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About Your Trainer

AboutPatty Crichton has a lifelong passion for dogs, and it shows when working with her clients' dogs, as well as her own Newfoundlands. She graduated with honors from Arizona Canine Academy (now defunct), and is a seminar and conference junkie to keep up-to-date on the latest research on canine behavior modification and new training methods. She is above all a relationship-based trainer, holistically inclined to consider all aspects of your pet's life to ensure a mutually respectful and loving bond. 

She is a Professional Member of the peer-approval only Truly Dog Friendly.  Patty also has a degree in Nutritional Biochemistry, and has a big interest in the relationship between diet and behavior, as well as health.

Several years ago, Patty became one of the few trainers in the world trained in new research on shaping away fears and aggression. She keeps her toolbox full so she can help as many dogs and their owners as possible! CAT, or Constructional Aggression Treatment, is a dog-friendly alternative to force-based techniques and very effective in certain cases.


Energy Healing or Patty's "woo-woo stuff"

After being severely ill for many years, and finding little help from traditional medicine, Patty began a long road to recovery. Her journey took her all over the continent, exploring and learning, then back to bed for recovery! With the help of several skilled healers,  Patty eventually learned how to treat herself, and then others,  now including animals. Recently she treated a beagle who was traumatized in a car accident and simply couldn't get in the car without severe anxiety. He is now "back in the saddle" with his Mom, who was skeptical and had tried everything else, and is now utterly delighted. EFT is simple and free to learn, and extremely effective for all kinds of issues. EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, was "invented" by a Stanford engineer, and is now getting much more mainstream press, so Patty has decided to come out of the closet and utilize it and many other modalities. All that people really care about is RESULTS, so if you're open to trying something new for your animal's emotional state, you now have a practitioner in northern Michigan.  Patty is also certified as a Flower Essence practitioner as well as currently working on certification for The Emotion Code, and uses other several vibrational and spiritual healing modalities when requested. Healing IS possible!


Hi Patty, I will never understand what you did with Boomer and certainly can't explain it but he is a changed dog.  Linda was in TC at our daughter's house this weekend so I decided to just let them pal around.  I did use the muzzle at first but on Saturday I took that off too.  The attached are pictures of "buddies" with no restraints on at all. Thank You!!!!!  J.K., Walloon Lake

(Boomer was previously severely aggressive with other dogs and tried to kill his "brother". Training helped, but until we did emotional release work, these results were unthinkable.)


Patty's training techniques extend to people as well; her patience, friendliness, compassion and enthusiasm greatly enhance the training process. She is down-to-earth, with a great spirit of fun; dog training with Patty is not boring! Her goal for you is a happy well-behaved family companion.

"We came for dog training, but clicker training and positive reinforcement methods helped our family, too!"

- A. G., Elk Rapids




"Can you please take the kids for a few days?!"


a frequent request (answer: no!)


"It's hard to believe how much a difference such simple techniques made. We brought Daisy and thought we'd be coming back for months. That first session training us and her made such a change, we didn't need to bring her back. We've thanked our vet many times for recommending you."

- A.D., Gaylord


"Patty, John and I have been thoroughly enjoying our walks with Opal…I think she enjoys her walks more too.  We think the gentle leader is a miracle.  It is amazing how that head turn changes a bad behavior.  Jumping is coming around quickly as are all behaviors.  Thanks so much! " Z.W. Charlevoix


Methods-What methods do you use?


Patty is certainly not your average dog trainer! She pulls information and tools from many sources to solve YOUR dog's issues, all using gentle, dog-friendly techniques. She has an engaging style that will entertain as well as educate you. Many trainers are great with dogs but may be somewhat lacking in human communication skills; Patty understands that dog training is more about reaching the people, teaching them how to understand their pet and facilitating a loving bond.


Dog training methods have changed drastically in recent years from force- and correction-based techniques to a gentler psychological approach based on "operant conditioning" and positive reinforcement. Great strides have been made in understanding canine behavior; she can help you communicate more effectively with your dog and establish a stronger bond. Positive training is very effective, as well as fun for dogs and their owners! She uses clicker training (at first) to teach your dog new behaviors in a way that allows him to choose to comply. The best form of control of your dog is the dog's own self-control. She uses positive reinforcement methods- choke chains, shock and prong collars, leash corrections, and yelling are not necessary in this type of training. Dogs don't usually understand what we want, and punishing them can cause more problems than it helps. She also uses a lot of dog psychology and the latest in canine behavior research to modify everything from jumping to serious aggression.

"I wish I could remember the trainer who advised us to use a shock collar. We can't get over the difference we've seen in three weeks, and now understand how the collar made it worse (as well as our reaction to her aggression). Everyone should be using these methods."

- G.W., Mackinac Island and Traverse City

All members of the household are encouraged to attend; children love these methods because they're easy, fun, and produce quick results!


Why use a trainer when I've raised dogs all my life or I can read a book?


As you have probably discovered, no two dogs are alike! I have many people come who have had great dogs for over thirty years, and are bamboozled (scientific term) by a crazy new puppy. Dogs just seem to have more issues these days, and knowing how to address them requires a lot of experience. I also see many people who have read so many books, internet articles and watched so many videos and TV programs (don't forget advice from friends and family!) that they are totally overwhelmed and don't know what to do; meanwhile the dog gets worse in all this confusion. Don't worry, help is on the way!


Some may think that dog training is expensive and a waste of money (that's before they come!), but you're going to have that dog for years as part of your family. Spread out over the course of your pet's life, training is less than a weekly bag of treats, and much longer lasting! A well-mannered dog is priceless, and worth the time and money for basic training and/or solving problem behaviors. I'm actually more of a "doggie psychologist", which requires extensive knowledge of canine learning behavior and how to address the myriad behavior problems presented.


The Cost of NOT Training:

  • New shoes chewed $$
  • Replacing carpet and furniture  $$$
  • Can't have people over ??
  • Vet & lawyer bills from dog bite $$$$

How would YOUR life be different if you had a polite, trained dog?



What's the best age to start training?

I am delighted with the number of people bringing their puppies right after they bring them home. According to Dr. Ian Dunbar, a  very well-respected veterinarian/trainer/researcher:      " Your pup's first week in your home is the most crucial developmental period of his life. This short, make-or-break period pretty much determines whether your puppy will develop into a well-mannered and good-natured companion..." .Up until 16 weeks, they are Super-Learners and can learn all the basic behaviors as well as avoid the most common behavior problems. People are amazed that with clicker training their "baby" can  learn to sit, down, come, etc. by 8 weeks! He's learning every moment during this critical time; why not teach him what YOU want instead of him learning the "wrong" behaviors?

For a FREE copy of Dr. Dunbar's book "Before You Get Your Puppy" , click here . (also GREAT for new puppy owners!). See New Puppy Starting Out Right and Puppy Kindergarden  to start training your new puppy.


I have an older dog; is it too late?

Absolutely not! I  trained 8 year-old  and 10 year old rescue dogs who learned as easily as a puppy, although some older dogs who have been trained with other methods take a bit to figure out this new fun game, since no force is involved and they may not be used to making choices on their own. The trick is communicating with the dog in a way he understands and finds rewarding. All training should be fun! I work with all ages and breeds of dogs, to be well-mannered family pets- not pushy, demanding, jumpy annoyances (or shy, fearful or aggressive, either!).  Clicker training is the method I use for instilling new behaviors; click  (pun intended!) here for an introductory Q&A about clicker training. It's lots of fun, and easy- even for kids, and the dogs love it. It is gentle, dog-friendly, and VERY effective!

I use  positive reinforcement methods and psychology- no choke chains, prong collars, shock collars, leash corrections, or yelling (though I AM firm when necessary).  As you may have discovered, punishment doesn’t work and usually causes more problems than it helps. Since most aggressive dogs are very anxious and stressed, I use a lot of dog psychology and clicker training to build up their confidence; click here for info on clicker training. It's fun and easy, and the dogs love it.


I have a family; can they come?


I have a passion for working with individuals and their families to solve their problems and train their particular dog at its own speed, so I do private training  in a beautiful Petoskey Training Studio. Some trainers believe only 1 person should train the dog; I feel the exact opposite. I encourage the whole family to come so that the dog learns to respond to everyone (especially important with children), and the people learn how to be consistent; it's lots of fun! The dogs aren't distracted by other dogs and people, and can move along much more quickly (though I do use other dogs as distractions WHEN they're ready). I set each dog up to succeed for each behavior, taking baby steps if necessary. If we move too fast (trying to teach off-leash recalls for example) when he's only ready for coming in the house, the people get frustrated, the dog gets confused (or worse- learns that running away and not paying attention is very rewarding!). Note: Because the first session is 2 hours, children 5 and over are welcome.


"I cannot imagine how we could have accomplished what we did in a group class. I really believe private training is the best way to start training a dog" K.B., Charlevoix

"We are astonished at how well-behaved our puppies are and how much they learned before they were even 3 months old! People that see us walking them can't believe it; I'm sure you'll be getting alot of calls! The private training was great for the puppies, AND a fun family activity. Thank you so much!"  D.N. Walloon Lake

"Clicker training is easier and more effective than I thought. I expected it to be a gimmick; I was WRONG! I recommend you without reservation. You blend kindness with appropriate discipline and maintain a sense of humor." E.M., Petoskey

"Dear Patty- Thank you for your wonderful way with dogs. Your classes have caused us to really bond with Chubacca. We will continue working with him and practicing your methods. I already miss the class!"  C.D., Charlevoix

"Dear Patty: Thank you for such an illuminating session (Owner training 101).  We swear Macy is a changed dog already - it's amazing what a pocketful of treats and a clicker will do.  We are looking forward to joining the class on the second session. " T.D., Birchwood

See what Animal Planet's Victoria Stilwell says about Positive Training; I couldn't have said it better myself! And I highly recommend her program: "It's Me or the Dog". Click here for Victoria Stilwell's full article. (Also see Store for downloadable episodes of her show). Here is the first page:

It is a widely held belief that if a dog shows behaviors such as guarding toys, food or locations in the home, urinating on beds, responding aggressively toward family and visitors in and out of the house, or bullying other dogs, the animal is trying to exert its authority in an attempt to become the "alpha" or "top dog" of the family. I see it differently. A dog that exhibits these kinds of behaviors is NOT a confident dog, nor is it trying to unleash an evil plan for home domination. This dog feels insecure and copes with life by trying to control the environment around it. Thus, from the beginning, owners must give their pets the tools they will need to live successfully in a human world. A dog given consistent guidance from an early age grows up to be a confident dog. Education brings security, security brings confidence, and a confident dog has no need to show anxiety-based behaviors, such as those described above.

So, how do you show your dog that you are an effective leader? Modern behavioral science has proven that forceful handling, such as physical punishment, leash yanking, excessive shouting or rolling a dog on its back to get it to submit, is psychologically damaging. Instead, the most successful modern training theories suggest that reinforcing good behavior with rewards, and marking bad behavior with vocal distractions or by simply ignoring the dog, yields much better results. Positive reinforcement (i.e., giving the dog a reward in the form of praise, play, food or toys when it behaves in a way that you like) has been shown to be the most effective training method. There is a marked difference between a dog that has been trained with harsh methods and one that has been trained using positive rewards. The first dog responds to an owner's commands out of fear; the trust between the two has been broken. The second dog looks eagerly at its owner as if to say, "OK, what do I have to do next to get that treat or toy out of your hand?" Ultimately, positive training results in dogs wanting to please and obey their owners. Aversive training, which uses fear-based tactics, often results in a "quick fix" that hasn't truly identified or modified the root cause of the animal's misbehavior. Anyone who says that using rewards in training is bribery should try working for no money and see how they like it. Our dogs were originally bred to work for us, so let's pay them for it!