Animals in Control: "Start Button" Case Studies

Note: This video is excluded from the Back to School sale.

“Start-button” behaviors are behaviors that are taught to an animal partner to direct the pace and progress of another behavior or procedure. For example, a dog that learns to nod “yes” to indicate he’s ready to start the teeter movement, a horse indicating that the ferrier may pick up his foot, a cat ready to start a pairing procedure of vacuum cleaner = goodies, and a giraffe indicating that he is ready for tactile work are all start-button behaviors.

Start buttons are an integral piece within the training philosophy, highlighted in the last few years at ClickerExpo conferences.  They provide greater control to the animals themselves over aspects of the training process, elevate the level of dialog between the animals and the trainer, enhance the level of trust, and improve results. Emelie and Eva help you learn the details of start buttons, case by case.

In this Session, Emelie and Eva will conduct an in-depth exploration of start buttons, through case studies that stretch over 20 years and showcase the variety and depth of uses of start-button training in different venues and species. In the cases studies, you’ll learn how trainers work with concepts such as goal-setting, and to choose if and how to implement a start-button behavior. Selecting specific teaching strategies and session structures, designing desensitization protocols, choosing reinforcers, selecting the placement of rewards, implementing “stop-button” behaviors, and more are all presented and discussed.

Join Emelie and Eva and become inspired to continue the journey of enhancing learner control—no matter the venue, no matter the species!

This Session will include case studies, video examples, story-telling, and opportunity for questions.

Eva Bertilsson | Emelie Johnson Vegh

Eva Bertilsson has a master’s degree in behavior analysis and a passion for all things related to behavior, learning, and animal welfare. Always fascinated by the processes of learning and teaching, she grew up with horses, rabbits, and other animals and ventured into dog training in the early 1990s. For many years Eva spent most of her time training and competing in agility, obedience, and other dog sports. Nowadays she focuses mostly on helping others, working as an educator in a wide variety of settings—from puppy classes at the local dog club to husbandry training in zoological settings to seminars for teachers on the science of behavior.

Together with business partner Emelie Johnson Vegh, Eva runs their collaboration Carpe Momentum. Eva and Emelie's goal is to help people acquire knowledge and skills in science-based, modern, humane, and empowering teaching strategies for the benefit of learners of all species. They teach seminars on the general principles of behavior and learning, and coach trainers in the art of structuring great training sessions regardless of the venue or the species. 

“E&E” are the first TAGteach faculty members in Europe, offering consultations and workshops about applying positive reinforcement techniques with human learners in all imaginable areas. The colleagues’ first book, Agility Right from the Start, was published by Karen Pryor Clicker Training (KPCT) in 2010. The book outlines Emelie and Eva’s philosophy and structured approach to training, making it a worthy read not just for agility enthusiasts.

Eva has also been directing a Swedish regional government project aimed at improving behavior management practices in the animal-care industry, with missions ranging from teaching positive reinforcement training to high school students and their teachers, to building a Fear Free veterinary care community in Scandinavia. 

Eva lives in the village Ljungskile, on the west coast of Sweden and north of Gothenburg, but spends much of her time traveling. Border collie Tizla makes sure Eva’s free time is filled with outdoor activities and enriching training projects.



Emelie Johnson Vegh began training dogs as a teenager, after many years of involvement with horses. Her first dog was a mixed breed that competed successfully in both agility and obedience. Emelie's first Border terrier came into her life in 1994; all together she has had three terriers. The Border terriers have been involved in agility primarily, but also in some freestyle and ground work.

In 2009, a Kelpie made an entrance into the family. With her, Emelie is working in rally obedience, obedience, and freestyle, and they also enjoy urban mushing. Emelie and her dogs have won medals at the Swedish Nationals, both as youths and as adults, with a silver team medal as the best placement.

Emelie lives in the very south of Sweden, in the country's third largest city, Malmö. She shares her life with her husband, two sons, a daughter, and Kelpie, Scout. In addition to dog sports, she enjoys training in general, and is very interested in sports psychology, running, multisport, and yoga. Emelie is also an author of fiction novels.