When it comes to describing Shirley's training style and the results, the best people to talk to are those who have been to her seminars or private lessons. You can see photos of how people (and dogs) work at camps by clicking here -- and below, you'll find just a sample of the feedback from some of her clients:
"I have attended at least five of her seminars and have learned more from her than anyone else. I have been training dogs for over 25 years and have numerous High In Trials, High Combined, and a ChOTCh and 3 other OTCh's. I have attended many seminars through the years and Shirley's are the best by far (along with Sue Ailsby's). She is fair to dog and handler alike."
--Joan Jung, Midlothian, Texas, trainer and obedience competitor who has sponsored several Shirley Chong seminars (including the four-weekend series on competitive obedience) in the Dallas area.
"I think Shirley is the best thing that has happened to clicker training in a long time. As a dog trainer, she has an uncanny ability to read a dog, to understand what's going on (e.g., is this stress? is this confusion? or what?). And she knows exactly what to try - and I use the word 'try,' because she loves to experiment, even if it means that sometimes her hypothesis is wrong. In that case, she just changes strategy."
"She's a brilliant problem-solver and a very creative one - and those are essential qualities for a clicker trainer."
"Her methods are positive, inspiring, gentle, and effective. Her style is friendly, open, honest, and lots of fun. Every single person in our May workshop left with some personal and valuable treasure of learning, and every one said 'Yes, we want her back!' That's probably the highest recommendation you can get."
"I don't gush like this about 90% of the trainers and seminar givers out there. I've been teaching (mostly people) all my adult life and teaching people to train their dogs for many years too. I'm a VERY critical audience."
--Dani Weinberg, Albuquerque, N.M., who has sponsored three Shirley Chong seminars there.
"She is the ONE person on this planet that I totally trust with my kids and my dogs and to teach my kids to train their dogs."
--Susan Traynor, Chicago, competitor and trainer in agility, flyball, obedience and therapy.
"I've learned more this weekend that in any obedience class I have ever taken!"
-- Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo., after attending a weekend training camp for Shelties.
"Shirley has saved so many dogs from a harsh training regimen. I know that, if my dog could talk, he would be shouting his support for Shirley. Even though she is the source of evil temptations . . ."
--Jean Richardson, Palatine, Ill., who has competed in obedience with a Dachschund, Great Dane and Amstaffs and now is participating in the obedience series.
"We had a GREAT lesson. Covered tons of interesting things. I can't believe how much information we came back with."
--Mary Ruth, Barnhart, Mo. after a full-day private lesson with Shirley in Grinnell on competitive obedience and service-dog training.
"I have attended three Shirley Chong seminars, and I'm currently trying to figure out just how MANY on her list I can afford to attend this coming year. <G!>
"The tone at her camps is upbeat and positive. The focus is ALWAYS on what's best for the DOG. Shirley has an uncanny ability to read the dog's nonverbal body language and use that information in a way that leads to an effective solution for the problem at hand. I would trust Shirley with my very soft little dog in a heartbeat!"
--Pat Biessener, Maplewood, MN, who has participated in several training camps in Iowa, including the competitive obedience series.
"The Gift is telepathy and intuition and the ability to assess and read and communicate. And, and, and. It's something more than all those different things, though. The Gift is greater than the sum of it's parts, and Shirley uses her gift with love and care and wisdom (even when she's being evil, LOL)."
"What I saw was that Gitta trusted Shirley, when before she had trusted no one but me. And it was instant. To be honest it was a huge relief to me; to carry that trust alone felt like an enormous responsibility. I was so glad that Gitta had found another human that she could trust, and I was proud of her that she had chosen well. I never saw Gitta appear more relaxed than when she was with Shirley. She knew she was in good hands."
--Tmara Goode, who drove from Orange, Calif., to Shirley's first weekend training camp at her new The Well Mannered Dog center in 1998, reflecting on how Shirley worked with Gitta to determine what triggered her to bite.
"I came from totally 'ground zero' from a training perspective. I felt that Shirley addressed my specific needs and yet offered a scope of training tips and techniques that allowed the more advanced trainers to practice or introduce a new behavior without having them feel as though the 'newbies' were 'holding them up.'"
--Meg Klein, Wausau, WI, after attending a training camp for Papillons.
"In the first seminar Shirley did here [in Dallas], a year ago, there was a wild and crazy Golden. She came to the next seminar and she was very fearful, very shaken and a mess. She was afraid of her owner and would go to anyone else in the room first."
"Her owner had been training with one of the best known trainers in the area, who is still very heavy handed. Among other things this dog had endured was to have the trainer come up behind her as they were heeling and slap her with a piece of cardboard to cure lagging. Of course the cardboard didn't hurt her but it scared her a lot."
"The owner is the kind that will push and push and push with questions and Shirley was trying to be diplomatic -- but finally she laid it all out in unvarnished detail. The owner took it bravely, close to tears. I figured she wouldn't return the next day but she did. And her dog looked better physically! She had made a real effort all that evening to praise the dog, love on the dog, relate to the dog. On Sunday, the strange, hunched up gait was gone. The owner switched to a training club that uses clickers and had several private lessons with Shirley when she was available."
"She came to this most recent seminar with a relaxed and happy dog and told Shirley they had taken first place at a recent trial with a 197 in Open."
--Laurie Telfair, Dallas, competitor in conformation and obedience with German Shepherds.
"Shirley has a huge knowledge of dogs and anything that may touch them or us and our relationships with them. She seems to have knowledge on all training methods, and I think it is wise to consider all very carefully and how they apply in specific situations. I believe her general conclusion is that clicker training is powerful in working with and building our relationships with our dogs.
"She's been right on with her perceptions of my guys. I'd say Shirley just about radiates kindness and compassion. Which is not to say she wasn't quick to handle that big, bold boy, whom I fell totally in love with."
--Jane Heggen, Cedar Rapids, IA, after attending a training camp for Bernese Mountain Dogs.
"We took our two rescue boys to Shirley's Camp Berner last fall. It was our first experience with clicker training. We went early for 3 days of private lessons. It was fantastic. Shirley gave us lots of insight about our dogs, especially Pilgrim's troubles. Pilgrim came here just over a year ago after biting his child in the face. He was well on the way to being euthanized. We felt that he was lacking in self-confidence, not aggressive. The look of pride on his face when he mastered walking through the ladder on the floor would make your heart burst."
"We found her approach very positive and encouraging to both us and the dogs. A great part of the experience was the 4 acre fenced field that is adjacent to the training center. The dogs and people can walk off leash and relax. It was wonderful at Camp Berner to see 10-12 dogs running around together."
--Nell Ward, Fountaintown, Ind., after attending Camp Berner in 1999.
"I have been to one of Shirley's clicker camps and found it very enlightening. Depending on the camps focus you will get many new training ideas. Both for competition (Conformation, Obedience, Draft, Agility) and for problem behaviors."
"Shirley is very apt at reading dogs, and coming up with innovative ways to solve problems that have not been solved conventionally."
--Cindy Still, Colorado Springs, CO., competitor and trainer in obedience and drafting.