A non-invasive, calming approach to rehabilitating dogs and training owners, as popularised by Jan Fennell - The Dog Listener
Dog training and the varying methods popularised over the decades, are like many aspects of dog ownership; there are conventional and less traditional methods, all of which have their followers and their dissenters, but it is definitely a case of “one size does not fit all”. Numerous dog owners regularly voice their frustration over some aspects of their dogs’ behaviour, such as the dog pulling on the lead, not coming back when called, jumping up, being aggressive towards other dogs or becoming anxious when their owner is out of sight or away from home. Wolfhounds are no exceptions to the common dilemmas of dog ownership, but the issues can be somewhat exaggerated, not only by the sheer size and scale of a Wolfhound, but particularly by the Breed’s strong sensitivity to the mood and behaviour of their owners. This heightened sensitivity, when coupled with the natural intelligence of the Breed, can manifest in negative ways that cause friction between dog and owner.
Amichien Bonding is the simple and effective method of communicating to your dog, in a language it instinctively understands, that you are the dependable leader and decision maker of your “pack."
Although Amichien Bonding may have fallen out of favour in recent years, it can still offer help and assistance to trainers, owners and dogs and create a balanced and harmonious household and lifestyle for all concerned. Having spent time with horse whisperer, Monty Roberts, Jan Fennell devised her system of training based on 4 key principles and her studies of wolf packs showed her that often owners unwittingly reinforce the dog as leader of the pack, rather than the humans:
1) Provision of Food - the alpha pair always eat first
2) Leading the Hunt - the alpha pair are always in front when hunting
3) Protecting the Pack - it is the responsibility of the alpha’s
4) Reuniting after Separation - the alpha’s are given space and respect
How do the 4 principles translate into everyday life?
Amichien Bonding maintains that the 4 principles of wolf packs above can be translated into modern day life in 4 easy ways:
Owners must always eat first, before the dog/s
Owners go in and out of the door in front of the dog/s
Owners decide and dictate when the dog/s get affection/attention and not the dog/s
Dog/s are ignored when they are reunited with their owners and the dog/s are not given any fuss, spoken to or even looked at when owners come back home or come back into contact with the dog/s
To put simply, on an average day, when you first get up and you see your dog again you ignore them completely - no touch, no talk, no eye contact (to quote dog trainer, Cesar Milan). You carry on about your business until such time as the dog has become calm and has gone to lie down and rest and typically you can hear the dog give a loud ‘sigh’ which signals acceptance. At this point you can call the dog to you to give fuss and affection. Already, as an owner, you have already complied with principles 3 and 4 of Amichien Bonding. Once you have eaten your own breakfast, you may then feed the dog, thus complying with the first principle. Breakfast done and you get ready for the day and probably at some point it is time for your dog to be walked and this is another key moment in the day of your dog. You must ensure that the dog is calm and settled before attempting to put collar and lead on, so if the dog becomes excited, wait calmly, ignoring whatever the dog is doing until such time that the dog becomes calm again and then, and only then, put on the collar and lead. If your dog becomes excited once again because of having a collar and lead on, then wait for them to calm down. If you are struggling with getting your dog to calm down then try ignoring them by averting your eyes from them, folding your arms and turning your body away. Once the dog is calmly waiting with collar and lead on then make them wait whilst you open the door and do not let them go running out in front of you - instead, you step out of the door ahead of the dog and then invite them to join you.
Starting the walk in this way then dictates the behaviour and tone for the rest of the walk and you will be pleasantly surprised at just how much that positive behaviour has a knock-on effect in terms of dogs that frequently pull on the lead or lunge at distractions when out walking, the dog will be more focused and compliant, but always be vigilant that your dog walks by your side and does not walk slightly in front of you. A minor lead correction should be all that is needed to ensure that the dog is kept in line with you when walking and dogs, like horses, should learn the technique of ‘pressure and release’ when out on a lead. The technique works, no matter what the type or style of collar, but if you prefer to use a bridle/ head collar (such as a Halti or Dogmatic) then it is easier to also fit the dog with a neck collar in order to apply the pressure and release and attach the lead to both collars simultaneously.
By seeing that almost all problems arise from misunderstanding, once we appreciate that the dog is looking for a leader who cares for them, is kind to them and will step up to the role of leader when they experience concern or fear, we are able to bring magic to this relationship, with the simple adoption of a four part information system.
The 4 principles are repeated at every opportunity, both at home and when out, and can be incorporated into the life of a dog at any age and no matter how many dogs are in the household. The technique is more of a way of life than a one-off training method that is taught at training school and practised at home. As Amichien Bonding does not require owners to be particularly assertive, dominant or physically strong, then it can be utilised to great effect by just about anyone and is very attractive to owners who lack the self confidence to conquer other techniques. It does not require any expensive equipment, it is not typically more time consuming than your normal day would demand, it does not demand attendance at a training class or private tuition by a training professional and yet it is a process that an owner can continually learn from and the results are instant.