The importance of patience

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

1373495575781As a Dog Listener, I visit people in their homes to help them resolve problem behaviour with their dogs. I help people to understand the importance of achieving leadership in the house and garden first, before heading out into the wider – and potentially more challenging – world.

How you interact with a dog when you first meet him and then subsequently, whenever you reunite with him, is very important. This is a crucial time when the pack hierarchy is established and then consistently re-established, so that everyone always knows where they are in relationship to each other and most importantly – who is the Pack Leader!

It is often an area where people have problems, ranging from over-exuberant greetings – jumping up, barking, nipping and other attention seeking behaviour – through to the distressing and often destructive separation anxiety, that many dogs experience when their owners leave them at home.

Skip was a very handsome,  2 year old Jack Russell Terrier who hadn’t had the best start in life and at the tender age of 1 year (ish) was found wandering alone in the Norfolk countryside. Fortunately for him, a very lovely lady visited the Rescue Home that Skip had been taken to and decided to see if he would like to join her own pack.

Amongst other issues Skip was a tail chaser, a much misunderstood and not uncommon behavioural problem. Tail chasing is often seen as a dog being playful or excited but is actually associated with stress. It is one of the many ways that a dog will strive to get the attention of the humans around him and is often part of a repertoire of behaviours implemented when meeting and reuniting with people.

In his new home, Skip had joined a family of three dogs and two humans. When I arrived at the house all of the dogs went into their ‘routines’ in an attempt to gain my attention on their terms. By ignoring these attempts and calmly giving them the information – through body language and eye contact – that I was above them in status and that I wasn’t a threat, I encouraged the dogs to calm down, relax and then choose to join us on our terms.

Skip needed a little extra assistance and we calmly showed him how to ‘not’ chase his tail, without giving him attention on his terms.

Over the following weeks and months, Skip’s new owners continued to calmly and consistently convey to him that they were the Pack Leaders that he could trust. Through understanding and communication and with bucket loads of patience, they gradually gained his respect and cooperation and over time the compulsive tail chasing became a thing of the past and Skip settled happily into pack life.

Dog Training Norwich – Why should I?

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training, Uncategorized

Dog Training Norwich

Why should I?

Remembering that our dogs are not actually obliged to cooperate with us, can empower us and place us in a much more influential position. When we tell ourselves that our dog should walk to heel, should come when called and should be friendly towards other dogs (to mention a few) we effectively create a big gap between where we are and where we want to be. Living with this gap can be extremely uncomfortable for both you and your dog! IMG_20130709_234232

‘Should’ can be seen as a rather unhelpful word and sometimes just replacing it with ‘Could’ can make all the difference! ‘My dog could walk to heel’ feels so much more hopeful and full of possibility! Words are incredibly powerful and the words that we repeat to ourselves about our lives and the situations and circumstances within it, can become like mantras that shape and impact our perceptions and reactions.

‘Should’ can keep us stuck in resistance, in a place where nothing is ever quite as it should be. As the saying goes – ‘what we resist persists’ and the more we resist what is, the more we can dig ourselves into a problem! My dog should do this, my dog should do that and I should be in control! Where did all these ‘shoulds’ come from!?

Much like us, all dogs are different. Different parents, different births and different formative experiences with their litter mates and the world around them. All these variables are what create the diversity of personality that dog owners the world over have delighted in for many thousands of years.

On a survival level, a group of diverse personalities can work really well. It means that there are a variety of different skill sets available, to fulfil different roles and situations. Put simply, different life experiences create different creatures with differing capabilities. Not better or worse capabilities, just different, and everyone has something special and unique to offer to the group.

When we honour these differences we can work together in harmony, and for the benefit of all. If we replace ‘should’ with ‘could’ we can bypass resistance and free up both inner and outer space. A world of possibilities now becomes available to us as the Universe conspires to bring helpful people and situations into our lives, and we are able to co-create – with our dogs and everyone else around us – the peace and joy filled lives that we all desire.

Dog pulling on the lead? . . . dog training in norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Is your dog pulling on the lead?

Dog Training in Norfolk - Encouraging a dog to walk to heel is essential for a safe and enjoyable walk.

Daisy is an anxious dog by nature. As a result, when she leaves the safety of the house and garden, she wants to find out as much information about her environment, as possible. This involves sticking that spaniel-nose to the ground and covering as much ground, as possible. Sometimes we allow her to do this. Other times I need her to walk calmly with me. We practice heel work regularly . . .

The problems that people can experience when they take their dogs out for a walk, are very often the result of the dog’s attempt to take control of what he sees as the hunt or patrolling the territory. Dogs are unequipped to do this in a world they don’t understand – the human world.

Working on instinct alone and unsupported by their human pack members (who don’t usually see their dog as leader and therefore thwart his attempts to carry out his perceived role) it’s not uncommon for dogs to become increasingly more stressed and overwhelmed and for this to be reflected in their behaviour.

Over-the-top behaviour when preparing to go out, pulling on the lead, poor recall, jumping up at and aggression towards other dogs and people, general lack of cooperation, hunting, the list goes on, and all these things are an indication that the dog believes that he is the one making the decisions when the pack heads out into the wider world. Well-meaning owners believing they MUST take their dog out or else they’re bad dog owners, continue to go out, everyone becomes more stressed and the problems get bigger!

So where did the idea that you must walk your dog – twice a day and for a length of time appropriate to the size and breed of the dog – come from? Have we always believed that we must take a dog for a walk or is it a relatively recent idea? What did our grandparents and great grandparents do? What happens if you don’t take a dog for a walk? (sharp intake of breath!)

I have always enjoyed walking my dogs, it’s actually one of my favourite things to do and I am certainly not advocating never going out with your dogs. I am also not saying that dogs don’t need exercise, of course they do, but they rarely need as much as people think they do (as long as you don’t over-feed them) and if you have a garden, why not go out and play with your dog? This is really good exercise, socially bonding and done correctly can help reinforce your leadership in preparation for heading back out!

So if taking your dog out for a walk is an ordeal, if it’s a battle of wills and a battle of strength, and you both arrive back home feeling stressed and exhausted, you might want to consider not going out there – just yet!

Next post, how to gain your dogs cooperation in this challenging area!

Heading out . . . dog trainer norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training
Dog trainer Norwich - dog walking to heel.

Eli has great recall and will come back and walk with me when I ask him to. This means that I am happy for him to roam freely. If we encounter other dogs I call him to my side and if the other dog/s are on the lead I keep him with me. Some dogs need space –

One of the many joys of living with dogs is heading out into the wider world with them. Walking with calm, cooperative dogs is good for body and mind and watching dogs enjoy themselves, in their natural environment, should be an absolute pleasure. Sadly, for many dog owners this is an area where things can go wrong and the walk instead of being a joy becomes an ordeal.

Excessive pulling on the lead, poor or no recall, general lack of control, aggressive behaviour towards people and other dogs, chasing joggers, lunging at cars, jumping up at people! . . . the list goes on and all of this behaviour can be traced back to the dogs firm belief that he is the decision-maker, the one responsible for pack safety and therefore – in his mind – the Pack Leader!

The role of Pack Leader is a stressful one (ask any parent or Managing Director!) and studies show that levels of stress hormones are significantly higher in the Alpha wolves. The average family pet dog is not a ‘born leader’ as the Alpha wolves would usually be and their attempts to fulfil this role, and our attempts to stop them, lead to an escalation in stress levels, of all concerned!

The result is problem behaviour and the most patient of owners may struggle to remain calm when their dog is dragging them around the park, launching himself at everybody and everything and generally causing chaos. The more agitated the owner becomes by their dog’s behaviour, the more agitated their dog becomes, and we have a vicious circle of stress and anxiety!

As always, the solution is to look at the world from the dog’s perspective and truly understand what he believes is happening, when the pack leaves the safety of the home and heads out into the wider world. From a ‘decision-making’ dogs point of view, when you head out into the wider-world there are important things to do and challenges to cope with! A dogs sense of smell is his primary sense and he will use it to check out the environment and find out what’s going on. Who has been through this territory? How many have there been? Male or female, old or young and what kind of mood they were in – friend or foe!!! . . . and much more! These are all details a dog can obtain through his sense of smell! What a nose!

Although a dog’s brain is only one tenth of the size of the human brain, the area responsible for his sense of smell is 40 times larger! This means his sense of smell is between 10’000 and 100’000 times (depending on breed) more sensitive than ours! And when you think about where they put their noses, it’s enough to make your eyes water!!!

So there’s your dog, busily checking out – and scent marking – this territory. It may be a territory that he visits regularly, perhaps every day, or it may be his first time here and everything is new and unfamiliar. Either way, a dog who thinks he’s in charge and responsible for his pack, must also keep an eye – or should I say nose – out for potential threats to pack safety! Most commonly, these would come in the form of other dogs and people, the other large ‘predators’ that a dog is likely to meet out there! Many dogs are able to manage these interactions in a relatively calm and well-balanced way. Exactly how they do this will vary from dog to dog and depends on a number of factors, including what we do! But for some dogs the stress becomes too much and unable to conceal their concern they may react in a less desirable and potentially inflammatory manner!

The result can be a dog fight, one of the most upsetting experiences that any dog owner can witness and one that can be avoided if we understand what is really going on FOR our dogs – and other peoples dogs too! If we have control of our dog/s and take the right kind of action at the right time, we can avoid dog to dog confrontation and have a peaceful and enjoyable walk, without feeling on edge and without having to avoid other dog walkers completely!

More on this subject next time . . .

Lucy Parkes – Dog Listener and Trainer in Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Lucy Parkes – Professional Dog Listener and Trainer. Recommended Associate of Jan Fennell International Dog Listeners.

Dog Listening is a kind, positive and holistic approach to living and working with dogs and was pioneered by Jan Fennell over twenty years ago. Seven years ago I went  to Lincolnshire to train with Jan to become a Dog Listener and Trainer, and since then I’ve visited 100’s of dogs in their homes and helped them to resolve problem behaviour in their owners!

Joking aside, a very important element of Dog Listening is recognising how our everyday moods, actions and emotions impact our dogs and their behaviour, and how, by doing things a little differently, we can really help our dogs to feel happy and safe – and therefore, able to cooperate!

Dog Listening is based on studies of the wolf pack and the domestic dog, and is all about understanding the world from the dog’s perspective and communicating with him in his own language.

By using signals that correlate with those used in the wolf pack to consistently maintain and confirm the pack hierarchy, we can reassure our dogs that we are the calm and consistent Pack Leaders that they need, gain their trust, respect and cooperation and resolve problem behaviour.

The wolf pack uses ritualised behaviour to uphold and reconfirm the hierarchy with the Alpha pair (male and female wolf) at the top. Hierarchical group-living is a survival strategy, a very successful one that humans use too! The benefits are many, including safety in numbers and by deferring to the pack leaders, the rest of the pack benefit from their experience and leadership skills and the pack stays safe! Young wolves observe and learn from the Alpha wolves and may go on to become leaders of their own packs, but whilst they are ‘living under mum and dads roof’ they abide by the rules and these powerful predators are able to live together successfully!

This ritualised behaviour is particularly visible at four important times of pack life –

1. Food – when the pack eats. The Alpha wolves eat first. Underlining primacy and ensuring that they get the best bits, to keep them in the best condition, to keep doing the important and stressful job of leader.

2. The Hunt – heading out into the wider-world (we call this the walk).The Alpha wolf decides when and where, leading the hunt and directing the kill. The rest of the pack provide back-up and support.

3. Times of danger – the low-ranking, subordinate wolves keep an eye – and a nose – out for danger, and alert the Alpha wolves if there is a threat. The Alpha wolves will decide what to do about it, choosing from one of three options – flight, freeze or fight.

4. General status – This is how they relate to each other in general and is never more evident than when the pack reunites after a separation. At this time, the sub-ordinate wolves are especially respectful of the Alpha wolves’ personal space.

You’ll notice that these key times of pack life occur in our lives with our dogs too and that they are the areas where we can experience problem behaviour. Pulling on the lead, jumping up at people, excessive barking, fussy eaters, poor recall, through to the more extreme problems of aggression towards other dogs and people, destruction, obsessive/compulsive patterns of behaviour and separation anxiety, can all be examples of a stressed dog who is confused about leadership.

Dog Listening is a kind, positive and holistic approach to living and working with dogs and there is absolutely no place for the use of force – whether literal, verbal or psychological! The use of force is counter-productive. When it appears to have worked, it has usually shifted the problem to another area. The regular use of force, even raising your voice, can cause anxiety and stress and lead to behavioural and health problems.

“Force is all-conquering, but it’s victories are short-lived” – Abraham Lincoln

Through leading by example, we can inspire our dogs to calmly cooperate with us, in the house and garden first . . . and then the sky’s the limit! We can head out into the world knowing that our dogs are looking to, and trusting us, and that we can safely and calmly manage the multitude of challenges that the modern dog and owner can face, when she/he leaves the safety of the home.

I would like to share with you examples of the wonderful people and dogs that I have had the privilege of working with over the years. I also hope to share with you, how, through understanding, compassion and patience, we can resolve almost all problem behaviour in our dogs –  without the use of force, gadgets or gizmos – and create with them the calm, peaceful and harmonious lives together, that we all desire.