Laura Holder is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed, a Certified Nose Work Instructor, and has a passion for continuing education.
She's been offering professional dog training services since 2011 and has help hundreds of pet owners live a more fulfilling life with their canine pals.
Her passions include working on complex behavior cases, teaching K9 Nose Work®, and working with her professional scent detection canine for Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc.
After spending my childhood pretending to be a dog (thanks for not thinking I was crazy, Mom!), I was so excited to finally get a dog my senior year of college. By the time I adopted Fanny in 2003, she'd already lived in three different homes. It was clear that she had issues with men. I knew we'd need to work together to help her feel safe at home and in our neighborhood. We started training with the practices I thought were best at the time made popular by a certain T.V. show that is still on the air today.
One specific interaction with Fanny changed everything. As I was trying one of the recommendations by "The Dog Whisperer", Fanny locked eyes with me, and her distress hit me hard. "This is not right," I realized, "There's gotta be a different way. I know there's a different way. Why am I doing this to my dog?"
Soon thereafter I met a Milwaukee-based trainer who worked exclusively with reward-based training methods. She introduced me to positive reinforcement training and helped me understand behaviors from a dog's perspective. As soon as we started working with Jan's methods, Fanny improved drastically as my husband, Aaron, and I set up routines that were comfortable for all three of us.
Working with Fanny taught me that training isn't about trying to suppress a dog’s natural instincts, but rather, trying to understand them and set up an environment that offers them a better lifestyle. Dogs are dogs -- they don't come with an intuitive understanding of how to live in a human world, and they certainly do not speak English.
Fast-forward to 2009. Aaron and I decided to add a second dog to our family. On New Year’s Eve that year, we drove to Northern Wisconsin to pick up Oscar, a pure-bred White Shepherd, who was eight-weeks old at the time. I had dreams of doing therapy work with him and, as a puppy he was a wonderful little bundle of joy. Then adolescence hit. Things got tough. Oscar started to exhibit “stranger danger” at unfamiliar people and dogs. He was rushed by another dog in agility class and started to develop fear reactions in the training room. I tried all the reward-based methods I had successfully used with Fanny, but it just wasn’t resonating with Oscar. I kept asking, "If Fanny could do it, why can't Oscar?" After lots of mutual frustration, I realized I had to stop trying to "fix" my boy. I was clearly not listening to him and needed to adjust the world he lived in. We started to explore other activities that we could actually enjoy (hint: a big part of this was letting him "be more dog"), which has facilitiated an amazing transformation we both needed.
So how exactly did I become a dog trainer? I would say that Fanny introduced me to the concepts of training, but going through the experiences with Oscar catapulted me into wanting to learn all I could about dog training, behavior -- and more importantly -- the significance of building a true partnership with your canine companion. I started teaching group classes for a local training company in 2011 and since that time, have earned my certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, taught classes ranging from puppy preschool to reactive rover. Most recently, I've developed a special interest in teaching K9 Nose Work®, and earned my Certified Nose Work Instructor™ certification in March of 2016. I have experience conducting private, in-home training for dogs with a wide range of behavioral challenges and provide educational workshops and seminars to a variety of audiences throughout the community on a regular basis. I've also competed in K9 Nose Work® ORT's and Trials with Oscar. Oscar and I earned our ORT on all (3) NACSW target scents and achieved our NW1 and L1C titles (we also have our first leg towards our L1V title). Our newest four-legged companion, Ernie, is my working dog for Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc., a Milwaukee-based 501c3 organization, I co-founded in January of 2017. We train and provide professional scent detection canine teams to locate invasive and endangered/protected species.
Connecting with Dogs is the culmination of 15 years of personal experience, professional training, hundreds of teaching hours, unwavering support from my ever-patient husband, and a lot of influence from a few amazing people along the way. My mission is to be humane, my style is reward-based and my greatest teachers are the dogs I work with every day. My techniques combine compassion and the latest science. Mindful people who want to develop an honest connection with their dogs, participate in my practical, hands-on workshops, one-on-one sessions, and educational talks in Southeast Wisconsin.
I am addicted to providing the best care for my clients. Being a dedicated professional means I'll forever be a student. Here are my certifications, memberships, and trainings so far: