Dog Training and Wolf-Pack Theories: Reviews of Jan Fennell’s The Dog Listener

Jan Fennell had many dogs, showing and breeding Springer Spaniels, and attained great success in England doing this in the 1970s and 1980s. In her own dog training, and in teaching other people to train their dogs, she used conventional methods.

She reports that she gradually began making subtle adjustments to her methods — for example, instead of routinely choking with the choke chain, she started calling it the check chain and used it to make a light sound that the dogs would understand and react, so as to avoid being choked. Of course, the dogs would have had to have been “choked” to know to avoid it. As she says, these were slight changes.

Then in 1990, she went to see Monty Roberts, author of The Man Who Listens to Horses, demonstrate his method. He worked with a two-year-old horse belonging to a close friend of hers, and Jan Fennell knew the horse had never been ridden. For the first time in its life, it was ridden that day, after less than half an hour in the ring with Roberts. Jan Fennell’s life was changed:

For me too, it was as if a light had been switched on…. 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…

That day, as I watched him working in unison with the animal, looking at and listening to what the animal was signaling to him, I thought “he’s cracked it…” I thought how the heck can I do this with dogs? [pp 22-23]

She started watched her own pack of dogs, and she learned about wolves. She saw things that wolves did on video being acted out in front of her, in her own dogs. Bit by bit, she developed a method of working with dogs that got good results, and she used her dog training techniques to help others. She is now a world-renowned trainer.

These are completely pain-free methods. They work. It works for her, obviously, from the many stories in the book. Jan Fennel’s way of being dominant is to be very calm and confident. Can’t argue with that!

The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell, describes her techniques, which she calls Amichien Bonding. It’s available at Dogwise. Especially if you subscribe to the dog-as-domesticated-wolf theories, this book offers a loving approach to dog training.

Years ago, I would stand over my Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy and say to her, “I’M the Alpha Bitch!”

Gradually I became less interested in who was alpha or even whether that way of thinking is valuable. Nowadays I’m much more interested in what works and I’m also perhaps more able to learn from people whose way of training dogs isn’t exactly lined up with mine. So long as it’s pain-free, anyway… there are some limits!

Tales From The Dog Listener – 28 Secrets To Being Your Dog’s Best Friend

Now Jan Fennell has written another book along the same lines. Here she tells 28 true stories of people and dogs getting along with mutual respect and love.

It’s at Dogwise.

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