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.
My Credentials at a Glance:
- dog*tec Dog Walking Academy Certified Dog Walker
- 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
- Women in the Pet Industry Network member
- Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Volunteer
- Currently enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Foundations Course
- Behavior Internship, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA Behavior & Training Department
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 Reactive 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 two 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.
My big guy, Buster, began life as a Taiwanese street dog living under a bridge with a kind homeless man. Buster isn’t one to discriminate—he’s willing to bark at anything that moves, be it dog, human, bicycle, or even car. This despite his having been originally described to me as “Good for any family, not aggressive, and great with little dogs.” We’ve all heard this story before, I’m sure!
In memory of the original Relaxed Rover
Cooper T. Dog
November 2001 - December 2015