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Hello.

I am considering an in-home trainer for my dog. I have had her since she was a puppy. She is now about 2.5 years old and is generally well-behaved: she knows about 50 commands, I have nearly complete voice control over her, she is house trained, and I can leave her in the unfenced backyard unsupervised for an hour without worrying that she will run away.

That said, my girlfriend won't stop complaining that my dog whines a lot, and she is begging me to hire a trainer to fix the whining issue. My dog also has some issues with confidence and anxiety. She likes other dogs, but she is afraid of bigger dogs that she does not know, and she will let dogs a little smaller than her dominate her sometimes (she rolls on her back and stuff). She will also get scared when I leave and usually will end up either peeing or tearing something up (usually like a pen or a remote or something), which never happens when I am home. As a result, I usually end up needing to crate her when I leave, which is no fun for her. (She does feel comfortable in the crate, though).

Anyway, I think I know the typical answer to most of these problems. She whines because I have rewarded her in the past for whining. I should ignore her every time she whines. That said, I have been generally good about that, and I very consistently ignored her whining for a couple months without success. The problem I have is that sometimes she will have something legitimately threatening in front of her that requires my immediate response. She whines in those situations, but I need to do something to help her immediately regardless.

As far as the separation anxiety issue, I give her treats before and after I leave, I give her toys to play with while I'm gone, and I vary my exit routine. That said, I haven't done this a ton, because I can only deal with her destroying so much stuff, so the vast majority of the time, I put her in the crate. I have also changed my plan for a month or so from the aforementioned method to yelling at her and showing her what she did wrong. That was probably stupid, and it probably scared her, which probably makes her even more anxious when I leave.

To help her be more confident around other dogs/people, my plan would just be to do a better job of socializing her. She gets so excited around dogs she knows a little, but with new dogs she is very timid. I definitely think she has a confidence issue.

Overall, I realize that I have been imperfect as a dad. My goal is to be much more consistent. The problem I have had is that I have tried certain things for a couple months at a time without success, so I switch to a new method, which makes things worse.

So, anyway, 2 questions/topics:
1) Is an obedience trainer going to do anything to directly help my dog, or is he/she going to tell me what to do and encourage me to be more consistent? If the latter, am I going to hear any advice that I can't just find out through this forum?
2) Can I reasonably expect a very significant improvement in these areas from a trainer, assuming I do my job as well?
3) Given these issues, can anyone recommend a trainer in the Atlanta area? If no specific recommendations, any advice regarding what qualifications a trainer should have or any way to pick one over the other? They all seem to have great experience, but some are cheaper than others. I talked to these folks:
http://www.barkbusters.com/
http://atlantadogtrainer.com/
http://www.cpt-training.com/

And I don't think the groups below ever got back to me, but maybe I should try again if they look good:
http://www.yourcaninephd.com/default.html
http://superiordogtraining.com/
http://bestinbreeddogtraining.com/

Any other recs?

Thanks!
 

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1. This isn't obedience, this is behavior modification. It's not so much that you are teaching the dog to be more obedient, you are changing their emotional response to a given situation. It's really helpful to have a pro around for this because it's more complicated and subtle than simple commands.
2. If you do your part, yes :)
3. Canine PhD looks the best to me. They have lots of experience in a variety of areas (including competition) and they use positive methods. Of all of them I would steer clear of bark busters. They are a franchise that relies heavily on aversives like e-collars and shaker cans.
 
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