HELLO, I'M ERIKA LILJEFELT
a little about me:
In a nutshell, I'm a professional dog walker with a background in dog training and a passion for high-energy, leash-reactive, and aggressive dogs - and for making the lives of the humans who love them a little easier. Meet my own reactive dogs below.
I take my work seriously, so I'm always learning. A passionate reader with a degree in English literature from UC Berkeley, I've traded novels for avid reading in the dog behavior field, as well as watching professional seminar videos by top teachers in our industry, and continuing to take classes with my own dogs to keep my skills sharp. I am currently pursuing my goals of becoming a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Dog Trainer.
I also walk my own dogs every day and one of my greatest pleasures is hiking with my dogs.
My Credentials at a Glance:
- Graduate - dog*biz Success Dog Walking Academy (formerly dog*tec)
- Graduate - Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Foundations Course
- Currently pursuing certification from Trish King's Academy of Dog Behavior
- Marin Humane Society Trish King Canine Behavior Academy 40-hour Foundation Course (now taught at the Humane Society Silicon Valley)
- Dogsafe Canine CPR & First Aid certification
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) member
- Pet Professional Guild (PPG) member
- Former Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Volunteer
- Former Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA Volunteer
- Completed - Behavior Internship, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA Behavior & Training Department, Spring 2017
Why I Do What I Do
Since the day I decided to become a dog walker, the most common question I've gotten is whether I walk difficult dogs. I’ve heard story after story of dedicated dog owners turned down by walker after walker because their dog is “too high-energy” or because of their dog’s fear of people or reactivity toward other dogs. And if a dog has a bite history? Don’t even bother asking—no walker is going to take that on.
I don’t blame them. It’s hard work keeping dogs safe in our busy, complex world. Working with dogs with behavioral issues takes skill and a specialized knowledge of canine body language, the nature of aggression, and the art and science of dog training and behavior modification.
While I don’t blame walkers who don’t take on more challenging dogs, I’m not one of them. I revel in getting these dogs the exercise they need and deserve. Ask any dog trainer and she’ll give you an earful about the positive impact of exercise on behavior. When you have a dog who’s difficult to walk, it’s easy to end up in a downward spiral: You understandably avoid walks, only to see the behavior you’re trying to avoid grow worse.
To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing dogs transform under the influence of exercise and positive training - except maybe the relief of my human clients, able to relax knowing their dogs are getting out safely while they’re at work, and that maybe their own weekend walks can be made easier, too.
My Own Dogs, or Why I Do What I Do, Part 2
I mentioned that I know what it's like to live with a challenging dog, and I wasn't exaggerating. I've shared my home and my heart with a few reactive dogs. I've been amazed at the power of positive training to turn walks with my Reactive Rovers into enjoyable outings, and the power of exercise to transform their unbridled energy into a relaxed hum. I'd love to see that happen for you, too.
Here's a bit about my three current loves:
We think Ms. Mochi the Mutt is Miniature Pinscher and Rat Terrier, with maybe a little Chihuahua, too. Part of a wild dog pack roaming the Oakland Hills the first year of her life, Mochi is 18 lbs of tenacity and specializes in on-leash dog reactivity when given the opportunity.
Fiona was found at ~3-months-old hanging around a fruit stand in Half Moon Bay, CA. This sweet little girl had worms and was covered in fleas and ticks. The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA took her in, gave her medical attention, and was evaluating her for a head tremor, when I was introduced to her. Our family fostered her for two weeks, but she integrated herself into our family in the first few seconds!
Beck was roaming the wilds of Utah, covered in mats, burrs, fleas, and ticks, when an amazing woman saw him. He immediately came to her and jumped in her car. She fostered him and found that he loves people and other dogs, but she already had four dogs, and needed to find him a home. I saw him on Facebook and knew right away that there was something incredibly special about him. The following weekend, my daughter and I drove 15 hours to Utah to pick him up and 15 hours home. He became a part of our family immediately and his new life has begun.
The original Relaxed Rover
Cooper T. Dog
November 2001 - December 2015
My inspiration for helping dogs with behavioral issues
Buster the Dog
December 2014 - July 2017