Dr. Else Verbeek
I’m Else, and I’m a scientist and lecturer at the University in Uppsala (Sweden). I also run my own practice to help dogs (and their owners) overcome stress, fear and anxiety. At the same time, I provide training and education about dog behaviour, stress and emotion for dog trainers and behaviourists.
My vision is that behavioural problems are only the surface of the real issue. We often only pay attention once our dog’s behaviour is undesirable, but the cause of the behaviour lies much deeper and started long before we first noticed it.
Behavioural problems often arise when we don’t meet our dog’s most basic emotional needs, such as having a safe haven to return to when they’re scared, good communication, having sufficient options and choices, and the need for control and predictability. When we don’t meet these emotional needs, dogs will change their behavioural patterns in an attempt to feel safe and secure.
For example, when a dog learns at a young age that there is no safe base to return to when facing danger, they’ll learn that the world is a scary place where anything can happen. These dogs become pessimists and react to new situations as if they’re dangerous, even when there’s no actual danger. This has become their safety mechanism.
Many dogs with anxiety will actively avoid whatever they’re scared of to get temporary relief and reduce their anxious feelings. They can do this either by moving away themselves or by trying to get rid of the scary person/dog/thing by barking and lunging at it. However, avoidance often increases anxiety in the long-run and these dogs will then become even more sensitive to potentially scary things. And so the cycle of anxiety is maintained.
We can only change their behavioural patterns and ‘break’ the cycle of anxiety when we begin to understand why dogs behave the way they do, and how we can meet their underlying emotional needs.
My goal is
To be your trusted source of science-based information about dog behaviour and welfare.
The core of amazing animal minds is to support everyone that interacts with dogs on a daily basis to grow their knowledge, improve their skills and increase self-confidence. Whether you’re a new dog owner or a professional that has years of experience, we’ll support you in a way that’s right for you.
My mission is
To create a better world in which no dog has to suffer.
By giving you the latest insights from dog behaviour and welfare research, you will have the knowledge and tools to prevent problem behaviours and improve welfare.
By being part of my community of like-minded people and inspiring others to take action, you can help me to promote happy dogs on every corner of the planet!
My goal is to share my experiences and bring you along on my scientific discovery journey to help you and your dog have a peaceful and happy life together. Most content on this website is available for free, because I believe that improving dog welfare should be accessible to all.
If you feel you need a little extra help, I offer courses, seminars and in special cases individual consultations. However, start by reading the free articles and the guides because many common problems you can solved by yourself once you have the right knowledge.
In case you still struggle to find the right solution for your dog, I may offer individual consultations for special and hard to solve cases. These consultations are limited since my work as a scientist and teacher at the university limits my availability. Therefore, individual consultations are restricted to hard-to-solve cases that require a more personalised approach.
If you think your case falls in this last category then please book a 15 min free start-up consultation below. During the free start-up consultation we will discuss your individual case and decide on the best approach.
We got our family dog, Thierry, as a little puppy. He was gorgeous and we loved him to bits. But he would pull at the lead when we walked him, which wasn’t that much fun. So, like any other responsible dog owner, we took him to puppy classes. This was the 90s, so we were taught that you had to jerk the lead to make him listen. And treats were not allowed, because then he would only work for bribes, and not for us. We followed the advice for a bit, but it never worked. It also made me question how we treat our animals.
Then there was my horse, Jiqhall. I got him as a 3 year old stallion when I was only 12. He would buck me off all the time and I could not control him. I couldn’t even predict when he was going to run off or buck. Trainers and coaches told me to punish him, hit him, and show him who was in control.
But beating an animal into submission just didn’t feel right. And then, one day, I started paying attention to his ears. His ears told me everything! Once I learned how to read his ears I could tell if he was happy or not, when he was going to buck, when he was scared and wanted to run away from something. This ‘magic’ transformation allowed me to go from uncontrollable rides to competing at high level dressage.
It also made me wonder if there was a simpler and kinder way to be with our animals.
When I finished high school, I was sure I wanted to work with animals. I was interested in how things work and wanted to better understand why animals do the things that they do. Therefore, I decided to do a masters degree in ethology. A new world opened up to me. I finally had the understanding of why animals behave in certain ways, and how we often keep them in environments and force them into situations that are not right for them. Is it any wonder that we see so many animals with stress, anxiety and behavioural problems?
After that I wasn’t done studying yet. It was only a little peek, and I wanted to know much more about behaviour, and how behaviour is controlled and regulated.
I then continued with a PhD degree in animal behaviour and welfare. Over the past 15 years, I have helped hundreds of animals overcome their fear of humans, new and scary places and taught them how to be comfortable by themselves.
Do you struggle with your pets behaviour, but are you confused because of all the contradictory information you have read and heard?
My current work
I currently work as a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (since 2017), where I am a course leader of the MSc course Animal Behaviour and Welfare and the PhD course “Understanding cognition and emotions to improve animal welfare”. I also supervise MSc and PhD students during their thesis research projects in animal behaviour and welfare.
In one of my projects, I’m working with dogs who have separation-related behaviours (often called separation anxiety).
When left alone at home, these dogs become extremely anxious and will whine, bark, chew up the furniture, or urinate inside the house while their owners are away.
This is one of the most widespread dog behavioral issues, but it is still unknown why these dogs have such a hard time being alone. We can gain new insights into the minds of dogs with separation-related behaviors by inventing unique ways to assess emotions, allowing us to uncover better solutions to help these dogs.
I am the leader of different research projects in animal behaviour and welfare, and participate in several others. You can read more about my work here.
Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed on this blog are my personal ones, they do not represent any company, institute or organization.