Frequently Asked Questions

Are you a certified trainer and why does that matter?

Yes, Eileen Koval is a third-party certified dog/canine behavior consultant (CDBC, CBCC-KA) and certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA).  This means that she met the extensive experience and education requirements, and passed rigorous exams designed and adjudicated by certified animal behaviorists to receive these prized certifications from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers.  She has also agreed to abide by the codes of ethics of these organizations, which are the largest certifying bodies for dog trainers and dog behavior consultants nationally and internationally.  


This type of independent certification is different than many other "certifications" you may see advertised. There are those certifications offered by other companies who certify their own employees in a program that they design.  With these companies' certifications, the standards the employees are measured against are unknown.  The education and experience requirements are unknown.  There is no outside oversight, no knowledge assessment, no accreditation.  Similarly, there are certificate programs such as Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) and Animal Behavior College (ABC) which provide certificates to graduates who pay them a lot of money to receive training, so there is incentive to provide a certificate.  There is no outside oversight of the quality of their programs, the testing process, or the standards for who is chosen to graduate.  These certificate programs are NOT accredited, so the programs are only as good as those organizations choose to make them.  Many trainers are also members of APDT, but that organization gives membership to anyone who pays the annual fee.  It does not require anyone to have a certain degree of knowledge or experience to be a member.  Then, there are trainers without any certification.  They may claim to have years of experience, but their level of knowledge and education are unknown.  Years of owning dogs in and of itself does not qualify anyone to be a trainer.


The dog training and behavior industry is unregulated -- anyone can call themselves a "trainer" or "behaviorist" and work with dogs.  So buyer beware!  With an independently certified trainer who has been rigorously evaluated to the highest standards in the field, you know that you are receiving the best training and most up-to-date knowledge that the industry has to offer!  The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) created a breakdown chart of training and certification requirements for training school, independent certifications, behavior consultants and board certified behaviorists How Well-Trained is your Trainer/Behaviorist?.

Do you train and certify service animals?

Yes, we can provide this training depending on the behaviors you would like trained and the individual dog/handler team.  We can provide training for basic obedience, skills to behave in public, and provide AKC Canine Good Citizen training and testing.  Eileen can also provide training for specific skills and behaviors, such as scent-based medical alert, natural alert training, and response behaviors.  We do not train guide dogs or mobility dogs.  All prospective teams must complete an evaluation to determine what you would like from the training, and the suitability of your dog.

Will you do all the training for me?

Owner involvement is vital to successful and reliable performance of the desired behaviors.  Without owner involvement, your dog may be wonderful with the trainer, but may not perform the behaviors when you ask them to do so.  

What training methods and equipment do you use?

Confident Canines is committed to spreading the idea of force free training because we believe it helps create a better trained dog who has a deeper connection with their owner.  We use the Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) methods of training.  Our trainers will NEVER instill fear, intimidate, or use harmful or painful techniques on your dog.  Our training is designed around training useful skills using fun, relationship-building techniques.  We do NOT use shock or prong collars.  We do NOT use leash or collar corrections.  Our philosophy is that we want your dog's cooperation.  We want him to perform the behaviors willingly, so that he knows how to make good choices.  We want a happy dog who WANTS to work for you.  We focus on showing your dog what behaviors we want, not just what we don't want.  Shock collars and other aversive methods that involve physical punishment will not help to create this.  That said, we respect your choices of equipment.  If you use a shock collar or other aversive tools outside of lessons, that is your choice.  However, we will not use them during our training sessions or on Confident Canines property.  

Do you use clickers during training?

No, we do not advocate the use of clickers over marking behaviors with our voices.  However, we will use one if it is your preference.  It is entirely your personal choice.  Eileen does not personally use clickers when training her own dogs.

Do you use treats during training?

We use rewards-based training methods, but that said, a reward is in the eye of the beholder.  For some dogs, the best reward is food, while for others it is praise/petting/playtime/toys.  Your dog chooses what is most rewarding and we use that during training.  We use these rewards to mark the behaviors we want to see repeated to get them in a pattern of performing good behaviors, with a positive association made with performing those behaviors.  Once performing those behaviors becomes a pattern, we fade out the food rewards to just praise, and the occasionally toy or treat.

Do you train all breeds and sizes?

Our team is experienced training both pet and working dogs of all breeds, temperaments, and sizes.

Is my dog suitable for agility training?

Most dogs that try agility enjoy it considerably.  Some are more successful than others in the competition ring, but a blue rosette ribbon is not the crowning achievement for all agility dogs.  It is the growth made during training, the bond made with the owner/handler, the confidence built, and the fun times that were had that are the real achievement for many agility dogs.  That said, your dog may be suitable for agility even if you do not anticipate he will be going to Westminster any time soon!  Here is what a dog needs to train agility safely:

  • Healthy weight -- being overweight puts significant stress on the shoulders and joints

  • Normal eye sight

  • Free of current injury​

  • Growth plates must be closed 

    • Growth plates close anywhere from 10-24 months of age, earlier for smaller dogs and later for larger dogs.  Ask your veterinarian for additional information.  They can confirm growth plate closure with x-rays, if needed.​​
    • Puppies' growth can be negatively affected if puppies exercise heavily or undertake exercise with impact.

  • Cannot be aggressive toward people or other dogs

    • Dogs that need it will be given more space at class to be comfortable in close proximity with other dogs or handlers.  Dogs do not have to like other people or dogs, but cannot react aggressively​.  

    • Dogs that are good around people but do not enjoy other dogs may be suitable for private agility lessons.

Are you licensed and insured?

Yes, we have both state and local licensing, and are fully insured and bonded.

Here are some general resources to learn more about training and behavior modification methods:

AVSAB Position Statements on Humane Training, Vet Visits, and Puppy Socialization.  The statements offer tips for veterinary teams on how to make vet visits less stressful, how to safely begin early socialization, and how to guide clients to humane and effective trainers and behavior consultants to get the help their dogs needs.

Free Posters/handouts about dogs and cats by artist Lili Chin.  These include signs of fear, how to greet dogs, relaxed vs shut down, how to deliver treats, etc.

How Well-Trained is your Trainer/Behaviorist?  Breakdown of training and certification requirements for training school, independent certifications, behavior consultants and board certified behaviorists.