Natural Dog Training is about establishing emotional rapport as a basis for training.
There’s so much emphasis today on giving dogs mental stimulation, physical exercise, play dates, hiking groups, and tons of early and on-going training, but what is getting lost in all this activity is the notion of emotional rapport. Rapport isn’t trained or learned, it is developed. In the canine mind, rapport emerges by being part of a team. I call my method “Natural” because it understands the dog’s nature as a group hunter. A dog doesn’t work for pride in accomplishment, to earn respect from a leader, praise, rewards or even play or positive experiences. A dog wants to be part of a team. Everything in a dog’s life is secondary to this social drive. If a dog doesn’t have rapport, he has problems.
In the canine mind teamwork revolves around hunting, not surprising given that hunting as a group is what makes rapport between wolves possible, and hunting together is how how early man and proto-dog first developed rapport nearly 40,000 years ago. Problem behaviors result when a dog doesn’t feel part of a team. Aggression and phobias are the most acute expressions of social alienation, but it takes many lesser expressions as well. This is why we still euthanize millions of dogs each year even though owners have never been more engaged in the training of their dogs and concerned with their welfare. Natural Dog Training addresses the emotional dynamic of rapport that’s missing in other approaches.
Dynamic is the key term, the how in what the dog is feeling, not the specific activity of what the dog is doing. The dog’s body and mind must integrate into a group and this transpires through a precise mechanics of physical movement and deep seated autonomic processes. Natural Dog Training teaches five core exercises so that a dog’s sense of its individual integrity is predicated on feeling integrated with his group. Rapport is how a dog responds positively to stress and can learn to listen no-matter-what.
Natural Dog Training doesn’t view the dog as an instinctual automaton driven by the need for a leader, neither do we regard the dog as a learning machine, with positive experiences meaning GO and negative ones constituting NO GO. Dogs are emotionally much more complex than this, months of training NO GO can become a GO in an instant if the dog’s emotional capacity isn’t fully developed and there isn’t that rapport between dog and owner in moments of conflict.
If you’re the owner of a troubled dog you already know that there is a place deep within your dog that your kindness and positive treatments aren’t yet reaching. This is what happens when a dog doesn’t feel part of a team. Being part of a team is the essence of a dog’s social nature.
While others have studied how wolves live in a pack, I’ve been studying how wolves work as a team. While others have studied how dogs learn by classical and operant conditioning, I’ve been studying how dogs learn by feel. A team is based on feelings. Feelings are predicated on a common want around which the group can align and synchronize. Being part of a team isn’t about being given a job to do or working for a reward. The team enables its members to put their heart into their work but it’s being part of the team that’s the reward, not the positive consequence. This is why positive training can actually inhibit camaraderie and busy work can feel deadening.
Natural Dog Training is about identifying what dogs want, and how to align and synchronize both dog and owner as a Team. This is what heals trauma if you’re dealing with a rescue or a problem dog, and effects communication if you’re dealing with a disobedient dog.