The Dog Listener – Things your mother should tell you!


Debbie and Mum This week, in the run up to Mother's Day, I've had a bit of a revelation. My two dogs – who have featured several times on here – have ruled the roost a bit over the years.

I knew it was time to do something about it when I visited the vets last week for their usual injections, and was pulled across the room by 75 kilos of black Labrador every time the door opened or a whiff of rabbit, cat or Chihuahua went waltzing by!

So I investigated and discovered a technique called 'amichien' bonding by a lady called Jan Fennell – the Dog Listener! The book is good, the DVD better, but better still, is a visit by one of her practitioners. So I booked one, and got stuck into my homework of reading prior to the training session.

Now my mother has always, it seems, had an uncanny knack of making the 'pogs' as she affectionately calls them, do what she wants. They come when she calls; stay when she wants, and when out walking on the lead, Mum's the only one Holly doesn't pull ahead with. A bit of a clue there, it seems. My mother is obviously deserving of respect from my beloved pet – but I'm not! To find out why, I read on.

A revelation

I was not a complete stranger to the whole 'alpha dog' concept, after all, I've watched MonkeyLife on the telly! (see previous blogs) I had no idea however quite how far it extended across other animal species too!

Once I'd read the pages about how to become the alpha dog in your household it was like a light bulb went on!  You ignore them!

They get attention when YOU want, not when they want. YOU eat first in front of them, they eat second. Amazingly, that helps them live a happier doggy life, not having to be responsible for the whole wolf pack/household, and according to feedback it seems to work!

So I tried it. At first, it took some discipline to not give in to their attention seeking. But once they'd given up, and settled happily, that was the time to call them over and give them some love! It certainly helps me, getting back from work, for instance, to know its ok to come in and have a cuppa and read the paper before having to sort out the pooches! Especially as it's all in the grand plan for creating happier dogs!

My session with Ben – in his Dog Listener sweatshirt – also made huge sense, and from now on, I'm going to put it into practice in the hope of one day being able to walk my two affectionate pets in the woods and not have to be on tenterhooks if suddenly other dogs appear in the distance – specially German shepherds – whom they particularly don't like!

My Mum the natural Alpha Dog

Now where does my mother come into all this? Quite simply, she's obviously a natural alpha dog. She always has been actually! Thinking back, all of our pets have always done what she wanted. And so have we! Apart from one memorable episode in my teenage years when I refused to do something and got a whack which made me shake my Anne French face cleanser all over the ceiling, (yes I was even using cleanser at age 15!) followed by a sharp exit up the road to school, I've never really crossed her.

None of us have. It was more than our lives were worth! And she didn't need threats to achieve it either – she just…naturally ran the family in an alpha dog way! So for her to have raised a troupe of 5 – I'm the eldest – has been no mean feat. She's now instilling the same sort of structure into her dealings with the 15 – yes 15 – grandchildren, all of whom love her to bits. I'm also looking forward to visiting Las Vegas with her soon, our first ever holiday away just us and my sister Linda. It will be enormous fun!

So mother, I salute you! I look forward to seeing you this weekend for our Mother's Day meal, after my early shift on QVC!

And as far as her secret is concerned, when I told her about The Dog Listener and how it works, she said, simply, "Of course, it's easy to let them know who's boss – you just ignore them"

Now how come I never realised that before! 🙂 What I need books and training sessions to find out; it seems comes naturally to my lovely mother Lesley. One in a million!


Debs x


  1. Louise M Donnelly March 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm -  Reply

    We all have to remember our mums, and the sacrifices they make for us, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day of the year. Of course, we do have disagreements; it wouldn’t be natural not to. The key is, knowing when you are in the wrong and being able to admit it.
    With regard to the dogs, my mum and I are the exact opposite from your mum and you. I mentioned in a previous post to you about my situation, and having to move back home with my mum and my boxer dogs. Well, my dogs never get fed off my plate, but my mum always leaves them something on her plate. They come to expect it now and know how to play her. Caspar, the three-legged son, lies beside her, looking away. But Oscar, the dad, can’t help himself; he stares at her knife and fork, dribbling saliva. Mum lets them away with a lot more than I do. Having said that, they do know when she is being serious, and when they must do what she says. I am certainly a lot more strict with them.
    Happy Mother’s Day to my mum, Sadie, from a daughter who absolutely adores her and appreciates everything she does. Also, to Old Mother (that’s what they call her!) from Caspar and Oscar.

  2. Diane Hyman March 11, 2010 at 7:44 am -  Reply

    I am so glad I read your blog, we are soon to take ownership of a labradoodle puppy which was born last week (we won’t get it until mid May so there is still plenty of chance to read up about training yet thankfully) I am so excited but as this will be my first dog I really want to do everything right, my husband has always had dogs around from being a child, so he is the expert in our house, but it’s strange I have two kids and I feel like an expectant mum again, with all the anticipation and nerves which go with walking into the unknown. Anyway I was looking for a book which would help and now thanks to the reccommendation I am off to the bookshop, Wish me luck.

  3. March 11, 2010 at 9:55 am -  Reply

    Diane – would love to know how you get on! I was looking at labradoodles at one stage – less hair loss would be a good thing, and also aren’t they unusual! THere’s a whole section on new puppies in her book, so best wishes with it!
    Louise – bless you and your mum! My brother had a bulldog which they treated like a baby – or rather like the alpha dog! – so I can imagine dinner time in your place! lol. And what a lovely message to your own mum! Hope you both have a lovely day!

  4. Christina Tedds March 11, 2010 at 9:42 pm -  Reply

    If you really want to continue with this and seeing something special watch the Dog Whisperer on Nat Geo Wild on sky. His understanding of Dog Psychology( read Human Psychology ) Is fascinating and hugely watchable.

  5. michelle March 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debbie hope you are well Michelle here ex beauty therapist.
    I also have ended up with two mad dogs lol
    It can be hard work but so worth it I did alot of work with a friend of mine who was a police and army dog trainer, and he really believes in the dog whispers ideas and philosophy,s.
    Dogs really do pick up and our energies and when we are anxious or nervous of situations they know and love too play up on it lol.
    I wish you luck with your new training plan i really hope it all works out as i truly believe dogs are worth their weight in gold you are always loved when you have dogs.
    P.S so lovely too see you back on screen you have come home xxx

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