Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions by dog owners

Does the breed of my dog make a difference?

There are many myths about which breeds are easier or harder to train, and these stereotypes do not take into account that among a particular breed there are many different personalities. My sister is very different to me despite having the same parents and upbringing. Even identical twins can have different characters!

Often a dog’s breed is used as an excuse by those who don’t really understand what to do with certain behaviour. Of course, breeds have been developed over the centuries by humans to be physically capable of performing a specific task, but it does not guarantee that they will do it. Greyhound owners do not have to build a racetrack in their back yard!

All dogs share the same set of instincts and language. I have worked with dogs on completely separate continents and of all kinds of breeds, yet I have been able to help countless people to solve all sorts of problem behaviour by teaching them how to interact with their dogs in a way that actually makes sense to their dogs.

Learning their language is a lot easier than you think too – in fact, people use it all the time without thinking about it! The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell is the first place I direct people to. It contains all the information you need to understand why a dog does what it does and (more importantly) what to do about it.

Is my dog too old to learn?

The old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not relevant thankfully. Dogs are born with their instincts and language abilities. I have been able to sometimes dramatically change a dog’s behaviour for the better even when they are 10 years or above. If I was lost in Paris and I needed directions from a 95 year-old Frenchman, it would be a lot easier if I spoke French! The age is not an issue.

Some dogs will change their behaviour as they get older too. This is because they can start to feel more vulnerable as they get weaker. Again, the good news here is that practicing Amichien™ Bonding will reassure the dog that it is not responsible for its family. It can trust you which will help it to relax and enjoy its twilight years.

Why does my dog bark all the time?

There are 3 main reasons for a dog barking – attention seeking, separation anxiety and when it sees a potential danger. There are differences between them which are as follows:

  • Attention – the dog barks at the owners.
  • Anxiety – the dog barks all day when the owners are out of sight.
  • Danger – the dog barks at something it sees or hears while at home/on the walk/in the car.

In the first case, this cannot be seen by the dog to work, otherwise it will keep doing it. Telling a dog off is still attention so rather than saying something, either ignore it until the barking stops or (if you can’t hear yourself think) put the dog in another room of even outside without saying a word. This way, not only does the attention seeking behaviour not work but it can actually backfire if the dog suddenly finds itself alone. Being on your own means you are more vulnerable.

If the barking is a result of separation anxiety (a dog is trying to signal to its lost family members so they can find their way home) then the way that the owners interact with their dog needs to change so the dog doesn’t think it has to worry about them. Here is a link to a quick tip on how to start reassuring a dog that it can relax: http://youtu.be/yo9wUpQwNUE

For danger, instead of getting upset or angry, try thanking the dog instead. This keeps you calm and the dog sees itself as a sentry whose job it is to alert you. Your decision is that it is not a problem. Of course, not all dogs will stop right away so there are other things to do next. A great resource for this problem is an audiobook specifically about barking that I have put together with Jan Fennell The Dog Listener:

How can I stop my dog from pulling?

A dog that pulls is trying to decide where everybody should go. Some dogs pull all the time while others will pull when they see something they have decided needs their attention. Physical contraptions and gadgets such as harnesses and special collars do nothing to change a dog’s mind about its job either. How many people do you see getting dragged down the street by dogs on harnesses?

Some people lose control of the walk before they even leave the home, so if you can’t say the word “Walk”, or put your shoes or coat on, pick up your keys or get the lead out without the dog going crazy then make sure you practice doing that until the dog relaxes and waits for you to make the next move. If the dog is not listening to you at home, there is no way that it will listen to you outside with all the distractions around it.

I have got together with Jan Fennell The Dog Listener to create a step-by-step Walk DVD so you and your dog can start to enjoy going for a walk, rather than dread it. You can even get it with a short or long training leash. CLICK HERE

How can I stop my dog jumping up at me/visitors?

Dogs will often jump up as a way to show that they are bigger (and therefore better) than other members of their family. This includes visitors as the dog doesn’t necessarily know that they will be leaving later. Staying upright and not paying attention to the dog shows it that it cannot get your attention when it says and that you have a personal space that should be respected. Wait until the dog leaves you alone and gently push the dog away without a word if it keeps trying to jump up. You can even put it somewhere on its own if it won’t stop; just make sure you don’t say anything if you do.

If you are worried about how your dog will jump all over visitors then here is a simple tip to take control of the situation while keeping nice and calm: http://youtu.be/5YogZeD2IvU

My dog growls at me when I go to fuss it – Why?

Have you heard the expression, “Let sleeping dogs lie”? There is a lot of wisdom in this.

Dogs have simple rules that they understand and can – if necessary – enforce if they think others are not getting the message. Over 95% of dog bites happen because people approach dogs without permission (think how you would feel if somebody kept invading your space. You might push them away or tell them to stop).

The easy way to avoid problems is to remember that you should call your dog to you if you want to fuss it. That way, the dog has a choice and does not feel that its personal space is invaded. However, if the dog does not come then leave it alone. It is either not ready or it is trying to play a game with you to find out who is higher up in the pecking order. Do not go to your dog or it has won, which could lead to a lot more questions later!

Why does my dog roll in things that smell terrible?

Ironically, the overpowering smell helps to conceal your dog’s presence. Dogs can roll in what they think is the dominant odour in the area so they “blend in”. In their instincts, this enables them to sneak up on potential prey. Humans wear visual camouflage as we are more visually guided, but a dog’s sense of smell is far more important. One lady I met at a talk told me that her dog rolled in dead fish. She was surprised when I correctly guessed that she lived by the sea!

The solution for this is simple – wash your dog with water until YOU cannot smell the odour anymore. Putting perfumes and other sweet-smelling potions on your dog will give it another reason to roll in something as the strong perfume makes it stand out. This is useless for hunting!

Why does my dog dig up my garden?

Dogs dig for a number of reasons. They could be searching for food (a dog I know digs up crickets and eats them). If the weather is too hot they can dig into the cooler ground for relief. Similarly, in cold times the earth is warmer. Some female dogs will dig multiple holes, just in case they ever have a litter of pups. This is all natural behaviour so there is a certain amount of acceptance on our part if we have brought this animal into our home. After all, we wouldn’t dream of taking a goldfish out of the water…

Understanding this means you can manage the situation. Either keep the dog supervised when it is out in the garden, limit its access to your favourite rosebush, or (as I did) buy a house with a concrete courtyard! I am a terrible gardener!

By the way, make sure the digging doesn’t get your attention either though as dogs have lots of ways to get attention. Digging can be just one of the many weapons in their arsenal. Read The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell to get a good idea of how dogs think and – more importantly – what you can do to change any other undesirable behaviour.

How can I stop my dog being aggressive to other dogs/people?

Nervous aggression is probably the most common problem I get asked to deal with and the list of things that can make a dog turn aggressive goes well beyond other dogs and people. The important thing to realise here is that the dog sees itself as protector of its family. Whether at home or while out on the walk (or even in the car), it is surrounded by potential dangers that are all far too close. In addition, everything man-made is completely alien to a dog which is why they can react to things as seemingly harmless as a baby in a pushchair.

Next time your dog gets aggressive, instead of getting mad (and therefore making the dog think that you are upset too) try thanking your dog calmly. This shows that you are not worried which is a big help. If your dog carries on then you can walk away (if on the walk) or put the dog into a Time Out if at home until it is calm. Make sure it is safe to take hold of your dog so maybe use a slip lead rather than grab its neck. When the dog is quiet it can re-join the family and at this crucial moment it is important to behave in the right way.

Read The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell to get a good idea of how dogs think and – more importantly – what you can do to change any other undesirable behaviour.

If the problem occurs out on the walk, the problem might start before you even get out of the door. Can you get the lead out without the dog losing the plot? Get that sorted first. The Walk DVD I created with Jan Fennell The Dog Listener shows you how.