About Sara

Layla, Sara, Matt, and Mischief. Photo by Dan Reusche.

Layla, Sara, Matt, and Mischief. Photo by Dan Reusche.

Sara Reusche, CPDT-KA, CVT, ANWI owns Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC in Rochester, Minnesota. Sara has ten years of training experience. She became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in 2005 and a Certified Veterinary Technician in 2006. In addition to training, Sara has worked as a dog groomer, vet tech, doggy daycare attendant, and animal shelter caretaker and trainer. She currently spends the majority of her time working with serious behavior cases and has a special fondness for reactive and anxious dogs.

Sara, Layla, Mischief, and Dobby. Photo by SC Studios.

Sara and Dobby. Dobby was recently, sadly euthanized after a long battle with a seizure disorder. Photo by Ryan Windfeldt.

Sara loves teaching! In addition to this blog, she writes regularly for Dogster and SitStay. She has contributed to the Rochester Women’s Magazine, the Wagazine, the APDT Chronicle of the Dog, and was the 2008 John Fisher scholarship award winner with her article about using the Premack principle, “Lessons from Layla.” Sara speaks at a variety of locations across Minnesota, including at colleges, community centers, veterinary hospitals, and pet events.

Sara presents to a packed house at Rochester Feed and Country Store. Photo by Amanda Taylor.

Sara and her boyfriend live with two adopted mutts, Layla (ARCHX RL2X RL3) and Mischief (also known as Trout, CGC RLPX RL1), and frequently foster dogs for rescue organizations. When she’s not working with dogs, Sara enjoys reading, dancing, and staying up too late.

Inquiries about speaking engagements or articles can be sent to sara@paws4u.com.

Layla, Sara, and Mischief hiking at Whitewater State Park. Photo by Clara Yori.

23 responses to “About Sara

  1. Thank you Sara for the great work you do.

  2. Hi i have a 3year old pitbull x hunterway, i got her out of the chewing and whining when she was young but now she has continued to do it. nothing has changed she gets lots off attention. She will be tied up and continuously whine. and she now chews everything. ive tried most methods to stop this behaviour but nothing seems to be working and the neighbours are getting very angry. is there any other advice you could give me? thanks tayla

    • Tayla, what kind of exercise are you providing for your dog? Also, giving attention and affection to the wrong state of mind will increase the behavior.
      Dogs often act our in chewing, whining, digging, barking, etc. when they are not properly draining their physical and mental energy. Often, pitbulls need a longer walk 2 to 3 times a day for about 45 mins to an hour each walk. Making sure the walk is done properly not willy nilly is very important also. Dogs are migration animals, walking for miles to find food, water and shelter is in their DNA. The walk is as important as breathing air is to you and I. If you are not draining their energy properly the dog will release that energy in any way it can; chewing, whining. Having that energy pent up is like having bad anxiety everyday. Hope this helps. If you are already providing the walks for your dog, are they done properly? Walk’s can create more excitement than exercise if they are not done properly.

  3. Hi, I read with interest your anxiety medication post. None of the replies actually match Holly’s problem. She has panic attacks, which result in destroying something either furniture, carpet or a dog bed. At home her safe place is our bed, anywhere else she has no “safe” place and will try to get behind me. She can’t bear any loud noise, her whole body shakes. Day time walks are fine, evening walks (not twilight or dark) she gets anxious and wants to go back and will run home if off the lead. Now she has started doing it on the morning walk. There has been some improvement since my husband started encouraging her more on the morning walk. She is ten this year and the problem is getting worse as she gets older. I have been thinking about medication and was going to try something I got at the pet shop when the firework season was upon us, which had some effect.

    • Hi A.,

      Have you had Holly into the vet? A thorough physical check-up, including vision, hearing, and bloodwork, would probably be a good place to start. Your vet can also help you determine whether anxiety medication would be a good fit for Holly.

      Please let us know what you find out!

      Kindest regards,
      – Sara

  4. The Vet suggested medication, didn’t check her blood or hearing, said her vision may be going! Decided to try medication before the firework season starts and if we go (and stay) anywhere. My husband has continued his “nice talking” to her since getting home from holiday and it has had some affect. I have spoken to the vets several times before and they have not been that helpful. Angela

  5. A very good read. Thank you Sara.
    I will look forward to future blogs.

  6. Hi Sara! Thank you SO MUCH for your balanced and experienced approach to living with dogs. You’re such a great communicator.

    My husband and I are considering adding a young (spayed) female to our pack. She’s a 6 mo old labXschnauzer (?) who was hit by a car at 10 weeks and left for dead. She lived in a shelter after a vet repaired her before an adoption group found and fostered her. Her foster said that she tried crating her at first, but because the puppy has lived in a small shelter cage and frequently relieved herself in the cage, she would wet in the crate every time. She has a bit of anxiety when left alone (easily explained by the fact that she’s only had a stable home with her foster for a month now) and is contained in a mud room with the foster.

    My question is whether she could be reintroduced to a crate, for her safety and containment while she works through house training and anxiety with us. (I work from home, but occasionally I’ll have to leave her for an hour or so.) We have one older dog whom we crate trained, and it was wonderful for him– and I assumed most dogs. Is she too scarred to try crating again?

    Thank you so very much.

    • Hi Olivia,

      Thanks for writing, and for considering giving a home to a needy dog! Do you live in the MN area? If so, I’d be happy to help you set up an appointment to assess your potential new dog and put together a plan for reintroducing her to crates. This is the sort of behavior issue that can’t really be dealt with over the Internet, since there are so many variables in play and each dog is an individual. It’s possible that your new pup could learn to view a crate as a safe place, but that depends on many different factors.

      If you’re not local to Paws Abilities, you should still be able to find an experienced trainer in your area who can help you with this. I would recommend that you check out http://www.ccpdt.org to find a Certified Professional near you.

      Best of luck with your new dog!
      – Sara

  7. Hello ! I would like to thanks you for this wonderful blog, which is a pleasure to read. I’m french and even if my english isn’t perfect, I’ve learn a lot of things with you, and if I can say only one thing, it would be… ” more ” !
    I don’t know if you still have the time to answer this kind of questions, but if you have any ideas, it would be really appreciated. In France there are really few positive trainers and none in my area, so I don’t know how to deal with this problem.
    I’ve a 7 months australian shepherd and as a lot of puppies, he likes to eat poop. But it’s not one or two per trip, this habit has become a real frantic search, and he listens to me anymore, even if I’ve worked a lot for his recall with meat and really great rewards. He knows “leave it” which works really well with detritus but I totally disappear when he smells a dung, and let me tell you that they’re everywhere ! In two months, he had two gastritis because of this, and he was tired, apathic, with a diarrhea that looks like more liquid than anything. The vet and I were really worried about his health and he told me to buy a muzzle to avoid such dangerous situations. It’s been two weeks that Diez wears it and he still try to eat or lick the feces , he’s not stupid, he’s really obstinate !
    I would like to know how to deal with this problem ; I’m a hiking lover and my pleasure is to see my dog running around me, free and happy. But with this problem, he’s always on leash and I can feel his frustration, his desire to run and play in the grass. If you could help us, it would be really great !

  8. Hi Sara. I have this situation if you care to comment on it: http://wp.me/phJn8-3T . IMO, adding a second akita to the home is inexcusable. Also, failing to get the male dog neutered until recently is inexcusable too.

    I am not an actively blogger. If you, or someone you know, would like to reblog that piece, I’d consider it a favor. I hate the thought of the post going to waste on my blog that I rarely use. Sorry for the shameless self promotion, and thanks! – Bo

  9. Hello. I would like to thanks you for this wonderful blog! I found many usefull info to me. Can I translate some artikles to russian for my blog?

  10. Hi Sara,

    just wanted to say hello from down under! There are not many positive trainers in my area, so I’ve had to learn what I can myself to ensure my pups get what they need to be happy and healthy. I wish I had come across your blog earlier – what a comprehensive and great read. Your post on using just a few minutes an hour to reinforce desirable behaviour has really helped me with my seemingly ADHD pup! Thank you.

  11. I would like to thank you for all your fear and reactivity readings. Got deja at seven weeks old after realising that her “owners” were doing a horrible job raising her and her 8 brothers and sisters.. Sadly even after one puppy died because it had worms and she hadn’t provided vet care she still let the dogs breed again… They puppies from first litter were taken away from their mom at 3 weeks old and for this she can’t understand dog body language well and has been bit three times by dogs some of which she’s really close with all because she can’t tell when they have had enough can’t tell when they are done playing.
    Around 6 months her fear turned into fear reactivity and its been so hard to handle her but I’m glad to have things like the info on this page to help me help her so thank youu

  12. I have met so many people who call themselves trainers but they won’t allow dogs in their training program who have any agressive tendencies including growling let alone lunging out after another dog. I have just discoverd your blog and am so happy I have finally found an honest trainer who tells it like it is and still holds out hope and help for dogs that are aggresive. Having said that you also know that there are some cases that can’t be fixed and will always be a danger. My question to you is I have a friend who has a St bermese pup who was doing well in training and than the owner let another trainer work with her who did some kind of shake down on the dog which brought the dog to the ground than she placed her leg over his and pinned him down. When the trainer went to let the dog up the trainer was bit several times once in the foot and one in the back of the calf. Up untill that encounter with the trainer the dog never showed any agressive tendencies. The next day the owner attempted to bring the dog back to the bark where the incedent occured the dog refused to go so she took him back home. The follow day the dog did something and the owmer went to correct the dog and he bit her leaving her bruised put no punctures. The owner was shocked and dismayed and know everytime she goes to correct the dog for anything he attemps to bite her and a lot of time he make contact and leaves bruises
    what do you suggest the owner do and is thier any advice I could pass on to her. I love your blog and commend you for being honest and admitting that you have made mistakes I too have trained many dog s and I have learned from my own past mistakes as you have. I am now falling your blog and I just wish you lived in Canada.

  13. Hi Sara,

    I’m reaching out to you in a bit of a panic. I came across your dog-dog aggression article and have been reading and re-reading it the whole morning. We are just a little too far away from you to come to you for consistent training (SE Wisconsin).

    We have an 11 month old female Alaskan Klee Kai (very small). We’ve had her since she was 8 weeks. She was always dominant and very alpha even as a pup before we got her, but when she came to us, she got assaulted by a 6 month doberman at “puppy playtime” since then, she’s always been rather defensive. Around 9 months, she started having random aggressive outbursts around my parents adult dog when we visited. We tried to correct it, but it was so random that there was not a consistent option for training.

    We just adopted a 5 year old male AKK who is very submissive and skittish because he was neglected and abused. 90% of the time, she’s amazing with him. Then, after a week, she attacked him. It came out of nowhere. Once a day, she started trying to attack him. We’ve been separating them most of the day, but I have so many questions. I’m so scared that we won’t be able to resolve this. Our trainer recommended essential oils and then told us that we should consider rehoming one of them after only 2 weeks of us having the rescue. Our breeder suggested a shock collar. I am pretty against both ideas. HELP!

  14. I sure could use any tips you can provide. Everyone is well meaning when it comes to training, but what works for one dog does not work for another. My husband and I have come to understand this from the Bassets we used to rehab to the two boxers we ended up rescuing. But back in the first week of June I lost my beloved valley Bulldog Pye. I had had her since she was a puppy, trained her, and she grew up to be the most awesome dog ever. But with all the experience we have gleaned through the many dog personalities we have worked with through the years, they did not really prepare us for our latest adoptee.

    She is a 2 year old bullmastiff who was rescued from a byb. She was bred before she was a year old and starved. Animal control had taken her because her living conditions were that bad. She lived in a cage likely for the whole of her first year of life, had her womb literally hanging out of her and weighed 40 pounds. She spend a year in foster with a well meaning couple who had also taken in two other bull mastiffs who were far more social and assertive about getting their needs met. As a result Liberty (my bullmastiff lady) suffered.

    She lived in her head for a year but for this year it was in a stable home with regular feedings but none of the human contact she really needed. She was left alone to hide.

    We have had her for 2 weeks now. Her safe place is in the master bedroom on our bed. She is crate trained but literally jumps at every sudden sound. She doesn’t eat in front of anyone except once in a while she makes an exception with me. She is not food driven, or a foodie (strange for a bully breed), but this is her. She likes some dog treats but not enough to push past her fear to come for them. She is so smart. My daughter and I leash trained her within a day of just 3 walks. She stays at our side, looks up to us for guidance, and only tries to push ahead if she is trying to run from a sound or person. She is terrified of men.

    She does not respond to hamburger, chicken, liver treats, hot dog, ham, nada. She likes cheese its but doesn’t have enough interest in them to step outside of her shell. My husband fried chicken last night and she was taking pieces of that from my hand but same. She will take the food but doesn’t want it enough for it to used for training. She is hypervigilent.

    I want to clicker train her but she is just not responding. It seems like every experience is a new and terrifying experience. I know we are supposed to stay in the present with a dog but she is clearly living in her past.

    As a bullmastiff she should have a strong personality inside that soul of hers. Her genetics dictate she should be a territorial dog, who doesn’t bark, doesn’t show agression unless it is in the face of a threat to her family, she should be social with her family, but challenge authority without a strong consistent handler to guide her. But this genetic makeup is being suppressed by the trauma she suffered early in her life. She does not show any aggression whatsoever and will only even nip if she feels trapped.

    I am stumped with how to train her and work with her. Because of her breed she requires manners and obedience training. But she also requires a great deal of rehab. I am desperate for any suggestions you have. I have dealt with traumatized dogs before. But I have never seen it at this level.

    My husband and our youngest daughter took her to the dog park last week. The entire experience of leaving her safe place and going to the car was rough on her but once they got her to the dog park she became a typical bull mastiff. Walking the perimeter of the park, allowing people to pet her on her terms, (she came up to them and would stop if she was okay with them petting her), she did not socialize with the other dogs there but she was not panicked there.

    I need to get her into that state of mind in every day to day life but don’t know where to begin or if what I am doing right now is helping her or not.

  15. Jennifer Johnson

    I have 2 dogs and a little over a year had to move back into my moms house. She has a couple dogs. All 4 dogs were from the same litter. And they are all fixed in the house except one female because my mom didn’t want to. Well about 6-8 months ago my male dog (3 years old) and her male dog started getting into fights. It would last a few days where they would be on edge around each other. But it would pass fairly quickly. And we figured it happened around the one females period. The female recently went into heat and this time the boys have fought worse. They have had 5 fights in about a 9 days, only one fight a day. We don’t know what to do anymore. What can we do to help them? For now we have them seperate. It is just the two boys and neither of them had ever shown signs of being aggressive before this started.

  16. My sweet rescue Lilly, has been in my life for ten months (she will be 2 in December). She was so fearful at the shelter that nobody could walk her. When she saw me, and then my family, she flew to us and everyone said it was a miracle. She loves our other dog. She is terrified of everyone and everything else. I have been walking her quietly 1 -2 times a day, using treats treats treats to reward her whenever we see anything that frightens her. She is slowly slowly getting less reactive, but I do so hope that one day she might be able to be with another dog apart from our Charlotte. At the moment she barks almost until vomiting if she gets too close, so I respect her “bubble” and feed her treats that, I think, are encouraging her bubble to become smaller. Is there any hope do you think that one day she might be able to meet and play with other dogs, and not be so terrified? I love her so much, and if she stays this way I will love her just as much. She is my therapy dog, but I think we therapize each other!!

  17. Pingback: Dog Behaviors of Traumatized Dogs – Dog Behaviors

  18. Hello, I have a three year old mutt named Tucker. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks old, he goes every where with me, well he used to. In October Tucker jumped out of the window of my jeep going down the highway to chase some Turkeys. He has never attempted to jump before. Tucker broke hind leg and had several cuts and scrapes. We went straight to the Vet and he took him right into surgery placing a pin in his leg. Tucker had the pin for 6 weeks. To this day he still limps even though the Vet said his leg his stable. Instead of the free spirited dog he used to be now he’s so scared and will not jump or attempt to climb up on anything. He used to sit next to me on the couch and sleep with me every night in the bed, he will not attempt to get up there if I try to put him up there he jumps right back down. I know this was very Trumatic for him and I don’t know any way to help him!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

  19. Thank god for u. My foster bit a cop 3 yrs ago and gave no indication until.the last second. I’ve been searching for a place to help me process this the entire time since. Three yrs and I took in a 18 month a friend of a friends dog and it went badly. THis is my 1st visit ever. . I wasnt alone anymore. I wasnt crazy or had no instinct for it and I was more harmful then helpful.

  20. Sara
    You look like my daughter in Missouri she to is a vet tech and trains her boyfriend lab lol!

    Any way I have a Sheltie 14 month old
    Has been to my Vet for annual shots Vet said she’s healthy! She is signed up for puppy classes, their are 7 in all.
    Have read books by Ian Dunbar , Sophia Yin
    Watched numerous videos by Simpawtico
    On Crate training, leash walking, rewarding with markers you name it!
    Came to the conclusion she might be getting over stimulated! I’m not surprised she is a herding dog.
    Here are the behaviors she is showing
    Repeated jumping, being mouthy ,barking and spinning circles in house. I know it’s not the So called Zoomies
    She’s awful on a leash Like a bass on a fishing line.
    Class size is small trainer is well experienced .
    I miss most of the instructions during class due to her crazy barking and leash behavior

    How often and hours should I walk her?
    She does love nosing the soft play balls in yard kinda like the treibball sport herding dogs do

    Any books , videos I should look up?

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