Home/Dog Training
Dog Training 2018-09-09T23:57:09+00:00

Dog Training & Education Services

Respect, compassion, patience and trust are the cornerstones upon which our relationship with our dog is built.TrainingLogo

Positive Reinforcement Clicker Training provides both the blueprints for building this relationship and the tools for maintaining it over a lifetime. Our dog trainers exclusively use positive reinforcement-based clicker training to teach basic good manners as well as to address more complex behavioral issues.

Clicker training is fast, fun and easy because it is based on the science of how dogs learn.

We offer an array of group classes and workshops to best serve you and your pet. Please look at the options below.  If you’d like a private consultation for your pet, please email the trainer directly at [email protected]com.  Feel free to contact us by phone or email with any questions.

Valerie Balwantz

Professional Dog Trainer

Valerie Balwanz, PMCT, CPDT

Valerie is certified through the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers and the Peaceable Paws Academy. She graduated with honors from Peaceable Paws and is the only student to have earned a perfect score on her final practical exam. Valerie is also a member of the Pet Professionals Guild. This organization is committed to force-free training methods and screens its members scrupulously. Members must adhere to a strict code ethics in which they agree to use only positive, force free methods and tools in training. She is also a member of the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers).

Valerie’s experience working with dogs includes doggie daycare, kennel work, and dog walking. She has been training dogs in the Charlottesville area since 2010. Valerie is always testing what she teaches on her own dogs. She says, “I try to practice what I preach. At the end of the day I’m a dog owner too, just like all my clients. I’m not going to expect my clients to do something that I can’t reasonably do myself. Dog training has to be realistic, otherwise no one wants to do it – not the client, not the dog, and not the trainer!” Valerie lives with her husband and four children, three of whom have tails.

Apply for Group Classes

[email protected]com

Obedient dog sitting

Our Training Classes

Puppy Kindergarten/AKC Puppy STAR

Puppy Kindergarten is for puppies 8 to 16 weeks of age on the first night of class and uses clicker training to teach them the basic good manners needed to grow into a well-mannered member of the family. These include: sit, down, look, touch, wait, stay, come, leave it, polite greeting (not jumping up) and loose leash walking.  Puppy behaviors such as mouthing, bite inhibition, jumping up and handling will also be addressed. Puppy parents will also receive advice about potty training, crate training, and how to effectively use a time-out to stop unwanted behavior. Class includes plenty of off-leash play time to encourage socialization.

If you have concerns about training your puppy with a clicker please don’t hesitate to contact the trainer. To come to class, puppies only need to be up-to-date for their age in their vaccine boosters. Cost: $170. Register online.

The AKC Puppy S.T.A.R. (Socialization, Training, Activity, Responsibility) is an award given to puppies by the American Kennel Club who attend all 6 weeks of puppy class and can demonstrate basic training behaviors. The program was developed to encourage puppy parents to socialize their puppies early. You can complete the requirements for AKC Puppy S.T.A.R. in the context of your Puppy Kindergarten Class – just mark AKC S.T.A.R. on the class registration form so the trainer knows you are interested. Learn more about AKC Puppy S.T.A.R. online.  Adding the S.T.A.R. certification to your puppy class is $15.

Basic Good Manners

This class covers all the basic good manners that your dog needs to know to be a well-mannered member of the family: sit, down, stand, look, touch, wait, stay, come, leave it, polite greeting (not jumping up) and loose leash walking. It includes an orientation night (without your dog) which covers: Intro to clicker training, the science of how dogs learn, nutrition, mental exercise for your dog, new information about dominance, and demonstration of simple training exercises. If you have concerns about training with a clicker please don’t hesitate to contact the trainer. Cost: $170. Register online.

Option to Audit Basic Good Manners: Two auditing spots are available in each Basic Good Manners class. Auditors will attend all 6 weeks of class without their dog and receive the same information as other attendees. Auditing is good for people who: need an affordable option to get basic manners training, are just curious about clicker training, learn best through observation, or have already attended the class with their dog but feel like they still need more guidance on the basics. Auditors are welcome to take notes but photos and video are not permitted. Audit spots are $65.

Building on Basics

This class aims to improve the skill set your dog gained in Basic Good Manners/Puppy Kindergarten while giving you a few new skills as well. The lessons in this class should help tire your dog out, improve impulse control, and improve focus among distractions. If you have an out-of-control adolescent dog, this is the class for you.  Class material includes: Leash walking skills, building speed and enthusiasm on the recall, settle position, play and stay exercises (controlling the level of arousal in your dog), speak and shush (turn barking on and off), drop it, better stay (adding distractions and building distance), better response to leave it (advancing to the dropped leave it), playing tug, adding duration to look and increasing offered attention on you. Play and games are incorporated into this class as part of relationship building exercises. Cost: $170. Register online.

Prerequisite: Puppy Kindergarten or Basic Good Manners. We welcome students who did basic training at other facilities to join our program in this class. A basic understanding of marker-reward training will be needed and material can be sent to you prior to class to help bring you up to speed. Please make a note asking for it on the registration form.


Intermediate Class provides exercises that are mentally challenging for your dog. This class also aims to hone your skills as your dog’s trainer. You will learn how to teach new behaviors through Shaping, which provides a good mental workout for your dog and helps him learn to work through frustration. Material covered includes: Go To a Mat, Paw Touch Shaping, distance work, the emergency distance Down/Stay, breaking eye contact while training, and a Leave It exercise to help dogs learn to walk past items on the ground without stealing. Cost: $170. Register online.

Prerequisites: Puppy Kindergarten or Basic Good Manners PLUS Building on Basics.


Challenge yourself and your dog in this class! We get down and nerdy with material that includes teaching dogs to watch and copy things that we do. Class material also includes: chaining several behaviors together, the Down on Recall, and Shaping hind end awareness.  A fun class for the advanced dog/owner team who love the process of learning together. Cost: $170. Register online.

Prerequisite: Intermediate Class

Puppy Play Group

This is a one-hour play session for puppies and their human to attend together. The trainer will supervise the session while discussing proper play and teaching puppy parents how to monitor play to keep their puppy safe. Because it is important to properly socialize puppies to many things early in life, the pups will be introduced to different novelties during the play session. Themes will change each week and include things like medical equipment and sound conditioning.

Play group meets every Saturday from 9–10 am.  Puppies only need to be up-to-date for their age in their vaccines, don’t wait until vaccination is complete to start socializing your puppy.  Pre-registration is required. $18/session.

Reactive Rover

Reactive Rover is for dogs who, while on a leash, will bark and lunge at other dogs. This is a common problem called leash reactivity. Leash reactive dogs may put on huge displays of aggression, often leaving owners feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Walking the dog becomes stressful, if not impossible. Reactive Rover Class offers a calm, controlled and supportive environment in which both the owner’s and the dog’s needs will be addressed. Reactive Rover focuses on improving an owner’s confidence in their ability to handle their dog around other dogs. Additionally, a significant amount of time is spent working to change the dog’s emotions which are the underlying cause of this behavior. As part of the class you’ll be invited to join an online group where you can connect with other owners of reactive dogs.

Class begins with an orientation night, which will be an in-depth discussion about leash reactivity so you can better understand your dog’s behavior. You’ll learn how clicker training works and why science-based, positive reinforcement training methods are the best way to treat this behavior. You’ll be sent home with a clicker and homework assignments to get to work on right away. Class time is spent in several ways: You’ll address the root of your dog’s reactivity in counter-conditioning and desensitization sessions. These sessions include work with a neutral dog. You’ll also learn management tools to help you get out of trouble fast when walking your dog and do some training designed to improve impulse control. Dogs work in private pods so they cannot see their classmates.

Cost: $255. Class size is limited to three dogs. Register online.

Tricks Class

Come have fun with your dog! Learn Peek-a-Boo, Sit Pretty, Chill Out, and much more. Cost: $115. Register online.

Prerequisites: Puppy Kindergarten and Basic Good Manners

Therapy Dog

The Therapy Dog Class is designed to help you become a certified therapy team with your dog through the organization Love on a Leash (LOAL). You will take 6 weeks of classes, gaining skills to work in the field, which can culminate in taking the LOAL Control Evaluation. You can learn more about the Love on a Leash Organization and the certifying process online.

Testing is optional at the end of the 6 weeks. Tests are given 4 times per year and you can test at any time if you feel you need more time to work on the training material. The test date for each class is listed on the Schedule of Classes. To take this class your dog must be at least 1 year old, have been yours for at least 6 months, have passed a Basic Good Manners class (which does not necessarily have to have taken place at Pampered Pets) and be friendly to people and other dogs. Dogs who do therapy work must naturally love the attention of people. They enjoy petting and handling. They are physically calm and emotionally stable. If you think your dog is ready to pass the LOAL Control Evaluation, and you do not wish to take the class, please contact the trainer for a private consult and evaluation.

Cost: $175. Register online. LOAL testing is optional at the end of class and is an additional $15 payable on testing day.

AKC Canine Good Citizen Testing

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a title awarded by the American Kennel Club to dogs who can pass a test of 10 basic training skills. Learn more about the CGC test online. A special class is not required to take the test. If you have taken Basic Good Manners and Building on Basics, you should have the necessary skills to pass. However, if you want further consultation, or are new to training, you can schedule a private session to develop a training plan to help you pass the test. CGC testing will be offered on the following dates in 2018: March 17, June 9, August 25, December 1. Times to be determined.

To register for the test please fill out the registration form for group classes. Cost: $15.

Private Consulting

In private consults behaviors such as barking, shyness, resource guarding, fearfulness, aggression and much more can be addressed using positive reinforcement. Positive, force free methods are the best way for treating behavior problems, particularly ones involving fear or aggression.  Don’t just suppress behavior.  Get to the root of it with an individually tailored behavior modification plan.

Each case is evaluated individually to determine whether the lesson should take place in your home or at our facility and how many lessons might be needed. Follow-up support is always included.

Basic Good Manners and Puppy Training can also be taught in private lessons.

Prices available upon request.  Discounts for multiple sessions offered.

Wag-Worthy Workshops At Pampered Pets


Check out our schedule of upcoming workshops, classes and special events!

« November 2018 » loading...
Tue 13

Puppy Kindergarten

November 13 @ 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Sat 17

Puppy Play Group

November 17 @ 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Wed 28
Wed 28
Thu 29

Tricks Class

November 29 @ 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Dog Safety Education for Kids

Did you know that 50% of children are bitten by a dog by the time they’re 12 years old, and that 77% of those bites come from a dog owned by their family or friends?!

We feel that making pet behavior education a top priority is imperative for the well-being of both children and dogs in our community. It is our responsibility to keep our pets safe, and part of that responsibility is teaching children how to respect and interact with them. Children are by far the most common victims of dog bites, but studies show that educating kids on how to safely interact with pets significantly decreases the risk.

Our Pampered Pets educators have teamed up with local schools to present the Stop the 77 program. The Dog Stars and I Speak Doggie programs are designed especially for pre-school and elementary school-aged children, and have a fun, up-beat message that will have kids singing about dog safety for weeks to come. Help us make our community a safer place for children and all the dogs in their lives by joining us for a workshop or class. Also, as part of our commitment to our local community, we’re offering this program for free!

Check our calendar for the latest offerings.

Training FAQs

Clicker training is based in the science of how dogs learn. Clicker training uses the distinctive sound of the click to mark the correct behavior the instant your dog performs it. The click is then followed by a treat to reward the dog. When learning new behaviors, this helps the dog understand which behavior is the one that has earned the treat.
The click marks the behavior the instant your dog performs it, thus avoiding any confusion as to what has earned him the treat. This is especially important in the early stages of learning. The click then buys you a few seconds to get the treat from your pouch to his mouth. For example: you are teaching your dog to sit. You lure him into position and reach into your treat pouch. As you reach into the pouch, the phone rings and you deliver the treat to your dog. Your dog may very well think that phones ringing make treats happen if we don’t mark that Sit with a click. Before we begin clicker training we teach your dog that a click means a treat is coming. It is called “charging the clicker” and it only takes a few seconds.
All living creatures repeat behaviors that work. If a behavior does not have a desirable effect, it will die out. In positive training we don’t need to punish incorrect behaviors. We remove reinforcement for them (often by simply ignoring them) and reward the behavior we want instead. The behavior that is earning the reward gets repeated, and the dog will stop the inappropriate behavior because it produces no results. Often when dogs are punished, they associate the punishment with the person giving it, not the behavior that caused it. Punishment can ruin your relationship with your dog.
Yes, if it is used incorrectly. A treat should be given after the requested behavior has been performed. When used this way it is a reward for a job well done.
Dogs like to work, but they like to get paid too. Think of the treat as a paycheck for your dog. You probably like your job, but if there wasn’t a paycheck coming you’d be a little less enthusiastic about it. When your dog learns to associate you and training with fun and treats, he has good feelings about working for you. You are conditioning an emotional response in your dog. When he has good feelings about you and training he will want to work for you.
No. Once your dog has learned his behaviors and enjoys doing them it is not necessary to give a treat every time. It is important to use things in daily life that your dog likes as rewards. And remember – there’s nothing wrong with earning a paycheck, so go ahead and occasionally pay your dog for a job well done.
There’s no need to dominate your dog to be an effective leader. Just remember the 5 C’s of good leadership:

Be Calm. If you are angry and yelling at your dog it will frighten him. He will learn that you are unstable and incapable of leadership.

Be Clear about what it is that you are asking your dog to do. Many times without realizing it, we are giving our dogs mixed messages. This makes it very hard for our dog to comply.

Be Consistent in your expectations of your dog. If the rules are always changing, your dog will not be able to follow them.

Be Compassionate. Like you, sometimes your dog might not feel good. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain or sick.

Be Cheerful. No one likes to work for an angry boss.

Have a question?

Email our trainer at [email protected]

The Latest from our Blog

Three Reasons Why Your Dog Doesn’t Come When Called

Many dog owners successfully train their dogs to Come. However, it's not unusual for dogs to become unresponsive to the request. Here are the three most common reasons your dog might not come when called. [...]

Keeping it Cool at Cville’s Hot Spots for Dogs

It might be hot out, but there are oodles of cool summer spots for you and your pooch to visit and explore right here in Charlottesville. Lucky for us, Cville is an incredibly animal-friendly community. [...]

Working for a Feeding

We may not think of our dogs as needing to work, but remember, many dogs were originally bred as working companions for hunting or herding. Now that most dogs enjoy the life of luxury as [...]

Our Graduates