Dog walking to heel . . . dog trainer norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Daisy, Kitty and Eli walk with me around the garden, in preparation for heading out into the wider world, where I will continue to work on ‘dog walking to heel’ . . .

For many a dog owner, there is no greater joy, than heading out into the wider-world with their dog walking to heel! Dog Listening is all about gaining the chosen cooperation of your dog. There is no use of force, gadgets or gizmos. Heading out into the wider – more challenging – world is a process that begins in the home, with the calm and consistent implementation of leadership signals, in all of the four key areas of pack life.

It’s so much more fun walking with our dog, if our dog wants to walk with us too! It’s a joy to watch them running around off the lead but it’s essential that they come back when they’re called. It makes life so much easier for you and your dog, if he will walk nicely beside you – on or off the lead – when necessary.

I was asked to visit a lovely family and their 2 year old dog Bella – a big, exuberant Labrador. Bella had problems in all areas but in particular, taking her out for a walk – or a drag as the family referred to it – was a complete nightmare! Dad was the only member of the family able to hold Bella on the lead and he would return from the walk exhausted, frustrated and very fed-up. The family had tried taking Bella to dog training classes but to no avail.

I always begin my consultations by talking about the wolf pack and how leadership is consistently reinforced through the use of ritualised behaviour, specifically in the four key areas of pack life. Hierarchical living is a survival strategy – a very successful one that humans use too – and as I talked to the family about the wolf pack they began to see that Bella was far from the crazy, obstinate and disobedient dog, that they had all believed her to be.

After discussing the other three areas of pack life first, we moved onto the area that people often have the most problems with – dog walking to heel! I explained to the family that Bella was not ready to go out yet and that they needed to make her world small, safe and predictable whilst they gave her this all important information about leadership.

I showed the family how to gain Bella’s chosen cooperation by encouraging her to walk to heel around the house and garden – off the lead first – using training treats as an incentive and warmly praising calm cooperation. I explained the importance of going through doorways first and if Bella became over-excited and tried to control proceedings, I asked them to stop without saying anything and wait for her to settle, before beginning again.

Bella responded really well to this calm and positive approach and in no time at all was following individual members of the family around the house as requested. I explained to the family that the next step would be to put the lead on Bella and continue with this work around the house and garden.

By stopping, starting and changing direction the family began to show Bella that they made the decisions and decided where the pack went and over the following weeks and months they began to feel ‘happy and in control’  and were able to slowly head back out into the wider world and actually enjoy walking with their dog!

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.