Bio – Laura Schaeffer

Laura Schaeffer – Behavior Consultant / Fearful Animal Specialist

I have loved animals for as long as I can remember. My parents raised me to believe that our pets were family. We often refer to their current cat as my “brother” and the “uncle” to my cat and my dog. My human brother is also an uncle to my pets as far as we’re concerned. In addition to this viewpoint, my mother instilled in me the importance of protecting wildlife and the environment. Visits to zoos and aquariums quickly went from being fun family trips to “Mom! Dad! I want to go to the zoo!” I grew up believing that all animals deserved the same respect that humans received and still hold this belief to today. This is how I got into animal care.

At 12 years old, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center and doing everything I could there. I developed a strong desire for caring and riding horses that I eventually found myself surrounded by equestrians. When I was only 14 years old, I got involved in animal training because the people around me were trying to teach me that hitting animals was the only way to train them. My parents, having raised me differently, supported my desire to research and find a better way of doing things. That’s how I came to fall in love with positive reinforcement training. After I figured out the basics of clicker training, I became fascinated by the intricacies of training and have been learning about it ever since. Growing up with a few Border Collies also taught me just how smart dogs can be and how to manage my home to reduce many behavioral issues that come from living with a herding breed.

Over the years, I somehow always ended up working with fearful animals, particularly dogs, cats, and horses. They ranged from being untouchable to simply being unsure of themselves in new environments. Back home in Mississippi, people who have watched my work like to call me an “Animal Whisperer” as I manage to figure out the impossible in their eyes. I suspect there is an innate part of my being that helps me do my work but I’ve learned that empowering and respecting fearful animals brought me far more success. If I had a choice, I’d spend all my time working with fearful animals of all sorts.

Laura making friends with a fearful Mastiff named Poppy

Since starting my volunteering career, I have volunteered and worked at several different animal care facilities. I maintained my volunteering throughout college by helping socialize dogs and cats at a local shelter. I also helped a local horse rescue with socializing and caring for their animals that included donkeys, horses, chickens, dogs, and barn cats. Right before moving up to Illinois for a year, I worked at a sanctuary and had the wonderful opportunity to work with pigs, donkeys, horses, and barn cats to include socializing one of the barn cats. In Illinois, I volunteered a lot less and worked a lot more. I stayed with a zoo for a few months then switched over to a local dog and cat shelter just to eventually switch over to another local dog and cat shelter that had a behavior department. I also took the time to work as a dog walker, pet sitter, and a private dog trainer through a pet sitting company in Illinois. I came to Omaha to pursue my passion in animal training and to be able to have my dog, which I could not afford to do while living in Ilinois.

Phoenix the Husky trying to figure out how to get another treat from Laura

Curious about my education? Initially, I was convinced I wanted to become a veterinarian. However, in college, my love of animal training really took hold and I realized that I would be much happier working as a zookeeper or an animal trainer. I love taking care of animals in addition to training them. My formal education includes a Bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University in Interdisciplinary Studies with a special focus on Equine Behavior and Care. There I took as many animal behavior and learning psychology courses as I could.

Laura walks Larry and Dixie’s guardian through a targeting exercise

In the near future, I hope to become a certified behavior consultant through International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and a certified trainer through Karen Pryor’s Academy or Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Laura or anyone else on our behavior team, please complete the form below.

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