Hi, I’m Else and it’s my pleasure to meet you! I have always known that I wanted to work with animals. I was the girl that always took home the baby birds that had fallen from a tree. I gave them a place to sleep, food and water. I don’t think any of them survived, but it wasn’t because of my lack of dedication!
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 when I was 12 and he was 3, and no one in my family knew anything about horses. A bad combination, I can tell you that. 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’ change 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.
For example, the sheep that I worked with only ever had negative experiences with people and were scared to death. Sheep are also flock animals and go into panic mode when they’re alone. So I spent ages training groups of about 100 sheep at the time to be calm around people and to feel happy in a test environment alone (but being able to see other sheep of course, otherwise it would be cruel).
I did this using a combination of two very powerful techniques: desensitization and counterconditioning. Together, they work like magic and you can calm down and train any animal with this.
Everyone thought I was completely nuts. I was sitting in the paddocks and pens for hours every day (part of the desensitization process) feeding the animals treats (counterconditioning). They’d never seen anyone do this before. But it worked like a charm.
Later on applied these same techniques to dozens of cattle, pigs and dogs. In this way, I have trained sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs on complex tasks that even people struggle to understand.
I have actually tested this: I applied the same test for pigs to children between the ages of 3 and 10 (just for a fun learning activity, not science), and guess who got it quicker? The pigs…. Kids are clever too of course (I wouldn’t want to offend anyone 🙂 But the point is, when you can’t explain what you want in words, there are plenty of other very effective ways to get your message across.
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. 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.
Why work as a behavioural consultant?
I am lucky enough to meet many dogs and their owners when they come into the lab to participate in my research projects. But it also makes me feel that the knowledge I generate as a scientist is a little too far away from reaching dog owners. I realized that we generate a vast amount of scientific information, but the solutions take years to reach dog owners.
From discussions with dog owners in the lab I hear that there is a lot of outdated, wrong, and sometimes outright dangerous information out there. The purpose of my work as a scientist is to help dogs (and their owners) feel good and be happy. With my blog, I want to make sure that you have the right knowledge to help your dog deal with her anxiety. After all, who spends countless hours digging deeper into the scientific literature for clues on how to help alleviate dogs’ stress and anxiety?…. well, that would be me of course! 🙂
I am now allocating a small part of my time to help private dog owners that struggle with their dog’s anxiety on an individual basis.
I do this so that I can receive a small income to write more free blog posts and guides and give free webinars/seminars to help dog owners that cannot afford to pay for consultations, but that do need the help.
I guide you through the process of finding a solution that works for you using a combination of behavioural diagnostic tools, science based techniques and approaches to help you have the calm and happy life that you and your dog deserve! To learn more about my approach and to book a consultation, click on the button below: