Dog Listening – a different approach to training your dog

Jase, Cooper and I have just completed a four week Dog Listener training course so I thought I would share our experience with you all and hopefully inspire you to take on this concept yourselves.
Jase, Coop, Hayley, Tony and myself at training
Cooper has become such a good boy when we are at home. He is calm and obedient and comes when called. But when we go out, that is when things change. His biggest issue is pulling on the lead and his overexcitement at times. I can walk him in a quiet street with a slack lose lead if there are no dogs around, no problem. But bring dogs or young kids in the mix or any other big distractions, and he is strong, persistent and hard work to control. There is no doubt Cooper is a boisterous dog. He is also still young (almost 16 months) so with age, he will calm down, as long as we give him the correct information to do so.
Cooper and his girlfriend Abby. Abby has also done this course and they get to practise together a few times a week. Once they have calmed down, they get to play with each other and they love it!
Jase and I both read Jan Fennell’s book ‘The Dog Listener’ and we just loved the idea behind her approach. We had tried chock chains, gentle leaders and the harness and were not seeing great results. We then saw Tony Knight (Jan Fennell’s son) speak a couple of months ago. And after taking on some of the ideas behind this concept, we decided that we needed to see it in practice. Hayley Wright from Taking the Lead ( and Tony Knight ran the course and they were fantastic.
The idea behind Dog Listening is that good leadership needs no force, gadgets or dependence on exercise to change a dog’s mind. Good communication at critical times is what’s required. Every pack needs a leader and if you do not show those leadership skills, your dog will take on this responsibility and this can become quite stressful for your dog. Dog Listening looks at it from a dogs point of view. Dogs descended from wolves and are pack animals; so all the ideas behind this approach are focused on how a dog establishes its leadership in a pack. Amichien Bonding is the approach we use to get there. “‘Amichien Bonding’ gives you a full understanding of why a dog does what it does and a simple way to shape desired behaviour and quietly corrects undesirable behaviours without the use of force, fear, frustration, drugs or gadgets.” (source:
Cooper and his cousins – Roxy and Harley. We did a lot of Stop Start Change Direction with Cooper before letting him off the lead to play with them – and he was so much calmer because of it.
Amichien Bonding uses the language that all dogs already understand and all humans can learn.
There are four key elements that are the prime motivators in your dog’s life:
(1) Status – Do you fuss your dog when it comes to you for attention, without its first being asked or invited?
(2) Food -Are you deciding when and where your dog eats?
(3) The Hunt -Does your dog pull on the lead when or walk calmly by your side?
(4) Perceived Danger – Does your dog trust you to take care of anything it perceives as danger or does it over react and try to take control of the situation?
I actually posted a couple of months ago, when I first heard Tony speak, about how you can establish yourself as the leader of the pack using these ideas so please click here if you would like to read this article too.
After completion of the course, we have learnt that we need to be patient and really see this as a lifestyle change. Plan ahead, get to places earlier so you have the time to calm your dog. When he pulls you, go the other way. If he wants to say hi to another dog, he can, but as long as you get there first. Stop Start Change Direction has changed the way we do things. Everywhere we go, if Cooper pulls on the lead, we turn around and go the other way. It needs to be your decision. You need to show your dog that you are in charge of all aspects in life for your dog to understand that you are in charge. You need to decide when to feed your dog, when to play with your dog, where you are going, if something is dangerous, when the walk starts and finishes, etc.. This approach also teaches you to appreciate your dog for who they are and why they do the things they do – they are dogs after all and dogs bark, dig, roll in mud and pick up dead animals.
Cooper interacting with another Golden during the course. The lead is slack and we have walked him over to the dog, not the other way around.
Through the course, we have really been able to see the behaviours that Cooper uses to try and establish himself as the leader. He pulls on the lead, he always tries to get that first bit of eye contact when we walk in the room, he brings us the ball when he wants to play, when we call him to us – he sometimes stops a meter in front so we have to go to him, when we call him over to put the lead on him he ducks his head, the list goes on.  But Jase and I now feel that we are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to stop these behaviours and make Cooper believe that we are the leaders of the pack.
Cooper nudging me with a ball to play with him. I need to initiate play, not the other way around, so i just ignored him.
From our experience with Cooper, I can tell you now that Amichien Bonding is not an easy quick fix. It is more of a life style change. You need to be patient and persistent and you really will see a change for the better. Just remember, your dog is always testing you and asking you for answers to establish who is in charge, so you really need to know how to read these signals and give your dog the right answers all the time. Once your dog knows that you are the leader of the pack and can protect and provide for your pack, they will be a much happier and relaxed dog. And you will form an even more beautiful relationship with mans best friend then you ever imagined.



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