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:
Professional Certifications and Memberships
Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
Certified Nose Work Instructor™, National Association of Canine Scent Work® (NACSW™)
Graduate, Better Vet Visits, Karen Pryor Academy
Co-founder and Steering Committee Member, Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin
Professional Member, The Pet Professional Guild
Member, National Association of Canine Scent Work®
Live Education and Training
- NACSW Enhanced Education Weekend for K9 Nose Work® Instructors 2020
Conditioning: What it is and how can it help my dog?, Dr. Lori Rockwell 2020
Stretching for Dogs—Why it’s important and how to do it safely, Dr. Lori Rockwell 2020
Learning to Spot Pain and Injury in Dogs, Dr. Lori Rockwell 2020
Hidden Gems with Sue Sternberg, Virtual NACSW Camp 2020
Field Observations with Amy Herot, Virtual NACSW Camp 2020
Search Area Evaluation: Exteriors, Dana Zinn, 2020
Chirag Patel 4-day Intensive, 2019
Developing a Dynamic Training Plan for your Nose Work Dog, Leah Gangelhoff, 2019
Stress and the Nose Work Dog, Ann Waterbury, 2018
CE910: Instructor Continuing Education for CNWI/ANWI, Joyride K9, 2018
Presenter, Training Thoughtfully Milwaukee, 2017
K9 Nose Work Seminar, Dana Zinn, 2017
Kay Laurence - Skills for Tomorrow's Trainer 5-Day Course, 2016
Practical Hide Placement, Jacy Kelley, 2016
Scent and Scent Theory, Donna Hrenick, 2016
From Stress to Success: Handler & Dog Skill Development in K9 Nose Work® Training, Leah Gangelhoff, 2015
Reading Your Dog: The Not-so-Hidden Language of Communicaiton in Scent Practice, Roxanne Baudry, 2015
Trainer Accredited by Kay Laurence 2-year Study Course, Kay Laurence, 2015-2017
Kay Laurence 2-day Training Seminar, Kay Laurence, 2014
True Potential Partnership Intensive Training Program, Kathy Kawalec, 2014
NACSW K9 Nose Work® Camp, Georgia, 2014
Brilliant Partners Club, Kathy Kawalec, 2013 - present
Mentor to Learn Trainer Course, Family Paws, 2013
"Get SMART! About Training" 2-day Seminar, Kathy Sdao, 2013
Steve and Jennifer White Seminar, 2011
Recorded Education and Training
Repetitive Drills with Gail McCarthy
Rethinking Heat Injury in Dogs, Janice Baker, DVM, MS, NCVMB
Stretch don't Snap (Colleen Pelar, CBBC, CPDT-KA)
I-Spy: Early Detection of Injuries in Our Dogs (Chris Zink DVM PhD DACVP DACVSMR CCRT CVSMT CVA)
Considerations for Successful Hide Placement (Barbara Schwerdt, CNWI)
Emotional and environmental enrichment with scent (Dr. Robert Hewings, BSc MA)
- Inspiration for the K9 Nose Work Classroom (Leah Gangelhoff, CNWI)
- Science of Olfactory Perception and Learning (Dr. Simon Gadbois)
- Start Button Behaviors (Hannah Brannigan)
- Distractions don't have (Large) Scent Cones! Distractions in Nosework (Stacy Barnett)
- Scent-work Planning and Problem Solving (Robert Hewings)
- Canine Sense and Scent Ability (Dr. Nathaniel Hall)
- Spay/Neuter of Dogs: What every dog trainer should know (Dr. Daniela Zurr)
- What Exotic Animals Taught Me About Training Working Dogs (Ken Ramirez)
- Expanding Your Force Free Dog Training Toolkit Part 3 (Chirag Patel)
- A Brief Look at Arousal in Dogs (Ken McCort)
- What the Nose Knows (Dana Emerson & Jane Fallander)
- Pick the brain first: The right nose, breed and training method will follow (Simon Badbois, Ph.D)
- Nutrigenomics for Dogs: Creating Healthy Vitality Through Food (Dr. Jean Dodds)
- Reducing Behavior with Reinforcement: Oxymorons and Other Jumbo Shrimp (Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D)
- Extinction and Resurgence (Jesus Rosales Ruiz)
- Aggression in Depth (John Rogerson)
- What it Means to Be a Positive Trainer (Ken Ramirez)
- Different Breeds Have Different Needs (Trish King)
- Rehabilitation in Aggression Cases (Trish King)
- Terrible Teens - Canine Adolescence (Trish King)
- The Art of Trick Dogging (Emily Larlham)
- The Body Language of Canine Play (Terry Ryan)
- The Magic of Shaping (Pamela Dennison)
- Pavlov Meets Cujo (Kathy Sdao)
- Control Unleashed (Leslie McDevitt)
- Understanding the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play (Nicole Wilde)
- Pairing Pavlovian Conditioning with Operant Odor Discrimination
- Clicker Training for Small Pets (Emily Cassell)
- Essential Oils & Pets (Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM)
- The Seductiveness of Shock (Kathy Sdao)