How I Became a Dog Trainer

Someone asked me to write a blog post on how I got interested in dogs and how my dog training career started. The short answer is – I don’t know. I’m born this way, probably. We didn’t have a dog in the house when I was a small child. Both my parents had grown up with dogs, but they weren’t very interested. My aunt was more interested in dogs and bred cairn terriers. Every time we went there, I spent time with the dogs and cried when we had to leave them to go home. My parents decided to get a dog when I was 8 years old. Since my aunt was a breeder, it was natural to get one of her puppies – a cairn terrier named Bamse. My parents took responsibility for caring for and training him as I was so young. I would accompany my mother to puppy class and I think I read all the dog books available in the library and all the magazines I could get my hands on – many times.

Bamse was a very difficult dog to train in many ways. He as dog aggressive (did not like other male dogs), did not play with me at all, liked to sniff the ground and bit me if we had different opinions on something. I still trained him a lot and waited to turn 12 when I would finally be allowed to start in my first obedience competition. I also wrote my on dog training magazine, held training classes for my friends (often with dogs that we would borrow from families in the neighborhood) and their dogs and dreamed about my future home and all the dogs I would have there. I also remember refusing to draw anything other than dogs in art class. Bamse and I went to a few dog shows, but I really wanted to compete in obedience and in the Swedish working dog program. I would spend many evenings, at all times of the year, at the dog training club. Often on my own. My father would drive me there and then pick me up later at night.

I also dreamed of another dog that would be more willing to train with me. For a while, I was very set on getting a toller, but my parents said no. When I was 13, I found an ad for a border collie litter related to a friend’s nice dog. To my great surprise, my parents told me to call the breeder when I showed it to them. This is how Twiggy came into my life. She was the perfect companion and training friend. She was friendly to everybody, loved to play, always stayed with me, and I could not have asked for a better dog as a teenage dog trainer. Twiggy and I mostly competed in obedience, but also some tracking, agility, and freestyle. I had other interests for a few years as a teenager and didn’t train much, but got back to training and competing a few years later. Twiggy became obedience trial champion and qualified for the Swedish national championships in obedience a couple of times.

Building Value for the Treat&Train

It’s a busy time for me right now with a lot of traveling. I was in France last weekend teaching a seminar, and I’m in Ohio tight now. I love teaching at new places, but the traveling takes a lot of time. France was 14-15 hours each way and yesterday was 19 hours from my home to the hotel in Columbus. I had a couple of days at home this week. I used the first to mostly rest and Wednesday to catch up on things, like training my dogs! The dogs and I spent two hours in the dog training hall close to us and had a great time. Epic has to stay at home still, which is breaking my heart. He makes a lot of improvements and the surgeon was very happy with how he looked when we took the stitches out last week. He moves normally and is ready to start some rehab and longer walks on a leash.

I have been reluctant to try the Treat&Train (remote controlled treat dispenser) with Spy because I thought she’d think it was scary with the noise it makes. She’s also much more into toys than treats which makes it harder to overcome the noise. I use the Treat&Train sometimes for running contacts training and I think it would be a good choice for a dog like Spy who is very motion sensitive, so I decided to try it this week. We started in the house on Tuesday night. In the first session I put a high value treat in the bowl attached to the machine, restrained her and sent her to it. We have worked on sends to treats on the ground before, so she knew that. As soon as she ate the treat I gave a reward marker and moved the other way and let her chase a new treat (lower value) along the floor. For the second session I started by first checking her reaction to the machine when I trained Bud and had her in the other room with the door slightly open. She was fine, so I brought her into the training room and just gave her treats from my hand when it made noise. After a few repetitions of that I went back to the original set up with a high value treat in the bowl and restraining and sending, but this time adding the beep and noise of the machine before my “go” cue. She did great! Ending each repetition with her chasing me and a new treat the other way kept the session active and fun for her.

On Wednesday, I brought the machine to the training arena, where she usually is very excited and happy to work. I used the same setup, but had her chase a toy in my hand after eating the treats in the bowl. I want to build a lot of excitement for the machine even if she’s not that interested in food – especially not the dryer food that goes into the machine. I use a high value reward with lots of energy (chasing me to a tug toy) and classical conditioning to increase the value of the machine. There is also an element of operant conditioning where she learns that she has to engage with the food in the bowl in order to get to chase me. The session went well and she would go to the machine at other times (like when I was packing up and getting ready to leave) and look in the bowl. At this point I think she’s mostly enjoying the game and getting used to the machine. I don’t think she understands the beep and noise as a marker signal and a call to action (“get the food in the bowl!”) so that will be the next step before I can use it to train other things.

Here’s a very unedited – I didn’t intend to make it public – video of our second session on Wednesday

This weekend I’m teaching agility in Columbus, Ohio (at PosiDog, where I’ve been many times before). First session tomorrow is about Speed and Motivation for agility dogs. It’s a subject that I like and that I have a lot of experience with working with dogs like my cocker Shejpa and more recently Spy. It’s also a subject that I think a lot of handlers need to consider more. Agility needs to be fast and fun before you try to teach anything else. Some dogs just love agility right from the start, but most need good training to reach their potential.

If you want a more motivated dog in agility, our Foundation Class (for all sports) is a good start. I have also for the first time added an agility class to our online curriculum. Agility Handling Foundations Online will start on April 9th. This class will also help a lot with motivation and clarity (which leads to speed) for agility dogs at all levels.

Epic’s CCL injury

On Sunday, I was enjoying a sheepdog clinic at our farm and talking to a friend about all the things that can happen to a dog, and about injuries that had happened recently to dogs we know. I was thinking to myself that I had been so lucky to never have had an acute injury on any of my dogs. At lunch, I brought Epic out to switch the sheep out, and I sent him to fetch sheep in an area that is quite full of small trees and roots. We also have a bit of snow and the area is probably a bit slippery. He fetched them nicely and I let five of them out. As I tried to recall Epic the rest of the sheep bolted out away from the gate and he decided not to listen to my recall, but to catch up with them and bring them to me again. As he was coming around the sheep he suddenly changed to a much slower pace and I could hear him whimper. I quickly got him and he was on three legs, in obvious pain. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I got the impression that he got his leg caught in something that stopped him abruptly. We also found a scratch/burn mark further up on that leg, which probably happened at the same time.

I gave him painkillers and just kept a eye on him for the rest of the day. He seemed to get better during the afternoon and would sometimes use his right back leg and put weight on it, but then he would go back to hopping on three legs. I took him to our local vet the next morning, and she concluded that it was his knee that bothered him and sent us on to an orthopaedic vet. We were lucky enough that he could fit us in and have a look at Epic already today. Thomas brought him there (it’s an 80 minute drive) because I had to work. He was diagnosed with a CCL – Cranial Cruciate Ligament – tear, and will need surgery. Fortunately, there is no indication of any degenerative damage on the ligaments. The left knee was stable and there was no arthritis in the right knee. We were probably just unlucky. Very sad considering the great year we had last year, and how much I was looking forward to tryouts and competitions with him this spring.

He is scheduled to have surgery on February 19. The surgeon hasn’t decided on TTA or TPLO as the method. I was under the impression that TPLO was “better”, but I realise that my google skills are not as good as his surgical skills, and that I should let him decide what is best for Epic. The worst thing about injured dogs is that it’s so hard to know what is the best for your dog. Unless you have a surgeon and a rehab specialist that you trust fully, you’ll have doubts. Have we found the best surgeon? What is best practice in the two weeks before the surgery? Who should I take advice from regarding rehab after surgery? I’m glad that this is a fairly common injury in dogs, and that there are lots of resources online. But that also means that there is a lot of information to sort through and decide on…

Please keep your fingers crossed for Epic, and let me know if you have any useful information. I will keep you updated on this new part of our journey. Also – this is expensive – you can help me out while learning a lot by joining our online classes that started yesterday.

Update on Spy

Sorry for not giving you enough updates on what’s happening with Spy. It’s been a very intense time. In the past month, I’ve travelled to Canada, Switzerland, south of Sweden and Italy. I’ve hosted a seminar at home, delivered puppies and fought a persistent flu. The first lambs were born in the beginning of this week, and I’m getting ready to travel to Norway for the weekend. Since I’ve been travelling so much I haven’t had a lot of time to work with Spy. We have made a lot of progress in herding. She learns quickly and is very focused. Training for agility and obedience is harder, since I have to teach her everything from scratch. It’s not like starting with a puppy. A puppy is usually easy to reward, offers a lot of behaviors and progress is very fast. With Spy I’ve had to work on building food and toy rewards and for her to offer behavior.

She will now happily eat from my hand and can offer some behaviors. I’ve shaped her to put her feet on things and to back up. I didn’t introduce play until I felt that she was ready for it. I wanted her to feel safe with me and develop her playful side with the other dogs first. My first attempt at playing was done outdoors, which was a mistake. She wasn’t interested until I got Bud out and played with them together. Bud has been very helpful in training Spy. She looks up to him and relaxes more when he’s around. In some of our early training sessions she got worried and wanted to leave, but having Bud around and training him at the same time really helped in getting her to feel both safe and excited.

Next time, I tried indoors and was more successful. When introducing play, I use a soft toy on a long line that I can drag on the floor away from the dog. I don’t care if the dog actually grabs the toy – all I want is for her to get engaged and chase it. I try to use playful body language and to quit while the dog is engaged in play and still wants more. Here’s a video of our very first play session indoors (March 20). I was very excited that it went so well.

Another area that I focus on with Spy is her physical fitness. She is surprisingly strong and coordinated considering that she probably hasn’t been conditioned much as a puppy. I use our walks in the forest to build core strength, balance and coordination. We alternate between walking slowly on uneven ground off track, off leash running and balancing on fallen trees and stones. We have a beautiful forest just 5 minutes away where I walk my dogs. We rarely meet anyone there and it is perfect for conditioning. The ground is covered in moss and blueberry bushes and I spend a lot of time just walking slowly with the dogs behind me so that they have to lift their feet in a walk.

Dogs in the forest

My number one priority is building a great relationship with Spy. It takes more time with a dog this age, but we’re getting there. Relationship is a vague word that some dog trainers avoid, but I think it’s important to talk about it and define it. For me, a great relationship with a dog means that the dog trusts me and feels safe with me. If something is scary, the dog looks to me for support and guidance. When Spy came here, her response to something that scared her (for example heavy machines working in the forest) was to run away and hide. With time, I want her to come to me when something is scary, and even more importantly – not get scared when seeing that I’m not. A great relationship is also about the dog viewing me as a resource. Someone who provides fun games and meaningful work in their life. Good things come through and with me.

So far, I’m really happy that I decided to take a chance on Spy, and I’m excited to see what the future brings for us!



September is here. It’s so sad to say goodbye to summer, but at least this is the best month for adventures in the forest. I try to let my dogs spend as many days as possible with me in the forest. It’s good for us all. There is overwhelming evidence showing that human brains work best if we exercise. I’m sure the same is true for dogs. And of course: it’s not only good for our brains. My dogs get all kinds of exercise in the forest. Endurance from running, relaxation from trotting, and strength from walking on uneven ground and lifting their legs over rocks, fallen trees and the blueberry bushes that cover most of the forest floor. I try to get some of everything in our walks. Sometimes they run on their own while I mind my own business (usually listening to podcasts). Sometimes I ask them to walk behind me so that they have to walk and lift their legs. Sometimes we run together and they trot beside me. And then there’s the mandatory break for a group photo somewhere nice. I used to be annoyed with their long tongues ruining the picture, but I realised today that long tongues are a sign of happy, well exercised dogs.

Sometimes there’s a little too much of an adventure. We had a close encounter with a moose a couple of weeks ago. And on Tuesday, Bud was suddenly on three legs and in a lot of pain. We called Thomas who came to the rescue with a car while we carried Bud back through the forest. When we got to the car, he was still obviously in pain and wouldn’t put his foot down. We looked for signs of a snake bite, but found nothing. He wasn’t swollen and we couldn’t see any mark on his paw. I drove straight to our local (and very good!) vet, took him out of the car and he was… fine! Walked like normal, put weight on the leg and seemed happy. We drove home again and he’s been fine since. Very scary and strange. Snake bites are a constant worry during the warm months, even though we’ve never had a dog bitten.

New Look

The website has a new look and we hope that this will make it easier to read and prettier to look at. We’re offering two online classes this fall: Foundation Class and Relationship Building. These classes are great for anyone wanting to learn more about our style of training and about getting great results and having fun with reward based training.

I’ts the last week of August and the weather today reminds us that fall is here. Perfect for catching up with office work after a busy weekend. Living in Sweden means spending 9 months of the year longing for summer. Here’s a picture from July at my parents place by the sea. Bud loved playing in the water, but wouldn’t swim at all. When we got home, I put on my swimsuit, and put a life west on Bud. With some company and help, he learned how much fun swimming was and by the end of our first session he was swimming on his own with no life west.


It’s been a nice summer with great weather and visits from good friends. I’ve spent a lot of time at home while Thomas has travelled to Denmark, Norway and Finland to teach gundog seminars. Now is his busiest time with hunting and trials in the Norwegian mountains for Alot the GWP. Long road trips on narrow and winding Norwegian roads (slow, but the view is often amazing) for Thomas and his dogs.

I’ve had both time and weather for dog training this summer. Bud and I are slowly getting ready for agility trials, but I don’t want to rush it so he’ll probably wait until next year. He’s now weaving 12 straight poles and is starting to look fluent and fast. He is still a dream to bring to trial sites – quiet, calm and friendly. I hope it stays like that even when he gets to run.


Thomas and Volt working sheep in the sunset last week. Bud and I are also spending time with the sheep, trying to get ready for future work and trials. He is very intense and very talented, and I’ve learned a lot from him and the good trainers that have helped me with him. In two weeks time we’re expecting puppies! Fay is bred to Epic – same combination as my Bud. I really look forward to meet his new siblings!

I’ll try to update the blog more often this fall. Tell me what you’d like to read more about! And what online classes you’d like to see here. 

This fall’s hunting and field trials

This fall has been very exciting. I brought my German wirehaired puppy, Alot, grouse hunting in the Swedish and Norwegian mountains for the first time.
I started training the foundations like sit stay, stop signal, recalls and delivery to hand already when she was a baby. All training is based on fun games that develop a great relationship.
I prefer to keep a balance between the level of obedience and the hunting drive that usually kicks in at six months and keeps developing until she turns two or three years.

She was only six months old the first time I took her to the mountains. She found the birds, but didn’t point yet. I shot a few birds that she was allowed to retrieve just to give her the experience. She picked them up and returned straight to me to deliver to hand.


One new thing I taught Alot which I haven’t done with my other GWPs and setter, is to teach her steadiness to the gunshot. The procedure is exactly the same as for adding any other cue.
1) Check that the dog offers the behavior fluently without any cue.
2) Add the cue right before the dog offers it.
3) Change small things all the time to avoid any patterns. Make the cue salient. Generalize it.
4) Test the cue with gradually more distractions and increase the distance.

The first sessions I used a loud hand clap instead of a gunshot to make sure not to scare the little pup. This video shows the first steps.

I could progress really fast because I already had built a lot of value for the sit behavior and because such the gunshot is a salient signal that is different from all other cues.

In September I took her to the mountains again, and let her hunt with an experienced dog. Now she was seven months old. Before leaving I introduced her to partridges. She could point, flush and be steady to the verbal cue (see short video below). But she didn’t had the experience to handle grouse in the mountains and didn’t point yet. But she was perfectly steady to the gunshot every single time.

I recommend to get the foundations done and then take the young dog hunting to gain experience. Then nothing really goes wrong because I know that I can control the dog if she tries to run in.

In October she was eight months old and we spent a week in the mountains. Now she covered more and more ground, on average 100 meters to each side and sometimes up to 150 meters. She even handled the grouse perfectly and we both had such a great time.

There are some great contrasts in the hunting sequence. The dog should hold her point and only flush the birds on cue. She should be steady to the wing and shot and wait for the cue to retrieve. When hunting with a youngster, I don’t ask for all at once. I know she will flush willingly if I ask her (like in the partridge video), so I don’t ask her to flush. I just walk up to her, flush the birds myself. This way the situations become nice and calm and I get the opportunity to praise her for making good choices. I even fetch most of the birds myself and let her hold or sniff them as I return to her to reinforce the sit stay. But she did a great retrieve on a runner. Super experience!

Kat, my 3 year old working cocker has been hunting too. She did great in two field trials and placed third and forth. In both trials she got a first prize with “CK” (certificate quality), which means that she is more than half way to the title Swedish field trial champion.


January 4th I do another round of our popular online class “Relationship building”. This class is based on my experience training gundogs, but is open for all breeds. You can join with a puppy, a young or adult dog of any breed. A great relationship is the foundation that makes both everyday life and (training for) trials fun and easy.

Read more and sign up here.


So – back to some kind of every day life after an intense summer. My dogs have been healthy and we’ve had a lot of fun in the agility ring. European Open in Hungary was a great experience. I had some great runs with my dogs, but they both took a few bars too much. Squid usually doesn’t drop bars, especially not at 60 cm, and I don’t feel like she’s back in shape yet. New visit to the physiotherapist is scheduled, and I hope that nothing is wrong and that we just have to work some more to find her strength and form. Epic is just getting stronger and better, and his form is excellent. Unfortunately, he cut his paw during play by the stream last week. So he’s just resting and bumping into everything with his big cone. One more week before we can take the stitches out and start playing again.

Squid and I haven’t done any obedience training for a long time, we’ve been to busy with agility and traveling. We started again this week and we’re having a lot of fun with the elite exercises. I am tempted to start planning for competition this fall, but I’m not sure if we’ll have the time. I need to focus on a lot of trial preparation with her, not just the exercises. This requires both time, training partners and new locations.

Squid cone

Wilco has turned 6 months and I feel like I haven’t trained him enough this summer. He’s mostly been with me or with dog sitters or just hanging out at home during camps. He is such a cool puppy and adjusts to everything without problem. He is confident, but sweet. Calm, but always happy to work. Now, we have some more time for training and we’re working on agility and obedience foundations, conditoning and some herding (although that should probably wait a few more months).

I’m always excited to get back to normality after the summer. I feel like I have a good balance between competitions (we really look forward to Norwegian Open this fall!), time at home and traveling during the rest of this year. And oh! Win is in Norway to get mated to Tod, and we’re expecting puppies in 9 weeks. Cross your fingers for many, healthy puppies this time.

Early spring in Fjugesta

Wow, time really flies now that I’m home. Thomas is away a lot (but we have a few days together right now), and there’s a lot to do here. We’re in the middle of lambing, I watched a first time mother give birth just an hour ago, and as I’m writing this she had a second one. Everything has gone well with lambing so far, and I hope it stays that way. We’ve mostly had wonderful spring weather since I got home, and it’s so much nicer to take care of sheep and lambs when you’re not freezing your fingers off. We’ve been able to do some agility training outdoors, which is very rare in the beginning of March. There will probably be more snow before spring is really here, but we have spring flowers, some new grass and, unfortunately, also vipers and ticks…


What a beautiful view in the beginning of March! Agility and herding in the sun.

My dogs had an appointment with their physiotherapist on Tuesday. It takes me 3,5 hours one way to get there, so it’s always a full day road trip for us. Things are going the right way, and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I find rehab progressing much slower than I originally thought it would, and at the same time I feel that I am pushing forward faster than what I maybe should. It’s so hard! Canine rehab is a jungle. The more you learn, the less you realize that you (and others…) know. You need to find professionals that you trust, but at the same time try to learn as much as you can so that you can make good decisions on your own. Epic is now well enough to really work on strength and to do some agility. I’m glad to see that both dogs seem to remember agility very well even after a long break from it.

Wilco 5 weeks

This is Wilco, 5 weeks old. Just 2,5 weeks left before he joins his father and aunts here in Fjugesta.