Private Dog Training

You have a dog. You love your dog, but he has a few…quirks, let’s call them. And you’d rather he not. You see, dogs don’t have problem behaviors, really. Dogs just have behaviors. When we don’t appreciate those behaviors, we label them “problems.” One man’s problem behavior is another man’s “oh, isn’t that adorable!” (Yeah, it’s adorable when it ain’t happening to you, buddy.)

So before you go labeling Fido’s behavior as “problem,” you need to understand that Fido has absolutely no problem whatsoever with anything he does. Everything he does makes perfect sense to him, even if you have no earthly idea why he does it. He doesn’t label his behaviors; he just behaves. The problem is not the dog’s…it’s ours.

Does that mean you are stuck with Fido’s…quirks? Not typically. Dogs need to know how to live in our homes safely and happily, and most “problem behaviors” can be solved with the right approach and some consistent work from you. We are here to help you!

“Your dog can change, but you have to change first.” ~Sarah Wilson

The Atlanta Humane Society Behavior and Training Department is dedicated to helping you have a great relationship with your puppy or dog. In addition to our Basic and Intermediate Training Classes, we offer private (one-on-one) “tutoring” for you and your canine family member(s) at both of our shelter campuses. Private lessons are for dogs 8 weeks of age and up.

Private lessons are a great way to get started with training for small puppies who are too young to attend class yet, or for any dog that is experiencing specific problems that a class might not address. They are also nice for the interim (e.g. the holidays) when our classes are full, or for people who cannot attend a class due to scheduling issues or family logistics.

Private lessons are also helpful for dogs who would not do well in a class situation (e.g. who have dog-to-dog issues or are overwhelmed). Email the instructor to discuss your dog’s issues and determine if private lessons would work for you. They can be tailored to fit your specific needs.

All private lessons are held at the Atlanta Humane Society, either at the Howell Mill Campus or the Mansell Campus. They are taught by our Behavior & Training Manager Mailey McLaughlin, M.Ed., who has over 30 years of experience working with dogs and their people. They are by appointment, typically during the day. Most slots (Saturdays especially) fill up quickly.

PRIVATE LESSONS are 1 hour each (approximately) and the cost is $59 per hour. Don’t let the low price fool you! Our Instructor is worth twice what she charges.

ASSESSMENTS are approximately 30 minutes and the cost is $35. They are by appointment only. The instructor will assess your dog and give you her recommendations for whether classes, or private lessons, would be best, and how she would work with you and your dog. NOTE: no instruction is included in the assessment, but we do give advice willingly.

Lessons and assessments are done on the following days and begin at the times listed. Please email us with your general availability, and we will respond with specific dates and times to fit your criteria.

Typically, Saturdays and Wednesday evenings fill first. If you have daytime availability Tuesday-Thursday, you will likely get in sooner.

981 Howell Mill Rd. NW, Atlanta, 30318

  • Tuesdays: 1:00 pm; 1:30 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:30 pm; 3:00 pm; 4:00pm
  • Wednesdays: 1:30 pm; 2:00 pm; 3:00 pm; 6:30 pm (fills quickly)
  • Fridays: 10 am; 11:00 am
  • Saturdays, 1:00 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:30 pm (fill quickly)

1565 Mansell Rd., Alpharetta, 30009

  • Thursdays: 11:00 am;  3:00 pm; 4:00 pm
  • Fridays: 10:00 am; 11:00 am
  • Saturdays: 1:30 pm (training only–no assessments) (This slot is not available at the Mansell Campus until December, 2015)


Like our classes, our private instruction is a great bargain. Lessons typically include basic commands, leadership protocols, and general dog behavior information as well as specific problem-solving . Family members/housemates are welcome to attend. If you have multiple dogs, it may be possible for you to bring more than one; speak to the instructor to make sure.

Payment can be made by cash or major credit card at the end of the session. A non-refundable deposit may be required for Saturday appointments.

To speak with the instructor or make an appointment, email us.


Can I bring my human child to the lesson with me?

Is “it depends” too vague? The short answer is yes, as long as his or her presence will not be too much of a distraction for you or the dog. We want you to get the most from your lesson, so you’ll need to decide whether that’s possible with a child in tow. In our experience, children under the age of 8 need more supervision than the adult working with the dog can give (and children over 8 can help a bit, and bring a book or toy for something to do). But then again, we’ve met 4-year-olds that had more going on than many adults.

Two adults, one child who can sit still for a hour or so, and one dog is a workable combo. So is one adult and one well-behaved child who will entertain herself with a book or game while the adults talk. One adult, two out-of-control children, and a dog with the grace of a drunk grizzly will probably not result in you getting your money’s worth, but we’ll do our best and drink heavily afterwards. If we see your 150-lb dog dragging you to the door with multiple uncontrollable kids, we suddenly have somewhere else we need to be. Quickly. So, please choose wisely. We are not superhuman.

In all seriousness, we generally like kids, and if they are eager to help with the dog and will listen to basic directions and entertain themselves appropriately while the adults are talking, they are welcome. You know your kids and their limits best. It helps no one, including the dog, if the children need more of your attention than the dog and the lesson will receive during that time period.

I have more than one dog, and they both have issues. Should I bring them both?

The answer is, that depends. Normally, it’s easier to tackle one dog at a time. But email us with the details.

What types of tools and methods do you use?

The short answer is: whatever will work for you and your dog to get you both to a place of happy success. Our goal is to get you where you want to be in a reasonable amount of time. We use tools and methods that work humanely and improve the lines of communication between you and your dog. We’ll show you how to use whatever tools we recommend, and if they aren’t going to work for you, we’ll make changes. No tool is right for every dog, so until we meet yours, we can’t say for certain what will be the right one(s). We match the training to the dog, always.

Be wary of trainers or schools that condemn certain tools, or speak about training in terms of “always” or “never,” or seem to only have one way of doing everything. Every dog is different, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. We have decades of experience and success with our methods, and produce hundreds of happy dogs and humans every year.

Will you make me feel badly for how I have ruined my dog?

Never! Not only have you not ruined your dog (he’s not an Oriental rug), but we’d never berate you if you had. We actually like people as a general rule. People make mistakes. We can help you fix mistakes you’ve made, but only if you are willing to make some changes first. And pay us a small fee.

Some dog trainers have zero people skills. But we aren’t just dog trainers; we are people trainers, too, and we never forget that. Customer service is a huge priority for us. We aren’t mean or rude to dogs, and we won’t be mean or rude to you. Promise.

Do you train husbands/wives/girlfriends/boyfriends/children?

How much are you willing to pay, again? In all seriousness, yes, we do…as long as we are talking about how those people will be interacting with the dog. We are not marriage counselors or therapists, but we do know this: disharmony in the home over the dog’s lack of training can be fixed if you commit to training the dog.

Also, some of our methods work on significant others. You just need to be a bit more covert. None of our methods are useful underwater, on plants, or while falling out of a plane. Choose your battles.