better pets, better parents
We help pets and people enjoy life together by reducing stress, increasing communication and modifying behavior through education and quality advice.
Sydney Warner, ABCDT, Dip. CBST can address behavior problems and provide personalized training in the following areas.
Reduce stress for pet and people alike
Improve communication between you and your pet
Strengthen the human-animal bond
Train YOU to train your pet!
Teach you skills in observing animal behavior, behavior modification, and training that you can use for the rest of your life!
New Pet Introductions
Lower Stress at the Vet and Groomer
Destruction, Chewing, Digging
Reactivity, Jumping, Barking
Overexcitement, Rough Play, Nipping
Fearfulness, General Anxiety
Toward Other Animals
*For cases involving human-directed aggression, a phone consultation is required for safety measures prior to the first in-home visit.
NON-COMPETITIVE CANINE SPORTS
Services are provided in your home or on-site. We observe and treat problem behavior where it is happening. Examples of on-site work include working with you and your pet while on a walk, at a park or at the veterinarian's office.
We can also provide phone consultations for some behavior concerns.
Clever Critters serves the Hampton Roads area of Virginia including Williamsburg, Yorktown, Newport News, Poquoson, Hampton, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. We serve some areas of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, Suffolk, and Chesapeake.
Dogs and cats of all ages, breeds, and temperaments. Other pets on a case by case basis.
Sydney Warner is a Certified Dog Trainer and holds a diploma in Canine Behavior Science and Technology. She trained for two years under Clever Critters' founder and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Ellen Mahurin.
Before seeking help for a behavior problem from a behavior consultant, your pet should be up-to-date on veterinary care.
It is important for your veterinarian to identify possible medical causes for behavior problems
Have a Question? Here’s an Answer
WHAT ARE YOUR CONSULTANTS' QUALIFICATIONS?
Sydney Warner has certifications in dog training and canine behavior science. 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 her About Me page.
WHERE DO YOU OFFER SERVICES?
Clever Critters does not currently have a facility. We offer all of our services either in your home or on-site. We observe and treat problem behavior where it is happening. 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 including Williamsburg, Yorktown, Newport News, Poquoson, Hampton, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. We also serve some areas of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, Suffolk, and Chesapeake. Contact us for more information, providing a zip code.
WHAT TYPES OF BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS CAN CLEVER CRITTERS TREAT?
Clever Critters consultant can treat a variety of behavior problems for dogs, cats and other pets including aggression, fearfulness, inappropriate elimination, hyperactivity and more. In addition, we can help you with basic to advanced manners and skills training, and help you and your pet engage in sports like agility and noseworks. You can read more on the Services page.
WHAT TRAINING METHODS DO YOU USE?
Our behavior experts use up-to-date, science-based training methods that support the human animal bond. What does that mean? It means that we are regularly reading the scientific literature in animal behavior and training to discover new information and techniques that will get better training results. It means that we are regularly adding to our training tool box to reflect this new information and provide better service to you and your pet. And it means that the methods we choose to use will be ones that are effective, improve communication and understanding between you and your pet, and increase loving interactions.
ARE YOU AN "ALL POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT" TRAINER?
We use classical conditioning and all four quadrants of operant conditioning. What are the four quadrants? Take a look at these wonderful illustrations by Lili Chin of doggiedrawings.net before continuing.
In psychology, "reinforcement" is defined as anything that increases the frequency or intensity of a behavior. "Positive reinforcement" is when you add something to the animal's environment that increases the frequency or intensity of a behavior. Administering some reward to your pet when she does something you want her to do is an excellent way to see that behavior more often! We use positive reinforcement frequently because it is highly effective. We make all reinforcement and punishment choices very carefully, based on the individual animal and circumstances in each case.
LIMA requires that trainers and behavior consultants use the “least intrusive, minimally aversive technique likely to succeed in achieving a training [or behavior change] objective with minimal risk of producing adverse side effects.” It is also a competence criterion, requiring that trainers and behavior consultants be adequately trained and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is in fact used.
DO YOU USE PUNISHMENT?
The definition of "punishment" in psychology is anything that reduces the frequency or intensity of a behavior. If you stop playing with a biting puppy resulting in the puppy decreasing his biting over time, you have used punishment effectively. This is an example of "negative punishment." "Negative" refers to taking something from the puppy's environment in response to a behavior and "punishment" describes the result (play biting is reduced in frequency and/or intensity). If you hit a puppy on the nose every time he bites you in play resulting in the puppy decreasing his biting over time, you have also used punishment effectively. HOWEVER, there are often unintended side effects to this type of punishment. This is an example of "positive punishment." "Positive" refers to adding something to the puppy's environment in response to a behavior and "punishment" describes the result (play biting is reduced in frequency and/or intensity). Some unintended side effects we have seen in many cases include: puppy becomes hand shy of the punisher or of people in general, puppy avoids playing with the punisher but continues to play bite with other people, puppy decreases play biting but changes to defensive biting because of the expectation of being hit.
Here are some more thoughts on punishment from Psychology Today, Is Punishment an Effective Way to Change the Behavior of Dogs, and The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.
We choose punishment and reinforcement very carefully, based on the individual animal and circumstances in each case.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A QUALITY TRAINER FOR MY PET?
There is currently a lag between many trainers’ marketing language and actual practices. If a trainer advertises that he uses modern, evidence-based, humane methods (“positive”), it might be true or it might be false advertising.
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 are at all uncomfortable, keep shopping. - Jean Donaldson
"Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen."
Passionate. Patient. Persistent. Pet-lover. These are just a few of the characteristics that describe me. I know each animal is different, and I’ll work with yours to give them the specific guidance they need. Whether you’re thinking about getting an animal, have a new pet, or already own a pet with behavioral problems, I am here to help.