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The Dog Listener: Learning the Language of your Best Friend Monty Roberts Jan Fennell You’ve heard of the Horse Whisperer – now meet the woman who uses similar methods to train dogs.Jan Fennell’s remarkable gifts have earned her the nickname “the dog listener”. Her unique understanding of the canine world and its instinctive language has enabled her to bring even the most desperate and delinquent of dogs to heel.This easy-to-follow guide to understanding Jan’s simple techniques draws on her countless case histories of problem dogs – from biters and barkers to bicycle chasers – to show how we can bridge the language barrier that separates man from his best friend.In The Dog Listener Jan shares her secrets, telling us how she grew determined to find a more compassionate alternative to standard “obedience” training techniques and ultimately how to communicate with canines. Copyright (#ulink_afdb2e7e-a1ae-5952-836f-d97c9884feda) HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 2000 Copyright © Jan Fennell 2000 Foreword © Monty Roberts 2000 Grateful acknowledgment is made to The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or National Beauty, for permission to quote from the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. Jan Fennell asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. 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Source ISBN: 9780006532361 Ebook Edition © JULY 2014 ISBN: 9780007369546 Version: 2018-08-02 Dedication (#ulink_67c0103d-1c3f-591d-a041-b96a703158cb) For my son Tony Contents Cover (#u97883cec-0578-5380-b1e0-003d3b03a953) Title Page (#u2a6dfb88-6ab5-5b8b-bee9-63a8b97ebee5) Copyright (#ulink_ff72cb99-318d-56b7-98c7-1b779b9060f5) Dedication (#ulink_e3ac0015-7ebc-51a8-ba7b-0253d05df98c) Foreword by Monty Roberts (#ulink_721cbea5-69b7-54df-aa0a-35fb19ee77a9) Introduction (#ulink_c1ff623c-b238-5a68-b550-fda23fd0f244) 1 The Lost Language (#ulink_cbb241a5-9c85-57cf-bff8-4d6e83dfc232) 2 A Life with Dogs (#ulink_b77bc44e-d909-5cf1-871d-10e84357986e) 3 Listening and Learning (#ulink_2210252b-2892-53b6-99c9-a9fc770724a0) 4 Taking the Lead (#ulink_7155f889-1afb-5ed6-92ae-98ee2b8936dd) 5 The First Test (#ulink_a89b6a34-95ff-5580-8e1a-d909dad5c806) 6 Amichien Bonding: Establishing Leadership of the Pack (#litres_trial_promo) 7 Separate Lives: Dealing with Separation Anxiety (#litres_trial_promo) 8 Mean and Moody: Dealing with Nervous Aggression (#litres_trial_promo) 9 Peacemaking: Dogs that Bite (#litres_trial_promo) 10 The Bodyguards: Overprotective Dogs (#litres_trial_promo) 11 The Up-and-Down Game: Dogs that Jump Up (#litres_trial_promo) 12 Non-Total Recall: Dogs that Run Wild off the Leash (#litres_trial_promo) 13 Dog v. Dog: Taking the Heat out of Canine Confrontations (#litres_trial_promo) 14 Tales of the Unexpected: Fear of Noises (#litres_trial_promo) 15 New Dogs, Old Tricks: Introducing Puppies to the Home (#litres_trial_promo) 16 Gremlins: Dealing with Problem Puppies (#litres_trial_promo) 17 The House on Pooh Corner: Soiling in the Home (#litres_trial_promo) 18 Situations Vacant: The Problems of Extended Packs (#litres_trial_promo) 19 Biting the Hand that Feeds: Problem Eaters (#litres_trial_promo) 20 Have Dog, Won’t Travel: Dealing with Car Chaos (#litres_trial_promo) 21 Feet-Chewers and Tail-Chasers: Nervous Wrecks and How to Salvage Them (#litres_trial_promo) 22 The Yo-Yo Effect: Overcoming the Problems of Rescue Dogs (#litres_trial_promo) 23 Toys not Trophies: The Power of Play (#litres_trial_promo) 24 ‘How’ve Ya Done That, Lady?’ (#litres_trial_promo) Picture Section (#litres_trial_promo) Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo) Acknowledgments (#litres_trial_promo) About the Author (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) Caution It is important to say here that my method cannot remove the aggressive tendencies of any dog. Certain breeds have been raised specifically for the purpose of fighting, and my methods will never be able to alter their potentially savage nature. What my method can do is allow people to manage their dogs so that this aggressive instinct is never called upon. Please exercise the greatest of caution when working with such dogs. Foreword (#ulink_0735df4e-7959-59e6-8fad-a75c2bc6cba2) by Monty Roberts (#ulink_0735df4e-7959-59e6-8fad-a75c2bc6cba2) Dogs have played an important part in my life. My wife Pat and our family have had several over the years that were loving companions and important members of our family. It has been another wonderful creature that has dominated my career, however. I have spent my life developing – and often defending – the method I have discovered for communicating with the horse. The appetite the dog world has for my ideas has been obvious throughout this time. Wherever I may be in the world, there are invariably four times as many dog owners and trainers as there are horse trainers at my demonstrations. Almost to a person, they have strong, positive comments to make about my method. Given my time all over again, I would relish the challenge of adapting my ideas and taking them into the canine world. As it is though, I have more than enough to keep me occupied, developing and sharing my own discipline. Fortunately, in the last few years, I have become aware of a talented dog trainer who, inspired by my method, has undertaken the task already. It was with a warm heart that I first learned of the work Jan Fennell has been doing in England. I have been lucky enough to meet her there and she has related much that reminds me of my own earlier experiences. Like me, Jan feels a deep sense of injustice at the way man has sometimes maltreated an animal he claims to call his friend. She also passionately believes that violence has no place in our relationship with animals. Her dream, too, is a world in which all species live in peace. As with me, Jan has been slow to summon the courage to tell her story. I dragged my feet for years before I wrote my first book, The Man Who Listens to Horses. Jan has been just as careful in waiting to put her ideas into print. She now feels confident in her experience and is ready to share her remarkable work with a wider audience. As she does so, I wish her and her ideas well. I am sure there will be those who will assail her. If my experience has taught me anything, it is that human nature has an almost limitless capacity for negativity. Each of us should be aware that for every grain of negative within the human community, there is a mountain of positive waiting for us among animals. We should also note that for every negative, however, there are literally hundreds thirsting for a better way to deal with man’s best friends. I am proud to think that by sticking to my beliefs I have helped make the world a better place for the horse and, hopefully, for people too. I hope this book can achieve the same for another very special creature, the dog. Monty Roberts, California, March 2000. Introduction (#ulink_17d75c64-a913-52dd-8c90-6b98b9a21b43) I am a great believer in learning from the mistakes we make in life. I should be, I have made more than enough of my own, in my relations with humans as well as dogs. Of all the lessons the latter have taught me, none was as painful as that I received in the winter of 1972. It seems to me fitting that I should begin with the tragedy of Purdey. For reasons that will soon become apparent, her story is inseparable from my own. At the time I was married and was raising my two young children, my daughter, Ellie, born that February, and Tony, then two-and-a-half. We were living as a family in London but had just decided to move to the countryside, and a small village in Lincolnshire, in the heart of England. Like so many people drawn to the rural life, we were all looking forward to going on long country walks and decided we would like a canine companion to take with us. Rather than buying a new puppy, we thought we’d rescue a dog. We liked the idea of giving a home to an animal that had had a raw deal, so off we trundled to the RSPCA and saw this rather sweet, six-month-old, black and white, cross Border collie-whippet. We took her home, where we decided to call her Purdey. She was not the first dog in my life. That had been Shane, a magnificent, tricoloured Border collie I had been given by my father when I was a 13-year-old girl growing up in Fulham, west London. I had always loved dogs and, as a little girl, had invented an imaginary one called Lady. I remember my grandmother indulging me by talking to my fictional friend with me. I think I saw dogs then, as I do now, as objects of unquestioning love, total loyalty, qualities that are hard to find in humans. Shane’s arrival in our family had only confirmed my feelings. I trained Shane with my father, according to the technique Dad had used himself in raising his dogs as a young boy. Dad was a gentle man, but he was also determined the dog was going to do what we said. If Shane did something wrong he got a tap on the nose or a smack on his bottom. But I got a smack on the bottom too and I thought it was OK, particularly as Shane was an extremely smart creature and seemed to understand what we wanted. I can still remember the pride I used to feel at taking him on to Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common on the Number 74 bus. Shane would sit by my side without a lead, behaving impeccably all the time. He was a super dog. If something works you go along with it, you don’t mend what isn’t broken, as they say. So when we got Purdey I decided to apply the same method as I had with Shane, teaching her the difference between right and wrong with a mixture of love, affection and, where necessary, force. At first this method seemed to work for Purdey too. She behaved well and fitted easily into the family in London. The problems started when we eventually moved to Lincolnshire that September. Our new home could not have presented a greater contrast to noisy, over-populated London. We lived in a small, isolated village. There were no street lights, the buses ran only twice a week and it was a four-mile hike to the nearest shop. I remember when I was a toddler I had been taken to the seaside for the first time. I took one look at the sea and ran away back up the hill away from it. My expression as a three-year-old was ‘too big enough’ and, if she could have spoken, I’m sure that’s what Purdey would have said about her new home. It seemed like everything was too big enough. Soon after we arrived, Purdey began to behave in a way that I thought then was odd and not a little bit worrying. She would run off into the countryside, disappear for hours then come back obviously having had a great time somewhere. She was also hyperactive and seemed to be wound up by the slightest thing or sound. She followed me absolutely everywhere I went, which was a nuisance when I had the two small children. I wasn’t happy about her roaming the countryside like this. We all have a responsibility to make sure our dogs don’t cause danger or a nuisance to others. But I decided that I had taken this dog on and I was going to stick with her. I owed it to her to help her settle and that’s what I hoped to do. Events, however, soon overtook me. The first inkling I got that something was wrong was when a local farmer came to see me. He told me in no uncertain terms that if I did not keep this dog under control he was going to shoot her. I was devastated, of course, but I also saw his point because he had livestock and Purdey was obviously running around and worrying the animals. So we put her in the huge, 200-feet garden we had, slipped a rope on her collar and attached it to the washing line so she could go no farther. But she still ran off whenever she could. Matters took a turn for the worse one cold winter’s morning just before Christmas. I had come downstairs with the children and was going through our usual start-of-the-day routine. Purdey was frantically charging around as she always did first thing in the morning. I remember Ellie was crawling around on the floor, while Tony was playing the ‘little helper’, sorting out a pile of clothes I had in the sitting room. I went into the kitchen which led directly off the sitting room to collect their drinks when I heard a loud crash. I will never forget what I saw when I looked around. The dog had jumped up at Tony and jettisoned him through one of the panes of a sliding glass door. There was broken glass everywhere. From then on it was as if everything was happening in slow motion. I remember Tony looking at me with this stunned, sort of frozen expression as the blood poured from his little face. I remember rushing to Tony, scooping him up and grabbing a clean terry-towelling nappy from a pile of clothes. My days as a St John’s Ambulance volunteer had taught me to check for shards of broken glass. When I was happy that there were none, I began pressing the nappy on to his face, applying the pressure as hard as I could to stem the flow of blood. I then cradled him in my arms and headed for Ellie who was miraculously sitting still in the middle of this sea of broken glass. I scooped her up under my spare arm and sat there on my knees calling for help. All the while Purdey was running around like a lunatic, barking and jumping in the air as if she was playing some huge game. It was every parent’s nightmare. When help eventually arrived, friends and family were unanimous. Tony’s injuries were awful and would leave him scarred for life. ‘This dog is a bad one, she’s a rogue,’ they said. I still felt responsible for Purdey, however, and was determined to give the dog another chance. She continued getting herself into problems every now and again, but, for a couple of months at least, all was relatively calm. Then one sunny winter’s morning, just before Ellie’s first birthday in February, I was in another part of the house while Ellie was on the floor playing with her toys, supervised by my mother. The moment I heard my mother scream, I realised something had happened. When I got to the sitting room, my mother just shouted ‘The dog’s bitten her, Ellie did nothing and the dog’s bitten her. The dog’s turned.’ I didn’t want to believe it. But when I saw Ellie had a rather nasty little nick over her right eye I had no option. My head was spinning. Why had this happened? What had Ellie done? Where had my training gone wrong? I knew, however, that the time for questions was over. As soon as he heard the news my father came round to see me. As a girl I had heard him talk of one of his favourite dogs, an Old English sheepdog cross called Gyp, and how he had ‘turned’. My grandmother had been trying to move him off a sofa and he had snapped at her. In my grandfather’s mind if a dog could turn on the hand that fed it then it was doomed, so Gyp was destroyed. My father did not have to spell it out for me. ‘You know what you’ve got to do, my girl, once they’ve gone, they’ve gone,’ he said sadly. ‘Don’t waste your time, just do it.’ That evening the children’s father came back from work. ‘Where’s the dog?’ he asked me. ‘She’s dead,’ I told him. I had taken her to the vet that afternoon and had her put down. For a long time, part of me believed I had done the right thing with Purdey. Yet at the same time I always felt that I failed her, that it was my fault not hers. Even when I had her put down, I felt I was deserting her. It took me almost twenty years to confirm my suspicions. What I now know is that Purdey’s behaviour was all caused by my inability to understand that dog, to communicate with her, to show her what I actually wanted. In the most simple terms: she was a dog, a member of the canine not the human family, yet I was using a human language. Over the past ten years I have learned to listen to and understand canine language. As that understanding has grown, I have been able to communicate with dogs, to help them – and their owners – overcome their problems. On many occasions my intervention has prevented a dog from being destroyed because of its seemingly untreatable behaviour. The joy I have felt each time I have saved a dog’s life in this way has been immense. I would be lying if I did not admit that it is also tinged with regret that I did not learn these principles in time to save Purdey. The object of this book is to pass on the knowledge I have acquired. I will explain how I arrived at the method I now operate. I will then go on to outline how you can learn this language for yourself. Like all languages it has to be treated seriously. Learn it lazily or half-heartedly and it will only confuse both you and the dog with which you are trying to communicate. Learn it well and I can assure you that your animal will reward you with co-operation, loyalty and love. Chapter 1 The Lost Language (#ulink_513c4d82-3e55-5782-9fc0-c3a4ecc51b8d) ‘The dog is a lion in his own house.’ Persian Proverb Mankind has misplaced many secrets in the course of its history. The true nature of our relationship with the dog is among them. Like many millions of people around the world, I have always felt a special affinity exists between our two species. It goes beyond mere admiration for the dog’s athleticism, intelligence and looks. There is an intangible bond there, something special that connects us and probably has done since our earliest beginnings. For most of my life, this feeling was founded on little more than instinct, an act of faith, if you like. Today however, the subject of man’s relationship with the dog is the subject of a burgeoning body of intriguing scientific evidence. That evidence indicates that the dog is not only man’s best friend but also his oldest. According to the most up-to-date research I have read, the two species’ stories became intertwined as long ago as 100,000 years BC. It was then that the modern human, Homo sapiens, emerged from his Neanderthal ancestor in Africa and the Middle East. It was also around this time that the dog, Canis familiaris, began to evolve from its ancestor, the wolf, Canis lupus. There seems little doubt that the two events were connected and that the link lies in man’s earliest attempts at domestication. Of course our ancestors have incorporated other animals into their communities, most notably the cow, the sheep, the pig and the goat. The dog, however, was not just the first but by far the most successful addition to our extended family. There is compelling evidence to suggest our forefathers valued their dogs above almost everything else in their life. One of the most moving things I have seen in recent years was a documentary on the discoveries made at the ancient Natufian site of Ein Mallah in northern Israel. There, in this parched and lifeless landscape, the 12,000-year-old bones of a young dog were found resting beneath the left hand of a human skeleton of the same age. The two had been buried together. The clear impression is that the man had wanted his dog to share his last resting place with him. Similar discoveries, dating back to 8500 BC, have been made in America, at the Koster site in Illinois. The sense that man and dog had a unique closeness is only underlined by the work done by sociologists in communities in Peru and Paraguay. There, even today, when a puppy becomes orphaned it is common for a woman to take over the rearing process. The dog feeds off the woman until it is ready to stand on its own feet. No one can be sure how far back this tradition goes. We can only begin to guess at the intensity of the relationship these people’s ancestors must have had with their dogs. There are, I’m sure, many more discoveries to be made, many more eye-opening insights to be gained. Yet even with the knowledge we now have, we should not be surprised that the empathy between the two species was so powerful. Quite the opposite in fact, the immense similarities between the two animals made them natural partners. The wealth of study that has been done in this area tells us that both the ancient wolf and the Stone-Age man shared the same driving instincts and the same social organization. In simple terms, both were predators and lived in groups or packs with a clear structure. One of the strongest similarities the two shared was their inherent selfishness. A dog’s response to any situation – like man’s – is ‘what’s in it for me?’ In this instance, it is easy to see that the relationship they developed was of immense mutual benefit to both species. As the less suspicious, more trusting wolf settled into its new environment alongside man, it found it had access to more sophisticated hunting techniques and tools such as snares and stone arrows, for instance. At night it could find warmth at the side of man’s fire and food in the form of discarded scraps. It was little wonder it took so easily to the domestication that was about to begin. By introducing the wolf to his domestic life, man reaped the benefits of a superior set of instincts. Earlier in his history, the Neanderthal man’s exaggerated proboscis had provided him with a powerful sense of smell; his descendant saw that by integrating the newly domesticated wolf into the hunt, he could once more tap into this lost sense. The dog became a vital cog in the hunting machine, helping to flush out, isolate and, if necessary, kill the prey. In addition to all this, of course, man enjoyed the companionship and protection the dog provided within the camp. The two species understood each other instinctively and completely. In their separate packs, both man and wolf knew their survival depended on the survival of their community. Everyone within that community had a role to perform and got on with it. It was only natural that the same rules should be applied in the extended pack. So while humans concentrated on jobs like fuel gathering, berry picking, house repairs and cooking, the dogs’ main role was to go out with the hunters as their eyes and ears. They would perform a similar role back within the camp, acting as the first line of defence, warding off attackers and warning the humans of their approach. The degree of understanding between man and dog was at its peak. In the centuries that have passed since then, however, the bond has been broken. It is not hard to see how the two species have gone their separate ways. In the centuries since man has become the dominant force on earth, he has moulded the dog – and many other animals – according to the rules of his society alone. It did not take man long to spot he could adjust, improve and specialise the skills of dogs by putting them together selectively for breeding purposes. As early as 7000 BC, in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, for instance, someone noticed the impressive hunting skills of the Arabian desert wolf, a lighter, faster variety of its northern relative. Slowly the wolf evolved into a dog able to chase and catch prey in this harsh climate and, more importantly, to do so according to man’s commands. The dog – variously known as the Saluki, Persian greyhound or gazelle hound – remains unchanged today and may well be the first example of a purebred dog. It was certainly not the last. In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh hound was bred for hunting. In Russia, the borzoi was bred to chase bears. In Polynesia and Central America, communities even developed dog breeds specifically for food. The process has continued through the ages, aided by the dog’s willingness to be ‘imprinted’ by our species. Here in England, for instance, the hunting culture of the landowning aristocracy produced a collection of dogs customised to fulfil specific roles. On a 19th-century estate, a typical pack would include a springer spaniel, to literally spring or flush the game from cover, a pointer or setter to locate birds, and a retriever to return the dead or wounded game to the handler. Elsewhere, other breeds maintained the historic bond between man and dog even more closely. Nowhere was this exemplified better than in the development of guide dogs for the blind. It was at the end of the Great War, at a large country convalescent home in Potsdam, Germany, that a doctor working with injured veterans noticed just by chance that when patients who had lost their sight started moving towards a flight of steps his German shepherd would cut them off. The doctor sensed the dog was turning them away from danger. He began training his dogs specifically to use this natural shepherding ability to help humans who could no longer see. The guide dog for the blind developed from there. It may be our most direct throwback to that earliest community. Here was a dog providing a sense that man has lost. Unfortunately it is a rare example of co-operation in the modern world. In more recent times our relationship has changed, as far as I am concerned, often to the detriment of the dog. Our former partners in survival have become companions cum accessories. The evolution of the so-called lapdog illustrates this perfectly. The breeds were probably begun in the Buddhist temples of the high Himalayas. There, holy men bred the hardy Tibetan spaniels so that they became smaller and smaller. They then used the dogs as body warmers, teaching them to jump up on to their laps and remain under their robes to fend off the cold. By the time of Charles II, the idea had travelled to England, where the English toy spaniel evolved from breedings of tinier and tinier examples of the setter. Over time, these little gundogs were pampered by their wealthy owners and crossed with toy-dog breeds from the East. The breed’s history is still visible today in the distinctive flat-faced features of the King Charles spaniel. This was, to my mind, a pivotal moment in the history of man’s relationship with the dog. To the dog nothing had changed but to his former partner, the relationship was entirely new. The dog had ceased to have a function beyond mere decoration. It was a foretaste of what was to come. Today, examples of the old relationship that man and dog enjoyed are few and far between. Working dogs such as gun dogs, police dogs and farm dogs, as well as the guide dogs I have already mentioned, spring to mind. However they are the tiny exceptions. In general today we have a culture and society in which no consideration has been given to the dog’s place. The old allegiance has been forgotten. Our familiarity has bred contempt, and along the way the instinctive understanding the two species shared has been lost. Again, it is easy to see why there has been a communications breakdown: the small communities in which we began our history have been replaced by one huge, homogeneous society, a global village. Our lives in the big cities have made us anonymous, and we don’t know or acknowledge the people we are around. If we have become divorced from the needs of our fellow humans we have lost touch completely with dogs. As we have learned to cope with all the things we have to face in our society, we have simply assumed that our dogs have done the same thing. The truth is they haven’t. Today, man’s concept of the dog’s role and the dog’s idea of its place are completely at odds with each other. We expect this one species to abide by our norms of behaviour, to live by rules we would never impose on another animal, say a sheep or a cow. Even cats are allowed to scratch themselves. Only dogs are told they cannot do what they like. It is ironic – and to my mind, tragic – that of all the 1.5 million species on this planet, the one species blessed with the intelligence to appreciate the beauty in others fails to respect dogs for what they are. As a result, the exceptional understanding that existed between us and our former best friends has all but disappeared. It is little wonder there are more problems with dogs today than there have ever been. Of course there are many people who are living perfectly happily with their dogs. The ancient bond clearly lives on inside us somewhere. No other animal evokes the same set of emotions or forms the basis for such loving relationships. The fact remains that people today who are living in harmony with their dogs are getting there by a happy accident rather than through knowledge. Our awareness of the instinctive, unspoken language that we share with our dogs has been lost. In the last decade, I have attempted to bridge that divide, to attempt to re-establish that link between man and dog. My search for this missing means of communication has been a long and at times frustrating one. Ultimately, however, it has been the most rewarding and exciting journey I have ever made. Chapter 2 A Life with Dogs (#ulink_633dd971-7970-51ee-b4fd-1b8dd6c5b6ec) It is hard for me to imagine this now, but there was a time when I could not face the prospect of forming a friendship with another dog. In the awful aftermath of Purdey’s death, I had become deeply disillusioned. At one point I even think I came out with the classic line ‘I will never have another dog in this house’. The reality was, however, that my affection for dogs ran too deep. And, within a year or so of Purdey’s death, a little gun dog was healing the scars left by my tragic loss. Despite our early setback, my family and I had settled well into country life. It was my husband’s interest in hunting that brought dogs back into our home. One day, in the autumn of 1973, he came back from a rough shoot bemoaning his lack of a good gun dog. He had seen a wounded rabbit slinking its way into the woods to die. ‘If I had a dog that couldn’t have happened,’ he complained with a look that left little room for doubt about what he was thinking. So it was that on his birthday that September, his first gun dog, a springer spaniel bitch we called Kelpie arrived in the house. He loved the dog as I did. It was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with that beautiful breed. We were, predictably I suppose, terrified of repeating the experience of Purdey and immediately bought one of the standard text books on gundog training. I have to confess that our first efforts at shaping Kelpie up were far from a roaring success. We wanted to train Kelpie to retrieve, an unnatural act for a springer. Sticking rigidly to the book, we started her off by throwing objects for her to recover and return to us. The book stressed the importance of beginning with something very lightweight. The idea was to teach the dog to be ‘soft mouthed’ with the objects it recovered. We decided to use one of Ellie’s old bibs, which we tied in a knot. One morning we took Kelpie outdoors, threw the bib into the distance and waited for her to return it to us. We were so thrilled when she bounded off and picked up the bib, but our expressions soon changed as she ran straight past us into the house. I remember my husband looking at me with a blank look: ‘What does the book say we do now?’ he said. At that point I think we all collapsed to the floor with laughter. We made an awful lot of mistakes with Kelpie but we had great fun too. Whenever I feel too full of myself or over-confident about the control I am able to achieve over dogs today, I think back to that moment. Kelpie was very much my husband’s dog, however. I was so pleased with her and the way she had fitted in so well to our life that soon afterwards I decided to get a dog of my own. I had fallen hopelessly for the spaniel and bought a nine-week-old puppy, a bitch from the show strain of the springer spaniel. I called her Lady after the imaginary dog I’d had as a child. My interest lay less in hunting than in breeding and showing dogs. So it was that Lady became my introduction to that fascinating world. By the middle of the 1970s, I was travelling with her to shows all over the country. She was a lovely dog and was popular with judges wherever we went. By 1976, Lady had qualified for the most prestigious dog show of all, Cruft’s, in London. The day we travelled down to the famous arena at Olympia was a moment of great pride for me. I found the world of dog shows rewarding and hugely enjoyable. It was, apart from everything else, a great social network, a way of meeting like-minded people. Two of the closest friends I made were Bert and Gwen Green, a well-known couple in the dog world, whose line of dogs, under the Springfayre affix, were hugely popular. Bert and Gwen knew of my interest in moving on to breeding dogs. It was they who gave me Donna, Lady’s three-year-old grandmother. Donna had all the makings of a good, foundation bitch and helped me start my own breeding line. I had soon bred my first ever litter from her, and kept one of the seven dogs for myself, calling him Chrissy. Chrissy was a show dog that became a very successful working gun dog. He won a puppy class at the age of eight months and qualified for Cruft’s too. The highlight of my time with him came in October 1977 when I took him to the Show Spaniels Field Day, a prestigious event for gundogs that have qualified for Cruft’s. The competition judged the dogs on their working ability only. I was, as the footballing expression goes, over the moon when Chrissy won the prize for Best English Springer On The Day. I vividly remember the moment the judge handed me the winner’s rosette. ‘Welcome to the elite,’ he told me. After that I truly felt I had arrived in the dog world. Encouraged by this success, I went on to improve my line through two well-bred bitches and I think I gained a pretty respectable reputation. Throughout this time I was also adding to the family’s collection of dogs. Tragically, Donna died of a tumour in 1979, aged only eight, but in the aftermath I also bought a cocker spaniel for my daughter, named Susie, and bred from her daughter Sandy. It was, however, Khan, one of the English springer spaniels I had bred, that brought me my greatest success, winning many classes and Best of Breed. He was a wonderful dog with beautiful features, in particular the sort of warm but masculine face that judges were always looking for. In 1983 he qualified for Cruft’s, emulating the feat of six of my previous dogs. To my delight he won his class. Again the memory of receiving the winner’s card fills me with pride. As I have explained, I met some wonderful, warmhearted people who taught me a great deal. There was no wiser soul than Bert Green. I remember he used to say to me: ‘I doubt you do the breed any good, but don’t do it any harm.’ By that he meant we had a responsibility to be faithful to the principles of the dog breeding fraternity. To me, breeding dogs came with its own set of responsibilities, particularly as the majority of the small number of dogs I bred were being carefully placed into family homes. My job was to ensure these dogs had temperaments that made them a pleasure to own. So inevitably I had spent a lot of time working on training the dogs, working on what everyone generally referred to as ‘obedience classes’. It was here that the unease I had long felt about our attitude to dogs really broke through to the surface. The memory of Purdey was a constant cloud at the back of my mind. I was forever asking myself what I had done wrong, wondering whether I had somehow given her the wrong kind of training? My growing unease was fuelled further by the mistrust I felt about the traditional enforcement methods of training. There was nothing radical or revolutionary about my training techniques then. Far from it, I was as conservative as everyone else in most ways. I would go through the routine of teaching a dog to sit and stay by pushing its bottom on the ground, to come to heel with a jerk on a choke chain, and to follow. And I would instil these disciplines through the time-honoured methods. Yet as I spent more and more time training, I became aware of a nagging doubt about what I was doing. It was as if a voice at the back of my mind was constantly saying: you are making the dog do this, the dog does not want to do this. In truth, I had always hated the word ‘obedience’. It carried the same connotation as ‘breaking in’ within the horse world. It simply underlined the reality of the situation, that what I was using was a kind of enforcement, a means of going against the will of the animal. It is, to my mind, like the word ‘obey’ within marriage vows. Why not use words like ‘work alongside’, ‘pull together’, ‘co-operate’? ‘Obey’ is just too emotive for me. But what could I do about it? There were no books about how to do it any other way. And who was I to argue? There are no two ways about it, you have to have your dog under control, you can’t have it just running amok. It is our responsibility as it is with our children to make them socially responsible. I had no real alternative. Nevertheless, it was at this time that I began trying to make the training process more humane if I possibly could. With this in mind I began introducing a few subtle changes in my technique. The first involved nothing more complex than a simple change of language. As I explained, I was using the traditional methods of enforcement, including the so-called choke chain. As far as I was concerned the name was a misnomer. Used correctly the chain should never choke a dog, it should merely check it. There was no use in using it to jerk dogs back as far as I was concerned. So I tried to soften the terminology so as to soften the attitude of the humans. In my training, I taught people to use the chain to make a light, clicking noise that the dog would recognise as an anticipatory signal before it moved forward. When it heard the chain, it reacted so as to avoid being choked. So to me and my pupils, they were check chains rather than choke chains. It was a minor change but the difference in emphasis was fundamental. I tried to do the same in heel work. I did not approve of the method most people used which involved taking the lead and pulling the dog down. I thought that was wrong. My original way of getting it to lie down was to make the dog sit, then tip the dog gently to one side by taking away its inside leg. Wherever I could, I was always looking for a softer way within the traditional parameters of the work. As I did so, I was very successful at teaching people how to work with their dogs. Yet the changes I was achieving in softening the approach were so small. The central philosophy remained the same. I was making the dog do it. I always felt I was imposing my will on the dog rather than making it do what I wanted by choice. And I sensed that the dog did not know why it was doing it. The ideas that changed all this began to form themselves at the end of the 1980s. By that time, my life had changed considerably. I had been divorced and my children were growing up and on the road to university. I myself had studied psychology and behaviourism as part of a degree in literature and social sciences at Humberside University. I had to give up showing dogs because of the divorce. Just as people were beginning to respect me and I was beginning to knock on the door, it was all kicked away: it was very frustrating. I reluctantly had to let some of my dogs go. Meanwhile, I maintained a pack of six dogs. By the time we moved to a new home in North Lincolnshire in 1984, there was little time for life in the competitive dog world. I was working too hard to support my kids to be able to afford to compete or to breed full time. Apart from my own dogs, my contact with that world was confined to working at the local Jay Gee Animal Sanctuary and writing a pet page for a local newspaper. My passion for dogs remained as great as ever. The only difference now was that it had to be channelled in a different direction. My interest in psychology and behaviourism had carried on from university. Behaviourism in particular had really become part of the mainstream by now. I had read Pavlov and Freud, B.F. Skinner and all the acknowledged experts in the field and, to be honest, I found a lot that I could agree with. The idea, for instance, that when a dog is jumping up, it is aiming to establish a hierarchy, and is jumping so as to put you in your place. Or the idea that a dog will barge its way in front of you as you walk to a door because it is checking the coast is clear, protecting the den, and believes it is the leader. I also understood and accepted the idea of what was referred to as ‘separation anxiety’. The behaviourists’ view was that a dog will chew up the furniture or destroy the home because it is separated from its owner and that separation is stressful for the dog. All these things made total sense and offered me a lot. But to me there was something missing. What I kept asking was: why? Where was the dog getting this information from? At the time I wondered whether I was crazy for even asking myself this, but why is a dog so dependent on its owner that it is stressful to be separated? I didn’t know it then, but I was looking at the situation the wrong way around. It is not an understatement to say that my attitude to dogs – and my life – changed one afternoon in 1990. By this time, I was also working with horses. The previous year, a friend of mine, Wendy Broughton, whose former racehorse, China, I had been riding for some time, had asked me if I was interested in going to see an American cowboy called Monty Roberts. He had been brought over by the Queen to demonstrate his pioneering techniques with horses. Wendy had watched him give a demonstration in which he had brought a previously unsaddled horse to carry saddle, bridle and rider within thirty minutes. It was, on the surface at least, highly impressive but she remained sceptical. ‘He must have worked with the horse before,’ she thought. She was convinced it had been a fluke. In 1990, however, Wendy had been given the chance to put her mind at rest. She had answered an advert Monty Roberts had placed in Horse & Hound magazine. He was organizing another public demonstration and was asking for two-year-old horses that had never been saddled or ridden before. He had accepted Wendy’s offer to apply his method to her chestnut thoroughbred mare, Ginger Rogers. In truth, Wendy saw it as a challenge rather than an offer. Ginger Rogers was an amazingly headstrong horse. Privately we were convinced Monty Roberts was about to meet his match. As I travelled to the Wood Green animal sanctuary near St Ives, Cambridgeshire, on a sunny, summer’s afternoon, I tried to keep an open mind, not least because I have immense respect for the Queen’s knowledge of animals, her horses and dogs in particular. I thought if she was giving credence to this fellow then he had to be worth watching. I suppose when you hear the word ‘cowboy’, you immediately conjure up images of John Wayne, larger-than-life characters in Stetsons and leather chaps, spitting and cursing their way through life. The figure that emerged before the small audience that day could not have been further removed from that cliché. Dressed in a jockey’s flat cap, wearing a neat, navy shirt and beige slacks, he looked more like a country gentleman. And there was nothing brash or loud about him. In fact he was very quiet and self-effacing. But there was undoubtedly something charismatic and unusual about him. Just how unusual, I would soon find out. There were about fifty of us sitting around the round pen he had set up in the equestrian area. Monty began by making some opening remarks about his method and what he was about to show. The early portents were not good, however. Unknown to Monty, Ginger Rogers was behind him. As he spoke, she started nodding her head slowly, almost sarcastically pretending to agree with him. Everyone burst out laughing. Of course when Monty turned around, Ginger stopped. The minute he swivelled round to face the audience again she started again. Wendy and I looked at each other knowingly. We were both thinking the same thing I’m sure: he’s taken on too much here. As Monty gathered up a sash and began going through the opening of his routine, we sat back waiting for the fireworks to begin. Precisely twenty-three-and-a-half minutes later we were ready to eat our words. That was how long it took Monty not just to calm Ginger down but also to have a rider controlling with ease a horse that to our certain knowledge had never been saddled or ridden in its life. Wendy and I sat there in stunned silence. Anyone who saw us that day would have seen disbelief written all over our faces. We remained in a state of shock for a long time afterwards. We talked about it for days and days. Wendy, who had spoken to Monty after his miraculous display, even went on to build a replica of his trademark round pen and started implementing his advice. For me too it was as if a light had been switched on. There were so many things that struck a chord. Monty’s technique, as the whole world now knows, is to connect – to ‘join up’ in his phrase – with the horse. His time in the round pen is spent establishing a rapport with the horse, in effect communicating in its own language. His method is based on a lifetime working with and most importantly observing the animal in its natural environment. Most impressive of all his method has no place for pain or fear. His view was that if you did not get the animal on your side then anything you did was an act of violation, you were imposing your will on an unwilling being. And the fact that he was succeeding in doing things differently was clear from the way he won the trust of the horse. He placed great store, for instance, on the fact that he could touch the horse on its most vulnerable area, its flanks. That day, as I watched him working in unison with the animal, looking at and listening to what the animal was signalling to him, I thought ‘he’s cracked it’. He had connected with the horse to such an extent that it let him do whatever he liked. And there was no enforcement, no violence, no pressure: the horse was doing it of its own free will. I thought how the heck can I do this with dogs? I was convinced it must be possible given that dogs are fellow hunter-gatherers with whom we have a much greater connection historically. The big question was: HOW? Chapter 3 Listening and Learning (#ulink_bf20e56b-5ad1-56ce-81b0-89ea8ad1e28b) I realise now that fortune was smiling on me at this time. If I had not begun expanding my own pack of dogs, I am sure I would never have seen what I did. By this time my pack was reduced to a quartet of dogs: Khan, Susie and Sandy, and a beagle I had taken in, called Kim. They were a fun foursome, a wonderful mixture of characters. By now, however, I was entering another new phase in my life. I had no ties, the kids were grown up and I had just lost my parents. Free to think about what I wanted to do, I decided to welcome a beautiful, black German shepherd puppy called Sasha into my home. I had always liked the idea of owning a German shepherd even though they’re a breed that has had a bad press. People see them as police dogs, aggressive animals that are always attacking people, which is, of course, far removed from the truth. We stereotype dogs just the same way as we pigeonhole people. All German shepherds are aggressive, all spaniels are stupid or all beagles are wanderers – we have all heard it. Yet it is just as ignorant as saying all Frenchmen wear berets or all Mexicans walk around in sombreros: it is nonsense. My reluctance to take on a German shepherd was nothing to do with this. I quite simply didn’t think I was good enough to work with this kind of dog. I had heard a lot about their immense intelligence, about how you have to challenge their brains, give them something to think about. I always felt I didn’t have the time, the patience and certainly the knowledge to handle one. Now, perhaps, I did. Sasha’s arrival in my home marked a major turning point. After watching Monty in action, I knew that I had to follow his example and observe very closely what my dogs were doing. I had to stop thinking I knew best and start watching them. As I did so, the benefits were not long in coming. Sasha was a young and incredibly energetic dog. My other dogs reacted to this exuberant new presence in different ways. The beagle, Kim, would simply ignore her. Khan, on the other hand, was quite content playing with the newcomer. He did not mind at all that Sasha would follow him everywhere, sticking like glue day and night. It was Sandy, my son Tony’s cocker spaniel, who had the problems. From the moment Sasha arrived in the house, Sandy made it plain that she hated this newcomer. Sandy to be fair was getting on, she was twelve years old by now, and she simply didn’t want this energetic young kid leaping all over her. At first she tried ignoring her by turning her head from side to side, which was sometimes difficult because Sasha at the age of ten weeks was bigger than Sandy. When this didn’t work she began making this low grizzling sound and curling her lip so that Sasha would back off. As I sat down and wondered about what was going on here I realised it was something I had seen before in another dog of mine, one of my original springer spaniels, Donna, or The Duchess as she became known. As her name suggests, there was something regal about Donna. When she moved around the house everyone had to move out of the way. I remember on one occasion my mother arrived and sat down in the armchair which Donna used. Donna had been lying there quite happily curled up. The moment my mother sat next to her she lifted herself up, looked up indignantly and pushed her off the edge. My mother ended up on the floor. When she got up and sat there again the same thing happened. Donna pushed her off again. At the time, of course, we thought it was hilarious. As I watched Sasha and Sandy I realised I was seeing something similar happening again. I had seen this in the past without realising what I was watching. Now, however, it was as if I was witnessing things for the first time. It was fairly obvious what was going on here: Sandy like Donna was trying to show who was the boss, it was to do with a status of some kind. The next thing I noticed was the very intense performance my dogs would go through whenever they came together. If, for instance, I took Sasha to the vet for an injection, each time she came home she would immediately go through this performance. I didn’t know what to call it at the time but now I would say it was a ritualised greeting. There would be a lot of her licking all the other dogs’ faces with her ears pinned back: it always happened. At first it didn’t make much sense to me. In Sasha’s case I didn’t know whether to put it down to youthful exuberance, her newness to the group or some habitual thing she had picked up before arriving in my home. Luckily Sasha’s inspiration was not confined to her actions. In her looks she reminded me very much of a wolf. I had read a little about wolf packs in the past but she made me think about it more closely. I got out some videos on wolves, dingoes and wild dogs and was amazed when I immediately saw this same sort of behaviour. I was fascinated to see that in situation after situation they too went through this same ritualised greeting. I was fairly sure this was something to do with social status. That hunch solidified as I looked further into the mechanics of the wolf pack, a community in which everything revolves around the leaders – or the Alpha pair. I will look at the Alpha pair in more detail later. For now I will simply explain that the two Alpha wolves are the strongest, healthiest, most intelligent and most experienced members of the pack. Their status is maintained by the fact that they are the only members of the pack who breed, thus ensuring only the healthiest genes survive. The key point here is that the Alpha pair dominate and dictate every aspect of pack life. The remainder of the pack accept the Alpha pair’s rule and defer to them without question. Below the leading pair, each subordinate member is content to know its vital place and function within this pecking order. Watching films on wolves, it was obvious that the ritual greetings I was watching were all related to the wolves that seemed to be the Alpha pair. The wolves who seemed to be in charge did not lick the faces of the other wolves – the others all licked their faces. This licking was very specific in nature too, it was almost frantic and concentrated on the face. There were other clues in the body language too. The Alphas had a confidence level, an attitude, they carried themselves differently physically, most noticeably they carried their tails much higher than the others. The subordinates sent out their signals too. Some would simply drop their bodies below their leaders. Some wolves, presumably the younger and lower-ranking subordinates, would not even come that far forward, they would hang back. It was as if only some of the dogs were entitled to lick the leader, some of them were not. Again I quickly realised I had seen this before. The Duchess, my dog Donna, had carried herself in exactly the same imperious way. But it was when I went back to my pack at the time that the similarities really struck home. I immediately began seeing the same thing again. I saw it was as though there were kings, knights and servants. It was clear that the lower-order dogs were being put in their place by those above them, just as within the wolf pack. I had never made the connection before. Suddenly I saw that dogs were the same. It was a huge step forward for me. Again it was Sasha who provided the most powerful proof. It was clear to me by now, for instance, that she had acquired a higher status within the pack. She had grown enough in size and confidence to ignore Sandy’s protestations. Sandy at the same time had become more resigned about matters. She would tip her head away, dip her carriage and her tail. The power shift was most obvious at playtime. When I threw the ball or whatever toy we were using, it would be Sasha’s job to recover it. The others would follow it and bound around it when it landed, but there was no argument over whose role it was to retrieve the ball. And if another dog came near her once she had picked it up, Sasha would give them a little look, her whole body language would shout: ‘It’s mine, now back off.’ Sandy’s body language in comparison was submissive, her body dropped lower and lower as this interaction went on. Sandy had in effect given up the fight and allowed Sasha to impose herself as the head of the pack. The younger dog had, if you like, staged a bloodless coup. Of course my dogs were not always displaying such intriguing behaviour. There were times when they were happy in their own company. I began to understand that this hierarchy was being reinforced at particular times only. So the next step was to work out exactly when this communication was going on. I noticed that this would happen with me whenever I got home. Watching the dogs more closely, however, I saw that the same sort of behaviour was repeated with me whenever somebody else came to the front door. As the visitor came in, the dogs would crowd around me. They would get very excited, rush to the door, rush around people. All the time they were doing this, they would be interacting, repeating this ritualised behaviour. I saw the same thing again when I got the dogs’ leads out and we got ready for a walk. All the dogs would get excited and agitated, jumping up and down and again interacting with each other as we got ready to leave the house. Once more, I studied the wolf pack and once more I saw the same thing. In the wolves’ case this behaviour was occurring as the pack got ready to go on a hunt. There was a lot of running around and jostling for position, but ultimately it was the Alpha pair whose heads remained erect and their tail carriage high. And it was always they who led the pack away in search of the prey. I realised the wolves were re-establishing who was in charge here. The leader was reminding the rest that it was his role to lead and theirs to follow. This was the pecking order and they must abide by it to survive. Clearly my pack was doing the same. What really interested me at this point, however, was my inclusion in all this. From the way my dogs were reacting around me it was clear that I was somehow part of this process. And of all my dogs, none was so keen to involve me in the process as Sasha. If we were going out of the house, Sasha would invariably stand in front of me. She would place herself in a position, across my body, blocking me off. Although I could hold her back with my chain she always wanted to go ahead of me. She seemed to think it was natural for her to go forward first. Equally, if there was a loud noise or an unexpected event while we were out on a walk, such as another dog appearing in front of us, she would stand in front of me in a very protective stance. She would also bark more furiously than the others when someone went past the house in view or when the postman or milkman came to the door. And unlike the others, there seemed to be no calming her in these situations. If I am honest about it, part of me was worried about this behaviour. It reminded me a little of Purdey who also had this habit of running around in front of me. For a while part of me feared I might let my dog down again. Fortunately this time, however, I saw what was going on. Again, memories of Donna provided a first clue. I recalled how she had behaved years earlier when I had fostered a little baby boy, Shaun. Whenever he lay on his blanket on the floor, Donna would lie next to him with her leg over his leg. If he kicked it off she would move it back. She was clearly acting as his protector, guarding over him at all times. It was now that I realised that, just as Donna had felt the little baby was her responsibility, somehow Sasha must also be feeling she had a role to perform in looking after me. Why else would I be given such specific treatment when I came in through the door or when greeting visitors? Why else would she get so hyperactive about my leading her out on a walk? I realise now that so many of my mistakes were down to human conditioning. Like almost every other person on this planet, I had assumed that the world revolved around our particular species, and that every other species had somehow fitted into our grand scheme. I had assumed that because I owned the dogs, then I had to be their leader too. Now, for the first time, I began to wonder if that really was the case. I began to wonder whether Sasha was trying to take care of me. All of the information I was getting from my dogs was powerful. But this to me was the most explosive knowledge of all. It made me completely re-evaluate my thinking. And it was then that the penny began to drop. I thought: ‘Hold on, what if I am looking at this the wrong way around? What if I am imposing a rather arrogant, presumptuous – and typically human – framework on this? What if, instead, I imagine it from a dog’s point of view and rather than thinking it is dependent on us, the dog thinks the exact opposite, that it is responsible for us? What if it believes it is the leader of a pack in which we too are subordinates? What if it believes it is its job to safeguard our welfare rather than the other way around?’ As I thought about it, so much suddenly locked into place. I thought of separation anxiety. Instead of looking at a dog that was worrying ‘Where’s my mum or dad?’ we had a dog worrying ‘Where’s my damned kids?’ If you had a two-year-old and realised you didn’t know where it was, wouldn’t you be going insane with worry? Dogs were not destroying the house through boredom: it was through sheer panic. When your dog jumps up at you when you come in, it is not because it wants to play with you, it is because it is welcoming you back to the pack that it believes it is in charge of. In many ways I felt a fool. I had made the mistake we humans make all too often in our dealings with animals. I had assumed my dogs did not have their own language, how could they – they lived with us? I had assumed that they understood they were living with me in a domestic situation. It had not occurred to me to think the rules they were playing by had been dictated to them in the wild. In short, I had imposed human constraints on them: I had allowed familiarity to breed contempt. I can’t say the idea came to me in one blinding flash, there was no apple falling from a tree or a bolt of lightning in the sky, but from that moment my entire philosophy changed. Chapter 4 Taking the Lead (#ulink_05283ab8-e9b0-5da4-ba53-d9d1b7a47671) In a few short months I had gained a greater insight than I would have imagined possible. By taking time to watch my dogs interacting with each other, by listening to what they were telling me, I had picked up on some powerful knowledge. Behaviour I had seen in the wild was being repeated on a daily basis in my own home by my own dogs. I had begun to see how they enforced their will on others, how they showed supremacy, how they showed dominance. And there was no shouting because dogs don’t shout, no smacking because dogs don’t hit. From my dogs, I had isolated three clear occasions when interaction was going on between them: at times of perceived danger, when they were going for a walk and when they were reuniting. At each of these times, I saw certain dogs being put in their place, the leader asserting its authority and the subordinates accepting that authority. What I wanted to know now was, how could I take this a step further? To my mind, the most inspirational aspect of Monty Roberts’ work was the way he was able to replicate the behaviour of a horse even though he was a human. I knew that I had to try to follow his example and reproduce the behaviour of my dogs. I wanted to see how much difference it would make if I took charge in the way that a leader would do in the wild. I also, crucially, wanted to find out if it was something that should be done. Would there be any side effects, how would it impinge on the dogs’ wellbeing and quality of life? With this in mind, I knew the most important challenge was to develop a way of leading the dogs to decisions they were making of their own free will. As Monty puts it, I wanted a situation where if there was a meeting, I would be elected chairman. It was a daunting task. Before I started, I knew two elements were of paramount importance. I was soon calling them ‘the two Cs’. I had to be consistent and I also had to be calm. For generations we have been taught to instil obedience in our dogs by barking orders at them. Words like ‘sit, stay, beg, come’, we have all used them. I use them myself. Dogs do recognise them, but not because they understand the meaning of the words. They merely learn to make associations with the sounds if they are used repeatedly. As far as I am concerned, their effectiveness proves only the value of being consistent in providing information to your dog. In every other respect, shouting at the top of your voice is a surefire way of creating a neurotic dog. As I got ready to take the next step, this feeling was reinforced all around me. In the park where I used to exercise my dogs, I remember a man who used to exercise his Doberman. Any dog approaching the Doberman was greeted with the owner shouting and shaking a walking stick. Almost as soon as he started doing this, his dog would start growling and snapping too. I noticed that, in contrast, people who were relaxed and happy with their dogs tended to be in charge of animals who were relaxed and happy at play. This got me thinking about the nature of the leadership I should be providing, and I quickly saw that calmness seemed to be a fundamental requirement for all sorts of reasons. In both the human and the dog world, the greatest form of leadership is the silent, inspirational type. Think of the great men of history: Gandhi, Sitting Bull, Mandela – all hugely charismatic but quiet men. That famous phrase from Kipling’s poem ‘If always comes to mind when I think of the qualities of leadership: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs …’ It is obvious when you think about it. A leader that is upset or agitated is a leader that does not instil confidence, a leader that is less likely to be believed in. It is certainly a principle that is recognised within wolf packs where the Alpha wolves display a serenity that borders on the dismissive at times. I knew if I was going to begin communicating in my dogs’ language and, more importantly, if I was going to be elected leader, I had to start behaving in a manner the dogs would associate with leadership. I am not by nature the strong, silent type, so it was necessary for me to adopt a slight change of personality in the dogs’ company. Compared to the transformation I was soon seeing, the change was minor. My first attempts began on a wet weekday morning. I remember it was raining really hard, and thinking how easy it would be to wait for a sunny day to start this bright new beginning. But by now I was impatient to get on. And I had gone to bed the night before, determined to try something the next day. I must admit I was full of self-doubt. I had no idea if it was going to work. Part of me felt a bit silly. I thought to myself: ‘I hope no one comes around this morning.’ But as I came down the stairs I knew that I had nothing to lose. People imagine that I have always had my dogs behaving exactly as I wanted. They couldn’t be further from the truth. At that time, my pack was quite a handful, and even worse, they had no manners. When I came home, they bounded around and jumped up just like any other dogs; it could be incredibly irritating. Sometimes I would have my arms full of shopping or I would be wearing a nice outfit and they would come careering at me. For this reason, the first situation I decided to tackle was the re-formation of the pack. Planning it all in my mind the night before I began, I had decided to imitate the behaviour of the Alpha by ignoring them. This was not, of course, the easiest thing in the world to do. But I soon realised that I had more tools available than I had thought. Because we are verbal creatures, we use words too much. We forget that we know an awful lot of body language as well. If somebody turns away from you, for instance, you know what they mean. Equally if you walk into a crowded room and someone averts their eyes, you are getting a clear message straight away. Dogs use this same language too, eye contact in particular. I soon realised I could use this effectively. So when I came downstairs that morning and let the dogs into the kitchen, I started behaving differently. When they jumped up at me I didn’t say get down, when they misbehaved I didn’t tell them to go to their beds. For the first few minutes that day I made sure I didn’t even make any eye contact with them. I just ignored them. It was, I confess, an unnatural feeling at first. I was cutting against an ingrained attitude that wanted to interact with dogs whenever possible. I’m not sure how long I would have been able to keep it up if I had not got almost immediate results. The impact was obvious within a day or two of my starting this new regime. To my astonishment they very quickly stopped jumping up and charging at me. As I repeated the procedure each time I arrived among them they became more and more respectful. As the week wore on, they began standing back and letting me come in unmolested. I’m sure their acceptance was increased by the fact that there were immediate benefits to this. By giving me the body space I needed, they saw a distinct change in the atmosphere during the times I was with them: I was pleased to see them. The dogs learned that when I wanted to spend time, it was quality time. Behaviourism had taught me that you should ignore undesirable and excessive behaviour but be sure to praise the positive, so I underlined this by making a quiet, extra fuss of them when they did come to me. The dogs were soon coming to me only when I asked them to, and it didn’t take time: it happened within a week. This first tentative step had proved so effective, I knew I was on to something. But I quickly realised that one thing alone was not going to give them the message. I decided to move on next to moments of perceived danger, and the arrival of strangers to the pack specifically. Like other dogs, mine used to bark incessantly when someone came to the door. When I let them in, the visitor would instantly be surrounded by a circle of dogs, jumping up at them and making a terrible fuss. I would shout: ‘Stop it, be quiet.’ But by now I realised that far from placating them, I was exacerbating the situation. Again I thought of Kipling; I knew I had to keep my head, be calm and consistent. This time I decided to tell people to ignore the dogs when they came through the door. Those dogs that kept bounding up, I took into another room. Of course some people thought I was crazy. To them, it was the most natural thing in the world to acknowledge a dog, particularly if it’s a beautiful dog. My friends and family had certainly been in the habit of making a fuss of Sasha, Khan, Sandy and Kim. But I was determined to give this a chance and insisted they do as I ask. The early signs were enough to convince me to stick at it. Within a few days again, things began to calm down. Soon the dogs were just barking rather than running up and milling around visitors. Once more the dogs picked up on what was being asked of them pretty quickly. Of course I couldn’t quite believe it was so simple; I put some of it down to the fact that both Sandy and Khan were getting old. I was sure there was significance in the fact that the dog that was giving me most in terms of response was Sasha, the youngest one in the pack and a German shepherd to boot. I never thought: ‘I’m right here, there has to be reasons why this is working’ – I was questioning things all the way along. Despite all this, however, I can’t deny it was a fantastic feeling. They were transformed, they seemed happier, calmer dogs, and it was a joy to behold. The next thing I wanted to tackle was going for a walk. Walking time then was, in all honesty, little short of chaos. Whenever we went out, the dogs would all run around me, pulling on the leads. The situation summed up the fatal flaw in traditional training in many ways. I think I had instilled a lot of good habits into them through obedience training, but if I am honest with myself they were either robotic when we went out or doing their own thing – it was either everything or nothing. I didn’t want that, and felt there had to be a way of achieving a kind of co-operation, a situation where I could get them to comply when I wanted and they could enjoy the freedom to run where they liked when they were able to do so. I knew the best form of control was self-control. But how to instil it? Instead of putting them on a lead and letting them bounce around like maniacs, I thought I’d calm it right down again. As I was doing more and more now, I stopped and thought about the wolf pack analogy. I saw how the Alpha pair allowed the subordinates to run around for a while but that eventually all calmed down and they was able to lead the hunt in an orderly fashion. So the first time I gathered the dogs together for a walk, I did not try to stop them getting excited: quite the opposite. Again thinking about the principles of the wolf pack, I realised dogs have got to get wound up because, to them, this is the prelude to a hunt and they have to get their adrenaline pumping. What I was trying to do was not fight their instinct but go with it. The difference this time, however, was that after putting the leads on the dogs, I did nothing, I just stood there, impassively waiting, calmly and silently before heading out of the door. Again the calming leadership I was showing bore fruit, and the dogs calmed right down. I then found that, on the walk, I had to keep showing them my leadership credentials. Previously, like so many other dog owners, I would be taken for a drag down the road by the dogs, an experience I never particularly enjoyed. However, I found that if, whenever the obligatory pulling started, I waited, the results were remarkable. The dogs quickly realised they were getting nowhere fast, and one by one their leads all slackened as they gave up trying and turned round to look at me. This was the first time they had done so, and it gave me the encouragement I needed to continue in this vein. It had been a battle of wills, and I had won them over. I then started to wonder if the same approach would work when they were off the lead. In the past, my dogs would scatter to the four winds and then display ‘selective hearing’: they would come back to me perfectly well on some occasions, but if distracted by a rabbit or another dog, my futile attempts to call them back would echo across fields. On other occasions, I have seen dogs go back eventually, only to be smacked by their frustrated owner. I always thought that this was a confusing signal for the dog – surely it would make a dog wary of returning if it knew it was going to get clobbered? And if anybody has tried to catch their dog to get it under control, they know they can sometimes be led a merry dance by the dog, who waits for the owner to get close, then runs off again. Once more, looking to the wolf pack gave me my answer to the selective hearing problem. Knowing that the Alpha wolf leads the pack on the hunt, I looked at the situation from the dog’s point of view. If that dog believed it was Alpha, then it would think it was leading the hunt. Therefore, the owner’s job, as subordinate, would not be to call the dog back, but to follow as a pack member. Encouraged by the positive response I had got working on the leads, I decided to show my dogs that I led the hunt off the lead as well. I was not keen to test out this theory in an open field, but luckily I had enough room in my garden to make a start. Calling the dogs to heel and rewarding them for doing so immediately took away the confusion that arises when owners punish their dogs for coming to them late. Again the dogs were quick to learn, all except Kim, the beagle. On one occasion, she was still not responding, preferring to nose around the garden. Frustrated, I turned away and headed for the back door, determined to leave her out there. As I reached the door and looked back, I saw Kim running flat out to get indoors. Inspiration struck. From then on, if Kim did not come when I asked, I turned round and walked back to the house, whereupon she would follow me. Dogs are, by nature, pack animals, and given the choice of going alone or returning to the pack, they choose the pack every time. It was a huge leap forward. It was as if I held the dogs on invisible leads attached to them. The difference was astounding: within a week or so again, they were still enjoying their freedom, but now they were doing so in a way that meant they never strayed very far from me. And when I wanted the pack to re-form to return home, they accepted the minimal instruction I gave to them instantly. I was, I must admit, over the moon. I wouldn’t want to create the impression that all this came easily, that everything fell into place instantly: it didn’t, I can assure you. As I tried to develop my ideas some things simply didn’t work. In particular I found that any attempt to combine my new practices with the old, obedience training stuff did more harm than good. But as I thought about incorporating things like discs, clickers and head braces I realised ‘this is simply confusing’. And if I was mixed up, what on earth would the dogs’ response be? I realise now that I was being human, I was overcomplicating things. I kept thinking: ‘There has to be more to it than this, it can’t be this simple,’ and kept looking for other things. Slowly, however, it was dawning on me that in some ways it really was this simple. If I just concentrated on the dogs’ way rather than the human way, I was going to be far more successful; it was obvious really, when do you ever see one dog using collars or leads or clickers on another dog? From then on, I determined that I was going to try do this without resorting to any artificial man-made means. By now I had been applying the principles with great success for two or three months but a part of me was still convinced I was not getting the full picture. My own dogs were providing me with information on a daily basis, and as they did so, I was able to make little refinements to the techniques I was developing – it really was a question of trial and error at times. But the next big breakthrough did not come via the dogs I had then. Once more, it was my memories of The Duchess, Donna, that provided the inspiration. I have always believed in treating my dogs to a supply of fresh marrow bones once a week. When Donna was around, the moment I put the bones down on the ground marked the moment the same little ritual would begin. In her usual imperious way Donna would walk silently in and the others would immediately stand back. Donna would then slowly sniff out the bones she wanted, then walk away with them. Only then would the others take what they wanted. It was, I realised, the same principle of leadership with which I was now so familiar. The one who appeared to do nothing got everything it wanted. And it made me think about using feeding time as a way of re-establishing the leadership structure. This was not a new idea entirely. The importance of eating in front of a dog was something I had read while studying the behaviourists. They recognised it as a simple way of showing them you are the leader. Again this made sense to me having watched other animals, lions and – again – wolves in particular: it is always the Alpha that eats first in group feeders. But while I agreed with the behaviourists’ idea, I disagreed with the method that flowed from this. The behaviourists’ approach was to impose a pecking order during the evening meal. Under this system, the human finished their meal in full view of the dog before allowing it to eat its meal afterwards. It was a procedure that undoubtedly produced results but there was a lot I was not happy about. Apart from anything else, people feed their dogs at different times of the day and night. Dogs in sanctuaries, for instance, are fed in the morning. I also thought the approach was too protracted. Again I thought about dogs in the wild, and couldn’t see how the pack would wait until the evening. A dog is an opportunist eater rather than only a gorge eater. It will catch a hare, a bird – any prey that will keep it going – it will not lounge around all day: getting food is the priority of the day. On top of all this, it seemed an unkind thing to do. I put myself in the dog’s place. I thought: ‘If you’ve gone all day without food and then the human sits down to eat before you finally get yours, you are going to be ravenous.’ This might put the dogs in their place but it is not very nice. I knew feeding time had huge potential as a means of reinforcing the leadership signals, but I wasn’t going to eat a full breakfast or an evening meal in front of them, so I had to think of something else to get that information across. I had to come up with a new method. I was beginning to realise that quick, instinctive information was the most useful, probably because a dog has no concept of the future at all. I had seen that sometimes the slightest gesture is capable of conveying a huge amount of information. The thought came to me one day. That evening, before I mixed their food, I put a cracker on a plate. Then I got out their bowls and mixed it up on a raised surface. What I then did was take the cracker out and eat it, making it look as if the food was coming out of their bowls. Again I was thinking of it in terms of the pack mentality. What do they see? They see you eating out of their bowl. What does that make you? The leader. I was not tackling bad behaviour in this case. There were no particular problems at feeding time, quite the opposite in fact, it was a time when I knew I could get their undivided attention and their best behaviour too. I fed them in their individual bowls, each of them dotted around the kitchen and the hallway. They knew their spots and – apart from their habit of exploring each other’s empty bowls – behaved very well. In this case, my motivation was simply to underline the message I was getting across in the other areas. They quickly sensed something was different. I can remember them looking at me rather strangely, trying to work out what I was up to. There was a little drama at first. There would be a little jumping and whining but soon they were used to the ritual and would wait patiently while I ate my cracker. They seemed to accept that I had to be satisfied before they too could eat. Then when I placed their bowls down they ate contentedly. The changes were not dramatic but on this occasion I had not expected them to be. It was simply another confirmation that I was their leader, another trick up my sleeve. And what pleased me most once more was that success had come by thinking of the nature of the dog. By now I must admit I was feeling quite pleased with myself. Life always has a habit of cutting you down to size, however, and I was soon reeling from a terrible setback. I had already lost Sandy in the summer of 1992 but then in February 1994, I lost my beloved Khan. It was, I have to confess, a real blow to me. More than any other dog, Khan had been with me through good times and bad. I only had Sasha and the beagle, Kim, left. I missed the dogs I had lost terribly. It took the arrival of another dog to solidify all the ideas I had been working on. Chapter 5 The First Test (#ulink_24c0e6d1-0acd-530c-a104-d2b9320b8f2b) A few weeks after Khan’s death, I popped into a local animal sanctuary. I had gone there to see the boss, a close friend, but my visit had nothing to do with dogs. It was about going to the theatre, if memory serves me well. My friend was busy so, while I waited, I decided to take a walk around the sanctuary. As I did so, I came across one of the most pathetic sights I’ve seen in my life. Inside one of the blocks there was this thin, pathetic little Jack Russell. I was aware of their reputation for being snappy and aggressive ankle biters, and had never particularly warmed to the breed. But it was impossible not to be drawn to this poor creature. He was trembling, and not just because it was winter and he was cold; I could see the fear in his eyes. I soon learned his heartbreaking background. He had been discovered abandoned, tied to a concrete block by a piece of string. He had not eaten for days and was emaciated. If he had not been taken in by the sanctuary he would have been dead by now. He was clearly a badly damaged dog. As I spoke to the kennel girl who was looking after him, she told me he kept running off. They were also worried that he might bite. Finding a new dog had been the last thing on my mind as I had driven over there. Nevertheless, I drove back with a new addition to the family shivering in the back seat. I had decided to take him in. I soon named him Barmie, for no other reason than the fact that he was, well, a little bit barmy, mad. When I got him back home, he sat under my kitchen table. Every time I walked past him he growled. All I could feel was sympathy. It wasn’t aggression I was seeing, it was nothing but sheer terror; I knew I’d be petrified if someone had treated me the way he had been. I hadn’t taken Barmie in as an experiment, but I was soon thinking that he was going to provide me with a great opportunity. I had so far been working with dogs that were comparatively well adjusted – animals that were used to always being treated kindly. Here I had one who had known nothing but bad treatment. Over the coming weeks, Barmie would provide me with the chance to test the knowledge I had been gaining so fast with my own dogs, to put all the pieces together. In return I hoped I would have the opportunity to help this troubled little dog get over his past. By now a golden rule had begun to emerge: whatever it was that the traditional methods of training recommended, I needed to do the opposite. So I resisted the temptation to throw myself at Barmie, to shower him with love and affection. He was such a vulnerable creature it was almost impossible at times. There were days when I just wanted to cuddle him and tell him he was all right. But instead I decided not to invade his space and just to leave him alone. So he just sat there under the kitchen table glaring. And I just carried on around the house as normal. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/jan-fennell/the-dog-listener-learning-the-language-of-your-best-friend/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. 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