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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

How I Started Leerburg

I often get asked about how I even started Leerburg and how I pick topics to produce videos. People who don’t know me think I just do training videos to show off how much I know about dog training. I chuckle at that, because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it’s the opposite.

I pick subjects for new training video based on 2 issues:

1. I like to do videos on subjects that interest me and subjects I know very little about. In producing the video, I always learn a lot more than I knew before I started. Over the years, I have learned how to find experts on topics and convince those experts to do training videos with Leerburg. It has worked out well for instructors and Leerburg.

I figure if I can put a training video together that makes sense to me, one that I learn from, then my customers will also learn and be happy.

2.  The second issue is I often redo a training video because I have learned a better way to train something than when I did the original  videos.  I can’t remember how often I have redone my Basic Dog Obedience video. The first one was back in the early in 198o’s, and as I type this blog post, I am working to edit the last update (I tell myself that every time I start to redo a video). This time, it’s true. 🙂

The truth is, the beauty of our online training courses allows instructors update new material in minutes, keeping the training concepts 100% current all the time.

So how did this all get started?

I barely graduated from college and am very proud of my 2.3 GPA.

Our family was poor. We were Americans living in Toronto. My high school friends called me “The Yank.” I came down to college in WI (where my Dads family was from), and University friends called me “The Canuck.”

I put myself through college bartending (before I was 21 years old; I had a fake ID and used it to get the job), cleaning kennels for the local vet, and teaching sky diving.

Back in 1968, I saw a Pepsi commercial (in the movie theater) that featured sky diving and thought that was the coolest thing ever. Next thing I knew, I had enough jumps to be a jump master, and I taught sky diving for the last 2 years of college. I charged $75.00 a person and had classes Monday through Friday evenings, and the students jumped on Saturday morning. Students paid attention to every word of training because I had them pack their own chutes on Friday night (while I watched every chute being pack to make sure they were done right). I never lost a student.

I graduated college in 1969 with a major in business. I learned NOTHING about business. I had a minor in chemistry because  I had wanted to be a vet and took pre-veterinary classes. For two years, I worked weekends for the local vet cleaning dog kennels. I had to be to work at 5:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday. You know how tough or stupid you are when you’re young? I would be out  drinking until 2 AM and then go clean dog shit at 5:30, and then go jump out of airplanes all afternoon.

My vet was the dog-pound for LaCrosse, WI . We had to put dogs to sleep on Saturday morning. That experience was why I decided not to be a vet. Screw that; it sucked.

When I graduated from college in 1969, I was hired to be a salesmen selling coin-operated laundry equipment for a company named Speed Queen. The beauty of that job was they put their new sales force through an 18 month to 2 year training program in which they taught you how to teach service school classes. When I was hired, I barely knew one screw driver from another.

But when I came out of that program, I could take a Speed Queen coin-operated washing machine or dryer apart with my eyes closed. After my service school training, they had you travel around the country teaching service schools. Their thinking was they wanted their sales force to know how their equipment worked. I wonder if they still do that? I don’t know.

The beauty of that experience was it taught me how to learn a subject I knew nothing about and then go out and teach people what I had learned.  I can tell you from experience that you better have had your ducks in a row to stand up in front of 40 or 50 salty old appliance servicemen and tell them things they don’t know about how to do their job.

I credit this experience with being able to have the confidence to go out and teach dog trainers how to train dogs.

But before all that, after I was done training service people, I moved to St. Louis and went on to my sales position for 4 years. I had 6 distributors in 6 states. My job was to teach their salesmen how to go out and sell coin operated laundries.

When I started, I didn’t know how to sell a coin laundry, but I had a GREAT mentor (Dave Kretz) who taught me how to do it. He showed me how to use the teaching skills I had learned giving service schools. I ended up being one of Speed Queens top salesmen. Dave and I became good friends, 47 years later we are still best of friends. He went on to become the VP of Amana in Iowa and then on to a senior management position with Ratheon. We still talk a couple of times a week and we are fishing partners. He says he is still teaching me “how to fish. Dave was a great boss and a genius. My problem back then was I always wanted to work for myself.

So in 1974, two things happened. I went to my first Schutzhund seminar in St. Louis, and I quit working for Speed Queen and bought my own coin laundry in Menomonie, WI.

For the 6 years I had traveled with Speed Queen, I had visited dog kennels in the various cities I was in. I had read William Kohler’s books and was spell bound. That summer 1974, Tom Rose advertised a dog training seminar  for something called Schutzhund. I had never heard of the sport.  The instructor was Gernot Riedel.  Gernot was a German who lived in LA. He was also a Schutzhund judge.

After that seminar, I was hooked on Schutzhund (which is  now called IPO).  For the following years, I went to every Schutzhund seminar I could find. Most were at Paul Hombach’s place in Milwaukee, or out in Colorado or California. What I quickly learned was I would go to a weekend seminar, but on Monday morning, I could only remember about 25% of what was taught in the darn seminar. It sucked. Even back then I had short term memory problems. 🙂

So by 1978 my coin laundry was doing well and I bought a $5,000 big old three tube video camera, whose recorder was the size of a large car battery, and it needed a small motorcycle batter just to run the damn thing. This all fit in a backpack that I probably could lift today.

I started to video tape the seminars for myself; not to sell.  I could go home and study the training and watch it as many times as I wanted.  After a few years, people started to ask me if they could buy a copy of these seminar videos. What the hell,  I said “yes”.

That was back when blank VHS tapes cost $12. I was making a living off my coin laundry. I didn’t need the money from the video sales, so I invested that money into better video equipment. By 1985, I had some pretty sophisticated editing studio for back them.

From 1978 to 1982, I filmed and sold seminar tapes from Bernard Manel, Gernot Riedel, Fritz Beihler, Rudy Meuler, Helmut Konig, and a few others. They were all high level Schutzhund competitors and  Schtuzhund judges.  Rudy was a Police K9 handler, Police K9 instructor and a Schutzhund judge. They were all good people who brought a ton of knowledge to the states and shared it freely with everyone.

I have told this story before, but its worth repeating because it’s funny. Back in my first 1974 Gernot Reidel’s seminar, there were a couple of guys attending with Dobermans. These guys were really cocky about their dogs. Gernot listened to their wise cracks all day Saturday, but by Sunday morning he had enough of them. So he calls these guys out.  He said, “You think your dogs are so tough, well they are not tough!” He points at me and hands me a skinny little bamboo stick and tells me to go to the other end of the football field. He tells me that when they send these two Dobermans down the field after me, I am to run straight at the dogs and scream like heck.  He didn’t give me a bite sleeve or suit, just this skinny little stick.

I ask him if I could have a word away from the rest of the seminar people. So we huddle. I looked him straight in the eye from about 12 inches away and in a quiet voice said “ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS?” He said, “NO PROBLEM – JUST RUN AT THESE SHIT DOGS AND SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU CAN!”

I agreed to do it. Why not, I jumped out of planes; what were a couple of Dobermans?

Do you know how loud you can scream when you’re scared and running at 2 barking Dobermans who are running down the football field at you? I can tell you that adrenaline kicks in and you can scream pretty loud. Well, these Dobermans never made it past the 50 yard line; they turned and ran away from this homicidal maniac that was running at them with that HUGE SCARY BAMBOO STICK! 🙂

The two guys caught their dog, put them in their car and left. Never to be seen or heard from again.

That incident was what really got me hooked. I was amazed that someone could look at dogs and read them well enough to know those dogs would run.

During this time, I also got involved in AKC obedience. AKC trainers were way better obedience trainers than Schutzhund trainers were back then.

Schtuzhund obedience was pretty primitive. German bite work was very good, but the Germans felt you should not start obedience training until the dog was 1 year old.  Looking back, that was because the Germans were so hard on their dogs in their obedience training that they needed an older dog that could stand up to the pressure put on them. Marker training with dogs was still 15 years in the future.

Around 1980, I was going to AKC, Schutzhund, and Police K9 seminars.  I ended up putting AKC obedience and tracking titles on a number of my dogs. I also put low level Schutzhund titles on 5 or 6 dogs all in the early 1980’s, which was when I came out with the first training video that I did on my own. It was titled, “How to Train a Competition Obedience Dog.” I still chuckle when I write this.

It didn’t take long to figure out that no one could teach people how to train a competition obedience dog in a two hour video. That was my first “remake”. It was where I realized I had to do a better job and break things down, just like I broke the work down in the coin operated washer and dryer service school back in the day.

From there on, I picked subjects that I had an interest in. I chose topics that I didn’t know anything or very little about but I wanted to learn. My first endeavor was into police service dogs with Tom Brenneman. Tom was a hell of a police dog trainer. He was a gifted decoy. He was one of these rare guys who could feel what was in a dogs head. He could put on a bite suit and instinctively work a dog. His timing was perfect. When he worked a dog, it was a beautiful thing to watch. We did several videos together.

I met Kevin Sheldahl at Tom’s place back in the early 1980’s. Kevin was going through an apprenticeship with Tom back then.

Kevin went on to a 25 year career as a Police K9 handler and Police Dog judge. He is retired now, but we have been doing a couple of very good online courses on training police service dogs and their handlers. From 1990 to 2000, I was also a  K9 handler at my local sheriff’s department. I still have a soft spot in my heart for that work.

So that’s the short story on how Leerburg went from nothing to what it was back in 2000. Someday I will do another blog post on 2000 to today. I find that more interesting and challenging.





  1. Avatar
    Preston Clinton
    October 16, 2017

    This is incredibly inspiring. Would love to meet you in person one day. Love your story and although I am only in my early 30’s I can relate to much of your story.

  2. Avatar
    October 17, 2017

    Words cannot express the appreciation I feel or the joy you have brought me over the years since I stumbled on your Bite Training for Puppies article while searching the net for how to teach my new puppy to sit. Something clicked inside me and I spent every waking moment over the next decade learning everything i could about this fascinating art. Along the way i purchased the best puppy I could have imagined (sorry about him knocking your tooth out! Rabiat made his father Otis proud.), i watched EVERY instructional video you produced at the time and had the honor of being your first message board admin where I think I answered over a thousand posts! I was in my early 20s then and I just turned 50 this month. I guess all that comes to mind right now is Thank You…

    • Avatar
      Jeff Frawley
      October 18, 2017

      I vividly remember the day Rabiat broke my dad’s teeth out! We were leaving on a family vacation that afternoon. My dad came back over to the house with no teeth and suddenly the excitement of leaving for vacation turned into fear that we may not be going. I was probably 10-12 years old. Luckily our neighbor was a dentist and was able to get my dad in that morning before our flight!

  3. Avatar
    December 23, 2017

    I had the pleasure of being at many of these seminars. Tom Brenneman taught me so much about reading dogs. It was always fascinating to watch. I miss those days. Jeanie Brenneman

  4. Avatar
    Jordan Meador
    January 11, 2018

    Yes Ed! Please make a post about Leerburg from 2000-present day. I love hearing the story and the details behind Leerburg.

Sorry, comments are closed.

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