So, I found myself standing with 18 other Dog Listeners and Jan Fennell from around the world in Yellowstone Park in Northern Montana, USA on a very cold February in 2008. Anyone who has viewed the series ‘Yellowstone’ on television(BBC) can relate to the conditions there at this time of the year. For wolves however, it’s their best time- no bugs, they can see prey clearly and use the conditions & environment to their advantage.

If I may quote Dr. Douglas W. Smith “I’ve never know it too cold for a wolf!”

yellowstone7sDr Smith Ph.D. is the Wolf Project Leader in Yellowstone National Park and has studied wolves for 24 years. He has led the project since it’s inception.
Thankfully it was a mere -10 degrees in a dark, snowy car park at 5.30 am when we ate hot muffins and drank hot tea & coffee in a frozen car park outside the lodge where we slept, preparing for our journey into the bleak wilderness to catch a glimpse of canine behaviour from our domestic dogs ancestors.
The Yellowstone Wolf project has not been without its difficulties. Prejudice and bias thinking generated by decades of human & wolf Semitism has born an uneasy co-habitation for both species.

Dr. Doug Smith, along with his co-author Gary Ferguson have written a book “The Decade of the Wolf”

It explains the powerful bonds that exists within the canine community, gives us an insight into their world and how and why it works. Also how the re-introduction of the wolf has once again balanced the eco system of the park were humans had unbalanced it by eradicating natures top predator from Yellowstone’s landscape.

We were sponges for the education offered from our hosts Linda Thurston and Nathan Varley ( who are part of his team.

We listened spellbound to lectures from naturalist and biologists Dr. James C. Halfpenny and Dan Mech.

yellowstone3sWe visited and viewed the photographic records, witnessed and understood wolf behaviour from celebrated wildlife photographers Dan and Cindy Hartman who kindly allowed us a glimpse into their world.It’s the knowledge imparted from these dedicated people who live their every day lives in the company of these inspirational animals that have increased my knowledge and those of Dog Listeners worldwide to bring correct & informed knowledge about canine behaviour to help you overcome misunderstood issues in our domestic dogs.
I am thankful and grateful to Jan Fennell for nurturing those relationships and sharing them with me. The bonds I made in Yellowstone with my fellow colleagues and friends will forever have a special place in my heart.

yellowstone-lonewolfTo be in the company of canines, free to make choices about which member they elect as their leaders to make decisions for the pack without fear or aggression from humans was as relevant and natural in the lives they led for us to witness and to return home to help our understanding of our dogs today as it was 14,000 years ago.

Is this method revolutionary? Revolutionary simply means we’ve gone full circle.

Without trying to sound to ‘soppy’ the journey has inspired the way I have raised my own family since returning and led me to be a more benevolent parent and person.

It offered me a new perspective on how leadership is gained and given me goals from the lessons learnt from my own dogs that if in some small way I can begin to understand their language I can aspire to their teachings.

Trust should never just be given; it’s a gift we have to earn through cohesive agreement, solace, support and co-operation to create a harmonious relationship.

Our dogs do it every day; can we dare to think we can too? Sure we can – we’ve just got to get in the game, their game.