Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Use Positive Dog Training Methods? 

We are not “purely-positive” or “force-free” but yes, we do use a lot of positive reinforcement methods in combination with traditional methods to create what we call a “balanced” or “blended” approach to dog training. Another way of saying it is that we use both positive and negative reinforcement. Yet another way of saying it is that we use both rewards and corrections. 

IMPORTANT: If you are already 100% convinced that you are looking for strictly “positive” training then Thriving Canine is definitely not the right company for you. No hard feelings, we honestly wish you the best of luck in finding the right trainer for your needs and sincerely hope that it works out well for you. 

Please Note: Chad received his dog training certification from Animal Behavior College, which is an “all positive” school. He found that their methods and philosophies, while they looked good on paper, did not live up to his expectations. 

Here’s a direct quote from Chad: “I was very disappointed but, at the same time, I do not regret my ABC experience. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, many of which I still use to this day, but the most important lesson I learned was that positive reinforcement alone simply does not deliver the results that I need for my dogs or that my clients need from theirs. I have found that what sounds good is often not the same as what actually works.” 

Do You Do Clicker Training?

We do not use clickers. We prefer to use verbal praise or verbal reward markers. “Clicker Training” is also sometimes used as a slang term for “purely-positive” or “force-free” dog training, which, as stated above, is a philosophy that we do not subscribe to. 

Do You Offer Board and Train or Doggie Boot Camps? 

We do not board dogs. The closest option we have to a Board and Train is what we call a “Walk n Train” package. This means we take the dog out for training sessions and you do not have to come with us. This can be done from your home or while your dog is staying at a boarding facility. 

Please Note: This is something we do only after having worked with both the dog and owner together in order to be sure we are all on the same page as far as the style of training, the tools we will being using, what we are training the dog to do or not do, what results can be expected, etc. It is also expected that the owner will do occasional “transfer sessions” to ensure they are able to follow through with the training. The more the owner is involved the better. 

How Long Have You Been Training Dogs?

Thriving Canine was officially started by Chad Culp in 2007. That’s when the company name was nationally trademarked and when the first website went up. It was part-time at first but grew quickly and since 2009 it has been a full-time business that sees an average of 450 new clients per year. 

It may also be worth noting that Chad has had dogs his whole life. He likes to say that “his first babysitter was a German Shepherd” because legend has it that, as a toddler, the family dog would keep an eye on him and would not let him wander out of the yard. By 1974, at age 9, he had two dogs, a German Shepherd named Thumper and a Husky named Rocky. (see photo) Those were the first family dogs that were actually “his dogs”. Chad walked, fed, bathed, picked up after and trained those dogs himself and claims to have done “a pretty good job” considering he was a little kid with two large, intact, male dogs and no formal training. He continued to have dogs throughout his adult life but was pursuing a music career and did not get interested in studying canine behavior and training dogs professionally until late 2005 - early 2006, as he was approaching his 40th birthday. It may have been a little late in life for a complete career change but it seems to have worked out. After over 16 years in business, Chad still loves his job! 

Are You A Certified Dog Trainer?

Chad Culp is a “certified dog trainer” through Animal Behavior College. That being said, the reader should be informed that “certified” does not necessarily mean qualified. Dog training is a completely unregulated field, which means that anyone can “certify” dog trainers. Certification programs can be a good starting point but the only way to become a truly qualified dog trainer is through experience. Chad has a lifetime of experience with dogs and currently sees about 450 new dogs every year. As of 2022, he has worked with over 5,000 dogs. 

Are You Like The Dog Whisperer? 

Chad has occasionally been compared to Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. Chad says, “I take it as a huge compliment when people make those comparisons. I was definitely inspired and influenced by Cesar's TV shows and books. I have borrowed a lot from his teachings and I have a ton of respect for what he has done.”  

In 2013, Chad had the pleasure of meeting with Cesar at the Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles Ca. for a job interview. “It was an honor to even be considered for the position and to be able to thank Cesar in person for being such an inspiration.” Chad says, “I did not get the job but that’s ok. Apparently, I was meant to stay here in Gilroy and I love it!” 

Do You Require A Particular Training Collar? 

We do not require any type of training collar. We will suggest whatever collar (or harness) we feel is best for your situation but nothing is “required”. We are a balanced training outfit, which means we are open to using whatever tools or techniques we think will work best for the dog, BUT, we also need to work within your comfort zone. We will talk with you about things and will only do what you are comfortable with. Important Note: It is also your job to talk to us and let us know if you are uncomfortable with anything along the way. 

Do You Use Prong Collars? 

It depends on the situation but, yes, we do use prong collars quite often. As stated above, no particular collar is required but one may be recommended. Before recommending a prong collar, we look for two things; the skill and/or comfort of the human and the temperament of the dog. 

Do You Do E-collar Training? 

Yes but, just to be crystal clear, that does not mean we advocate for people to go out and use one without proper training. Generally speaking, we require our clients to train their dog to at least the intermediate level of obedience before even considering the use of an E-collar. There are some exceptions, such as emergency situations, but we always warn our clients about the dangers of misusing an E-collar. Hint: If you are attempting to use an E-collar without the assistance of a qualified trainer, you are almost guaranteed to misuse it. 

Direct quote from Chad: “I have literally never seen a client who had started using an E-collar on their own who had not already made mistakes. Some of those mistakes can literally never be undone.” 

Do You Work With Aggressive Dogs? 

Chad works with aggressive and reactive dogs on a regular basis. The only limitation is that we do not board dogs, so the owners must be committed to participating in the dog’s management and training. Another option is that we can work with the dog while being boarded at a local facility. 

Do You Train Protection Dogs?

No, we do not. We train pet dogs for good behavior and obedience. The closest we do to protection training is teaching dogs to play an intense game of Tug. 

Do You Train Service Dogs? 

We do not train dogs specifically for special services but we do train for many of the skills service dogs need, such as good manners, socialization and obedience. We also help with service dogs that have developed behavior issues. 

Do You Offer Growl Classes or Reactive Dog Classes?

We do not believe that putting a bunch of aggressive or reactive dogs in the same group class is the best strategy because they will feed off of each other. We believe it is better for reactive dogs to be socialized with non-reactive, emotionally stable, well-behaved dogs. This usually starts with a private lesson, in which we will bring our own dogs. We work with the dog and owner to assess if and when they might be ready for a group class setting. If and when they are ready, they will go to one of our regular group classes, not a reactive dog class.   

How Much Do You Charge?

Our prices vary by service and location. Prices are listed on the website under each service we provide. We also have an email template that we would be happy to send you that includes the current prices and links for getting signed up. Shoot an email to for more info. 

Do You Do Free Consultations? 

It depends on what you mean by “consultation”. We answer emails and phone calls for free at or 408-838-0100. If no one answers, please leave a message and allow up to 24 hours for a response. If you do not hear back within 24 hours, please try again because it’s possible we lost the message accidentally. We never ignore emails or phone messages on purpose but we are human and make mistakes sometimes. 

We do not do free in-person consultations because we do not try to lock clients into expensive packages. Chad has built the company’s reputation by helping people and their dogs as quickly and affordably as possible, many times resolving their behavior issues in one or two private sessions or through our very affordable group classes. 

What Is Your Refund Policy? 

Our refund policy varies by service and by the particulars of any given situation. See below: 

Private Lessons: Private lessons are generally paid for at the end of each session, so there is really no refund policy needed. If you are not happy with the service you are receiving, simply speak up and we will immediately terminate the lesson and charge only for the minutes worked or, perhaps, not charge at all. We truly do not want to take your money if you are not happy. That said, If you pay at the end of the lesson, it will be assumed that you were happy with the service, so no refund will be given.


Packages: If you have purchased a private lesson package and wind up not needing the whole thing, as long as it has been no longer than 2 months since your last session, we will refund the balance. Please Note: The used lessons will be charged at the normal rate, not the package discount rate.


Group Classes: The deposit for the group class is non-refundable due to the fact that space is limited and your spot could have gone to someone else. It is also due to the fact that the deposit covers the cost of clerical work and the price of the online material, which is sent out upon receipt of the deposit. (If we find that your dog is not suited for the group class, for reasons such as aggression or fear, we will apply the full amount of the course, including the deposit, towards private lessons.) If you are dissatisfied with the course and request a refund, one will be given, proportionate to the number of classes remaining at the time of your request. If you simply stop showing up without notice or miss classes due to scheduling conflicts, no refund will be given but you are welcome to complete the course for free whenever your schedule allows, within one year of purchase. We sometimes allow for the transfer of remaining group class credits to private lessons, this is decided on a case-by-case basis.


We believe in being fair. If anything else comes up that you feel warrants a refund, please just let us know and we will work with you to do whatever seems fair. 

Do You Guarantee The Training?

No. There is no way to guarantee dog training because dogs are living beings and it is impossible to be 100% certain how they will behave in any given situation…especially once the trainer is not present. If someone claims to “guarantee” dog training, you may want to read the fine print on precisely what they mean by the word “guarantee” because it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. 

Can Kids Come To Class? 

Private Lessons: Yes, you can definitely include the kids. That’s not a problem at all and generally it is recommended.  

Group Classes: You are welcome to bring your kids assuming they are well behaved and with the caveat that you will assume total responsibility for their safety. The group classes are filled with dogs, some of which may not be good with children, so we can’t have kids going up to other people’s dogs. Puppy classes have off-leash playtime, so there are hazards with that; even adults (including myself) have been tripped or knocked over by running puppies.

Is My Puppy Old Enough To Start Training? 

Private lessons can be started as soon as you get your puppy. Sometimes it’s even a good idea to have a “puppy prep” lesson before your puppy arrives. The group puppy classes and puppy socials can be started with pups as young as 10 weeks old. 

Do You Require Vaccinations? 

We do not have any specific vaccine requirements; we only ask that your pup is under the care of a veterinarian. Assuming you are consulting with a veterinarian that you trust, we believe that the medical choices you make for your dog are 100% up to you. 

Do You Give Graduation Certificates?

Yes but we don’t just give them away, they are earned. On the final day of the group class there will be testing available for those who wish to receive a certificate and/or move on to the next level. Receiving a graduation certificate is something you can be proud of because it will be something you and your dog have earned. We do not give “participation certificates” although Chad often jokes that you can offer him a bribe. If your dog is not ready to graduate by the end of the course, you can keep coming for free until they are ready to earn that certificate and move on to more advanced classes. In other words, the only way to fail is to give up. That’s a pretty good deal, don’t you think? It’s also a pretty good slogan for life. 

Are You A Behaviorist? 

It depends on what you mean by that term. If you are asking if we help with behavior problems, then yes, we do. We are hands-on trainers who specialize in solving behavior issues, so I suppose you could call us “behavior specialists”. If you are asking if any of the trainers at Thriving Canine is a Veterinary Behaviorist or an Applied Animal Behaviorist, then no. Those are both titles that require either a veterinary degree or a PhD, which we do not have. As mentioned earlier, dog training is an unregulated field, so anyone can call themselves a trainer or a behaviorist or almost anything they want but we try to be clear with our use of language, especially when it comes to terms used by Universities.  

How Long Will It Take To Train My Dog? 

We will try to help as quickly as possible. However, this is a tricky question because there are a bazillion potential variables, not the least of which is owner compliance. We also need to ask, “What do you mean by 'train' my dog?" For example: Are we talking about teaching a dog what “come” means or are we talking about training a dog to spin on a dime and come anywhere, anytime, no matter what? Are we teaching sit and stay or are we rehabbing a dog with a bite history? 

People don’t like this but “how long will it take” is a question that is best answered with a question: Are you going to do everything that we recommend, and only what we recommend and do so consistently? If so, chances are very good that the training will not take very long. If not, the training will take much longer. You see, most people will leave out parts of what was recommended, either because they forgot about it or because they took it upon themselves to pick and choose which parts they deemed important enough to do. At the same time, those same people will supplement our recommendations with a bunch of clickbait that they pulled from the internet, which was not recommended by us. That’s ok, this is common, we get it, we have come to expect it and we will still love you after you have done this. However, just know that lack of owner compliance is all but guaranteed to slow down or, in some cases, completely sabotage our training efforts. 

Training dogs is generally pretty easy but training humans can be a little challenging. Just sayin’. :-)

Are All Dogs Trainable? 

Generally speaking, yes, all dogs can be trained but, as we saw above, it also depends on what, specifically, we are dealing with. There is always room for improvement but perfection, depending on what that means to you, may or may not be achievable. Often “training” a dog has to do with “managing” a dog's behavior through the use of tools and/or commands. To an extent, all dogs can be trained to obey commands via the use of tools and incentives. However, what dog owners often want is a dog that makes good choices on their own, while unsupervised and at liberty. That, I’m sorry to say, is not always possible. Sure, sometimes it is but some dogs, particularly those with severe aggression, will simply never be trustworthy at liberty in certain situations. At the end of the day, training can do a lot to modify behavior but we cannot do doggie personality transplants. Some things are hardwired deep in the genes and/or the spirit of the dog. 

How Do You Feel About Dog Parks?

It really depends on the dogs and owners that are in there at any given time. It also depends on your confidence and skills as a dog owner. Does your dog like meeting new dogs? How much control do you honestly have over your own dog? How quickly can you call your dog away from trouble? How good are you at stopping and/or breaking up dog fights? How good are you at recognizing that a fight is brewing? 

Basically, dog parks can be a good place for dogs that like other dogs but, unfortunately, that is not always what you find inside the dog park. It would also be much better if everyone exercised their dog before entering the dog park but, unfortunately, most people bring their overstimulated, hyped-up dogs to the dog park to let them burn off energy. It’s truly amazing that there are not a lot more fights than there are. A lot of people will also bring dogs in there that don’t actually love other dogs, so that’s an obvious problem. No matter what you do, there is always the potential for fights so you must accept that risk if you enter a dog park. It is always a good idea to walk around the outside of the park before entering to check out the scene, then decide if right now is a good time to enter or not. Do the dogs all seem friendly? Are the people paying attention? Do the owners seem to have command over their dogs? If it doesn't look good, don’t go in. If you don't have enough control over your own dog, perhaps you should be going to obedience classes rather than the dog park. That's probably why you're reading this page anyhow, right? Don't hesitate, the best time to start is right now.