also a certified public school teacher who taught several grades!)

Much to our delight, Shadow started improving IMMEDIATELY after we met with Madeline. As soon as we started implementing her suggestions, which was that evening after she left, we saw improvement. This was ASTOUNDING to us! We were told at the outset of training, by Madeline actually, that it could take days or weeks to see significant improvements in dogs� behavior. We are just elated with the results of one three-hour session with her.

Shadow has just been getting better and better and is significantly improved (Madeline interjects: the owners are referring to severe separation anxiety issues compounded by destructiveness in the home while the owners were out, a common problem I encounter frequently, epsecially with rescue dogs and in certain breeds – Shadow is a border collie).

She [Madeline] was not against medication, which some trainers we contacted were, and that was one of the reasons we hired her, but she also made it clear that the medication alone would not resolve Shadow of his issues and that we would need to continue the training she showed us daily and consistently. Our veterinarian supported this and told us that Madeline�s suggestions were very informed. Our vet, and Madeline, told us that it could take weeks, and up to two months, for the medication to start to have an effect, or to have the full effect. Madeline was right on the money. At six weeks after our meeting with her, we can see even more significant improvements with the medication taking effect. We are continuing the training along with the medication, as instructed by Madeline. We realize we will have to use the instruction in some form for Shadow�s whole life (maintenance) even if we are able to wean him off the medication at some point.

Madeline�s view is that if medication can help the dog and the owner to have a better life, and it does no harm to the dog, then why not use it. She sounded very sensible when we first contacted her, just like her Website said. She showed us a study that explained that using medication can hava a profound effect on the owners, causing them to relax, which causes the dog to relax and respond better to trainng. This was the ephiphany in our training. She explained to us and showed us that the medication can have a huge psychological impact for the owners which can help the dog.

Madeline�s Website is very representative of who she is and what her methods are. Some Websites are sensationalism and make all kinds of promises. Madeline is just as she presents on her Website � realistic, sensible, positive, polite and intelligent.

We only have one criticism. We don�t think that Madeline�s sense of humor is well represented on her Website. She has a wonderful, unexpected sense of humor, well timed, and tasteful. Her Website doesn�t do this aspect of her pleasantness justice. Although she is serious about what she does, she also peppers the training with her wonderful humor and makes the training/learning fun for everyone, the dog and the owners. (Madeline comments: I am working on this! Any suggestions, please let me know!)

Val Mitchell of Hoboken writes (November, 2009):

My dog was a one year old rescue dog, so I was not sure about his history. As for his behavior, he was difficult on the leash, was barking a lot, and very excitable. It also seemed as though he was aggressive towards other dogs because he barked so much when they approached. Then I then had an incident with a next door neighbor where there was…a bite. So I felt it was necessary to see a trainer. Because of the bite incident, she felt that she was taking more of a risk and that it should cost more money. However, after I described the incident, and she met with the dog, she agreed with me that my neighbor had put undue stress upon the dog, and she gave me the normal price. Very fair.

So many people kept offering me advice when they would see me struggle with the dog, and most of the advice I received stressed the idea of �dominating� the dog. Madeline focuses on positive reinforcement (particularly with treats) rather than dominating through aggressive behavior. She stresses the idea that you must respect the dog. I realized from the get-go that it would be an equal partnership with the dog, and that it would be a humane way of training him. She often points out when I am �thinking like a dog trainer�. For example, when I mention a moment where I caught bad behavior and distracted the dog. It is gratifying to me to realize that my behavior is changing as well as the dog�s. The mass media with people such as �The Dog Whisperer� has sold us on the idea that a dog should be turned around in a half-hour show, and I was probably more impatient than I should be. After I finish the last lesson with Madeline, I would like to see how things go after I continue working with her training methods, and if I can afford it, I would like to go back for a �tune-up� to see how I am doing.

The dog is definitely barking less. He also is more attentive to me during walks. Definitely less nervous. There have been moments where I was unsure of the logic behind her advice, but after a few days of it percolating in my head I found that she was right on target. She is very professional. Always on time. At first I hated the “report cards” (Madeline’s note: I give each client an informal “report card” every week to let them know how they’re doing and what they need to work on), “but then I started to look forward to them when I realized that she was holding me accountable. However, the most impressive thing was the detailed follow-up via email. Most professionals see themselves as being �on the clock� � and then you are �on your own�. But any question or concern was followed up by a very thorough email. In fact, she insists on getting a progress report. Again, I thought she was being too strict at the beginning, but then when I realized that her response was thoughtful and well written � I realized that she took me and my dog�s welfare very seriously. An epiphany for me was when I stopped feeling that I had to be �Cesar Millan� and could just be me.

He can approach other dogs without barking or looking aggressive. As I live in Hoboken where you cross a dog every five minutes this is huge! What is really amazing is not having him bark at other dogs. Every time we approach another dog, it is a pleasure — no more barking or aggressive manners. He seems to really look forward to greeting them.”

Madeline�s techniques are not suited towards people who expect minimal effort and instant gratification. The owner has to understand that when Madeline leaves they are expected to continue training � not all people have this kind of discipline. I think you need at least 3-5 sessions to start to understand your dog, but you also need an owner with the appropriate temperament. Probably by lesson 3 (after three weeks) I noticed a difference. On a scale of 1 � 10, 10 being the best, I would rate Madeline�s services a 10!”

Danielle Cuiule of Weehawken writes (June, 2009):

“Our dog Lola is extremely fear aggressive towards strangers, inside and outside our home. We used one other trainer, (name deleted), who was the extreme opposite of Madeline. (The other trainer’s) methods were harsh and involved choke collars and dominance. We only went to (other trainer) for one session and it cost $100. We did not learn anything from this trainer except that we needed to find a positive reinforcement trainer. Madeline�s techniques are all very positive. Madeline was very informative, intelligent, friendly, and polite. Madeline taught us how to use games to distract Lola from immediately reacting in an aggressive way. We use Madeline�s methods daily – while on our daily walks, in our backyard, in the car, etc. We feel many skills we learned from Madeline made a positive difference. The most effective and important information Madeline taught us was the methods of desensitization and using distracting games in order to control Lola�s aggression. We would not omit anything Madeline taught us. Madeline was extremely knowledgeable in all methods of dog training (not only her own). She made sure to explain all the techniques and methods she taught us so we fully understood them. We realized that desensitization and counter conditioning are the most logical and effective methods you can teach a dog (Trainer’s note: I did try to use a shaping method with these customers, but they found better results with desensitization and counter conditioning and preferred that method). If we know of anyone looking for a dog trainer, we would absolutely refer Madeline. We understand when Lola is anxious and we can distract her so she does not reach the point of aggression. We also learned to talk to her in a more soft spoken manner. There has to be a full commitment and many months of reinforcing the positive training methods in order to see a difference. We have made full effort while on walks with Lola. We feel there are many more things we can be doing to better Lola. For example, having strangers visit the house and introducing Lola to the clicker. We would rate Madeline�s services a 10! Madeline is an extremely informative trainer and takes the time to explain her methods and techniques so you can fully understand them. We feel with full commitment and determination her methods will help improve Lola�s fear aggression.”

Review written by Carl Offit, Bridgewater, N.J. (Std. poodle, Reilly, 14 months of age):

We chose Madeline because our she made sense when we called her on the phone. She said that none of our problems sounded too bad, whereas other trainers said they were very bad and we needed their help immediately. Madeline showed us how to use our body and our voice, and psychology, to get our dog to listen to us.

Madeline was very professional, very cautious, and great with our daughter (10 years of age), extrememly knowledgeable, and always explained why our dog responded the way she did or why she was doing something. We liked her explanations and patience, and she provided training that made sense to us so that we could remember why we were applying it.

Madeline was a little “booked” and we would have liked more open times, but we understand her week-ends are her busiest time.

Madeline is a professional, and our dog is behaving so much better. Our vet should be able to tell his clients about her services to help his clients. Classes didn’t offer the one-on-one we and our dog needed to resolve our problems. We will continue [with the training] and also decided to have Madeline back for more advanced lessons.

Madeline was friendly, demonstrated everything, and then had us do it so we could train our dog when she left. She had a great sense of humor and our dog loved her.

Review written by Carol Prisant, N.Y.C., 2009:

“Madeline obviously loves dogs and would be gentle and humane with all of them. She is serious about her profession, well-read and seemed deeply interested and knowledgeable about my dog�s problem.” Carol wrote to me: “You are probably the best and most professional trainer I�ve ever spoken with.” Carol further wrote: “It was nice to know that he�s (Ajax) smarter than I thought! It takes months. I know that from other dogs I�ve trained, and from the time I�ve put into Ajax. You are a 10 among trainers…”

Madeline has done work for North Star in the training of service dogs that they provide.

Patty Dobbs Gross, the Founder of North Star, wrote the following to Madeline in February 2007:

“Wow…you get a gold star for the most thoughtful and insightful post ever written to me about a training session…your work with Kenya is awesome and it is apparent that your knowledge of both dogs as well as children on the spectrum are working in your favor…I definitely appreciate your efforts, and in fact wonder if you might want to write a bit about this placement for my next book…Let me know what you think…just a few pages would be great…we can perhaps even use your notes, as they are so straightforward and clear…keep them coming!’

Kind regards,

Lisa and Michael M. of NYC write:

“The reason we contacted Madeline was because our dog Monty started marking the furniture in our apartment a few months after we brought another dog into our apartment last year. Monty was neutered and we thought that neutered dogs don’t mark. Monty was lifting his leg in our apartment all day long, even after walks. Madeline explained to us why the marking could happen even with a neutered dog and even gave us some medical reasons why it could happen…and gave us ways to make it easier to keep an eye an Monty and behavior exercises to do to stop the marking behavior. It took three visits with Madeline and now Monty has not marked in our apt. in over a month…finally we can get the new furniture we want without having to worry about it being ruined. She also showed us that Noodle, our other dog, has some separation problems. This is not even what we hired her for, but she identified Noodle’s separation problems during part of the first lesson for Monty based on what we told her during her first interview with us…we thought this behavior was normal and that all dogs did this [Madeline interjects: Lisa and Michael are referring to what Noodle was doing that indicated separation distress to me]. We tried the things she told us to do and read the book she suggested…after about a week Noodle’s separation problems were gone! We definitely think we got value. To be honest, at first we thought that prices for training in the city were expensive but…Madeline is worth every dollar and we told her she should probably charge more than she does! Knowledgeable, professional, sensitive trainer, funny in an offbeat way and fun to work with, always on time. Our dogs just love her.”

Lisa and Michael M., NYC, February 2007

Terri Jones writes:

Terri Jones writes: “The dogs are doing great!� …we don’t have them on leash very often any more…and they are getting along beautifully.� One of the best things that you taught me was feeding them to distract them.� We went to racing last weekend and Snoopy was so much better behaved!� I was able to distract him from the bunny and hisbehavior has greatly improved!� By next weekend, he should have his championship, too.� He only needs 1 1/2 more points to have his Gazehound Racing Championship.� He is getting along with other dogs and not barking at them as much.� …he has never been happier.� Me too. Thank you.”

Terri Jones (Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2004)

Carina G. of Hamilton, NJ writes:

No question was ever too small for Madeline. I actually contacted seven trainers in total that I was considering, and there are many reasons Madeline stood above the rest. …her methodology was explained. She stressed humane tactics, and more importantly, she had VARIED tactics…and when something didn’t work, she showed she would have an arsenal of alternatives at her disposal. She would assess any situation with a detail I’ve never seen anyone use with an animal before, and would always project how this particular animal might learn best, or what approach would work best with an animal of that temperament. I would not hesitate to refer Madeline to others, and already have. You can tell by looking into her eyes that Madeline loves not only what she does, but absolutely loves the dogs involved as well. (To contact Carina for a reference, please call me for her contact information.)

Cindy Newman of Westfield writes:

“The reason I contacted Madeline was that Mason (my boxer) was out of control and would not listen. Madeline got Mason under control. Madeline was courteous and kind in a fun way, and very knowledgeable. She catered her training to what we needed/wanted. Her extensive education and experience in this area was very beneficial. Promptness? You could set your watch by her.” (To contact Cindy for a reference, please call me for her information on how to contact her.)

Quinn G. of northern NJ writes:

“I had a puppy and wanted to get her training going in the right direction. This is the first dog I have owned. She was able to help me train the dog to eliminate in the proper place. She helped me teach the dog basic commands (sit, down, e.g.). She also worked with me on recall (come when called). I chose Madeline of Innovative Reality Dog Training from other trainers contacted because when I spoke with her, she seemed to be more personable than the other trainers with which I had spoken. Madeline was always on time and conducted herself in a consistently professional manner. She always had a prompt and accurate response to questions asked. My dog was nervous about going outside, and Madeline walked her with me to show me how I could make going outside a better experience for her. Everything was explained thoroughly, and the training recaps emphasized all of the important points of the sessions. I thought the training was thorough and all of the training sessions were enjoyable.”

Vlada S. of NJ writes:

“Lola (boxer) is more comfortable with authority and responds to commands…great class, great basic training!” (Vlada and Lola took a group class in Basic Skills)

Gloria M. of NJ writes:

The thing I enjoyed most about the classes was “working with Shamus (black Lab) and watching his enthusiasm for training grow. This was an enjoyable session. Madeline ran a well organized session, moving swiftly through all commands. I especially enjoyed the ‘Bonus Bones.’ It’s a nice touch on setting your dog up for success!! There was plenty of room to work on moving exercises with comfortable distance between the dogs. We’re looking forward to training with you in the near future.” (Gloria and Shamus took a group class in Basic Skills)