Lisbeth Borg de Waard is a dog trainer and behaviourist based in Norway. She owns and runs a training school and also teaches locally and abroad on a variety of subjects. Lisbeth has also written a book about instruction methods for dog trainers. We had a chat with Lisbeth about some of her latest projects.
Hi Lisbeth. We’d love to hear more about your training centre in Norway. Could you tell us a bit about it? My training centre Innlandet Hundesenter is located 150km north of Oslo. The centre consists of two offices, a large room for classroom education and a room for an enriched environment. In the enriched environment room we have puppy socialisation classes and we also assess dogs that come in for consultations. I have four instructors working with me and we offer puppy classes, classes for adolescent dogs and specific problem behaviour classes, such as walking nicely on a leash. Annually we have around 40 different classes in five locations (Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjøvik, Brumunddal and Rudshøgda). In October I’m expanding and have just signed the lease for an even bigger and better centre just outside Oslo and close to the airport. At this new venue there will also be an indoor training hall. What type of classes and activities do you focus on at the training school? In addition to ordinary classes for dog owners, I offer private lessons and consultations. I also have a dog trainer course which focuses on behaviour and problem solving for students who want to work professionally with dogs. We also offer puppy socialisation for new owners. The aim is to educate the owner and to give the puppies the best possible start in life, with only positive experiences. This autumn I’m setting up a series of new evening courses about natural behaviour, body language and positive dog training. This course is aimed at breeders and people already working with dogs in kennels, pet shops and veterinary offices.
How long have you been working with dogs? I founded Innlandet Hundesenter in 2012 and have been working full time with dogs since 2013. I attended my first course with Turid Rugaas in 2003 and in between I attended a lot of courses and seminars, as well as working with the local dog club. I’ve gained tons of experience by adopting several dogs that needed a new home due to problem behaviour. At most I had 8 dogs with different behavioural issues. This experience has been invaluable to me! What did you do before you started in the dog training world? Prior to working full time with dogs I was an assistant professor at the university college in Oslo and Akershus. I have 10 years of teaching experience at different school levels (high school, adult learning and university college). I returned to Norway after 11 years abroad where I studied and worked in different countries. I have an MA in International Relations from Lancaster in the UK and have worked for the Norwegian Red Cross in addition to various work in hotels. We heard that you have spent time running a dog trainer education in Tallinn, Estonia. Can you tell us a bit about this? The dog trainer education in Tallinn was very interesting! I had 20 students (most of them already working as dog trainers) that were very open to new ideas and wanted to learn more about positive dog training methods and problem solving. The course consisted of 10 teaching weekends, in addition to practical homework including the observation of dog communication and writing a final project. I found it challenging to introduce a whole new way of thinking about dog training and how to treat dogs. In Estonia the methods we are using in the PDTE are very new, and very different to the old fashioned way of training dogs based on dominance and outdated theories. However, the students were welcoming and very interested in what I was teaching. After one year I could see a great difference in how they acted and trained their dogs. It was greatly fulfilling to see that it actually works and that we can make some changes for the better!
What do you think are the most important issues in dog training at the moment? I can only speak for Norway and maybe Scandinavia - I believe we are now in a time where dog training is in great change. There is a movement of new, different and positive training methods. I see it as a 'break up period'. In 2016 we are wealthier than ever, and people are looking up the Maslow's hierarchy of needs to satisfy their wellbeing. The role of dogs as companions and friends has grown, and people are more interested in their wellbeing too. More money and hence more research into dog behaviour is only for the good I think. Social media is contributing to more awareness too. I believe it is important to focus on ourselves and what we want to achieve - not be irritated and waste energy on being angry and frustrated about what other dog trainers do, and the use of old, outdated methods. Cooperating and working together towards a common goal of greater awareness about what a dog really is, including their ability to feel, their natural needs and learning about their language (calming signals, stress etc.) is very important. Personally I have a big focus on trying to stop the extended use of crates. Here in Norway many dogs are spending the night and working day in a small crate inside the house. People want quick fixes and easy solutions, and don't want their carpets soiled. I also want to spread information about how dogs really work, and to make people aware and teach them how to solve problems with positive methods and avoid getting a dog with problem behaviour. I have made a very successful free online course for dog owners that have problems with dogs pulling on leash. In only four months more than 2,000 dog owners have used this free course online. What do you enjoy most about your work? For me the dogs are my greatest focus. The dogs' wellbeing comes first. When I see I’ve made just a little change in a dog's life for the better, it gives me the motivation to keep doing what I do. If a dog can get even a little bit more socialisation, or have better walks with an owner not pulling on the leash, or not have to stay in their crate all day and night – I believe I’ve made a difference for the dog. A happy dog gives me joy! I also naturally enjoy meeting new and interesting people. I appreciate when my students in the behaviour classes have understood and implemented a lot of what I’ve been trying to teach. It means that I’ve done a good job. For every dog trainer that trains with positive methods, there are a great number of dogs that will get a better life! What advice would you give to dog trainers who are just starting out in the industry? Focus on the dogs! Don’t spend time getting frustrated about what other dog trainers do if you don’t agree. All that energy is a waste and could be used to help another dog. Start small. Rome was not built in a day. What motivated you to become involved with the PDTE? Naturally I appreciate Turid Rugaas’ teachings and ideas. I believe we can achieve more change working together as a group towards common goals, and the PDTE is for me the only organisation that fits my own beliefs about how we should train and treat our dogs. This is where I meet people that share my own views about dog training.
Tell us a bit about your own dogs. In addition to my 5 cats and 11 chickens, I have 5 dogs: a 6 year old golden retriever, a 4 year old collie, a 2 year old basset hound and two Italian greyhounds who are 9 and 10 years old. I love that they all have such different personalities! We live in the countryside with a huge fenced garden and can go for great walks in the woods just outside my living room. The reason for moving here was the suitable location for the dogs. My wish is to give my dogs the best possible life based on what they like to do. So we go on many walks in the woods, we do some tracking and mentally stimulating activities, they come with me and my husband to our summer house and we just like 'being' with our dogs. A relaxed and happy dog melts my heart. And finally, if you were a dog, what breed would you be? According to various 'personality tests' on the internet, I must have a split personality since I love dogs of all breeds! Basset hounds and greyhounds are quite different in some ways, but still dogs. If I had to choose, I think I'd want to be a basset hound. All four I've had seem to be very carefree and happy about life. 'Happy go lucky' would be nice.