Bixie At the Ready

My apologies for letting this blog on Bixie lag for so long. Once too much time goes by, procrastination sets in and then the resistance gets really high. So I’m not going to try to be aesthetic (not that one might notice), just keep it crisp and chronicled. The main way of bonding with Bixie has been walks in the woods. Even if I lived in a city I would seek out the quiet streets and the less frequented areas of a park. And I certainly wouldn’t take her to dog parks for play sessions. We’d have a few doggy friends after I had the chance to get to know the dog, a few play sessions spread out so that she played once in a while, but the main thing would be to gain contact with her so I can be her problem solving faculty whenever she gets in over her head, which in her case was at first almost everything. Unfortunately however even though I live in the middle of the woods, when we’re out there she would take off, following her eyes mainly after the flutter of a bird or the chirp and bolt of a chipmunk, of which we here in Southern Vermont have in a bumper abundance. Walking down a trail with a dog on the prowl trips the chipmunk squeak alarm system about every ten yards. It feels like walking on a suspension bridge with high tension wires sequentially snapping. So rather than feeding her in a bowl, I would feed her on these “core walks” by pushing, barking, getting up on a rock and collecting, whole body suppling and then the occasional bite and carry. The next step was to give her more freedom letting her drag a shorter lead that didn’t get easily tangled and introduce the “Ready” positive interrupt. (I would only feed her on these walks. I wouldn’t feed her out of a bowl and then go out. Why feed the problem?) So when she would stray a little ahead, I’d say in a way that suggests a lot of energy, “RReeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaddddddddiiiiiiiieeeeeeee ……………… and when she looks back at me, I’d be in the poised “Ready” position with some food clasped in hand, and she’d come charging back to me either for a bark, a collect, or a rub-a-dub. Below are two videos from last summer, sorry about the quality, that show her response in the woods, and her beginning to develop a look back when she starts to get too far ahead. I want to emphasize that this is not coming-when-called. I call it a positive interrupt which is a halfway hallmark of coming when called. I’m simply creating a circuit, a channel that will cause her to feel a pull to me when the chipmunks snap the trip wire and make a run for it. The work remains to harden this circuit and then I’ll be able to command and demand. By then I will have buckled down on the obedience routine.

In the first video she’s lost in the ferns on a chipmunk sortie and then charges hard at the “Ready” which I’m using here to get her familiar to a hard command-like sound since I know she’s in the right disposition in this moment. We can see in her bark how she has to dig deep in order to get it to “catch.” In the second we’re leaving the woods and I’m happy to see her looking back and then eager to make contact when I whistle. I want running and searching for me to be a more powerful experience than chasing chipmunks. To do that I need hunger over balance or else there will be side effects when control is applied and with a damaged dog like Bixie there is no margin for error. She has no innate buffering capacity left to compensate for poor handling. That was long ago exhausted so that her nerves are as tautly wound as the chipmunks she is so attuned to. (The faithful Hessian makes a cameo appearance.)

Just to fast forward to today, she now is mainly out of the crate when indoors, with a safety line on should she get herself into something that requires our intercession. She’s starting to be a great house dog and good company. Here after a walk porpoising through snow drifts she’s probably dreaming of ferns yet to part in the pursuit of the elusive chipmunk.




Want to Learn More about Natural Dog Training?

Join the exclusive and interactive group that will allow you to ask questions and take part in discussions with the founder of the Natural Dog Training method, Kevin Behan.

Join over 65 Natural Dog trainers and owners, discussing hundreds of dog training topics with photos and videos!

We will cover such topics as natural puppy rearing, and how to properly develop your dog's drive and use it to create an emotional bond and achieve obedience as a result.

Create Your Account Today!

Published February 18, 2015 by Kevin Behan

16 responses to “Bixie At the Ready”

  1. b... says:

    Hmm, don’t see any video here. Perhaps a technical glitch?

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    Strange, it shows up on my browser as a You Tube frame, but below are the links that one could try.

  3. Marsha Long says:

    I think you are the best trainer ever. Thank you for posting Bixie’s progress.

  4. b... says:

    These are great and the original frames do show up on phone browser. Thanks for posting.

    It certainly looks like a pretty good recall! Could you elaborate on the distinction between this positive interrupt and coming-when-called, and the process of working from former to latter? I presume the distinction is in the “no matter what”?

  5. Brazilian Mutt says:

    Bixie, I’m so glad you’re back!
    Happy to be able to follow your adventures – and your master’s – again!

  6. Kevin Behan says:

    The main distinction is that I’m creating a circuit and I’ve construed the situation so that I’m still the path of least resistance given the dog’s great charge to the food. It remains that Bixie will have to come when called when I am the path of highest resistance in a situation I haven’t primed to go my way, the proverbial “no matter what” scenario.

  7. Ana says:

    Great work! How do I train my dog to speak on command without a clicker? Do you have any videos on that training?
    Thank you!

  8. Kevin Behan says:

    I post a video with my next Bixie Blog, but in meantime, just clasp food at your chest overhead and 1) reward any lip, breath action and 2) look for that wave of motion, a bob of the head, shuffling of feet, shifting of weight, that is all the signature of an incipient locomotive wave pulse, as if the dog is running. The deep, metered bark is the analog of the rotary gallop which is why it will spontaneously emerge when the dog drills down and concentrates on the subliminal aspects of the running experience, rather than the actual muscle movements of running. The bark becomes the same as running, and running toward or up you is what they want to do when we show them food they want. They have to learn to separate the breathing action from the running action and focus all their energy into the former.

  9. Ana says:

    Got it!

  10. Betsy Davenport says:

    Just had two long visits from Boris who worked with both dogs and I’m seeing it all in a much clarified way. NDT knowledge accrues. It’s profound to see a dog reclaim its dog-ness and a result is a dog one can enjoy much more.

  11. Sundog says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I am happy to report that I too am enjoying “walks in the desert” with Audrey and she checks in to see where I am regularly and seems to “orbit” me without any commands from me. I give a little, mild click of my tongue to get her to come back for a push, hup etc all with the idea NOT to command a recall, but to be magnetic and attractive. I feel fairly confident that for most situations I am her touchstone. However (and there always is with Audrey) our “chipmunk trip wire” are rabbits and the other day while she was dragging a leash a rabbit took off running and Audrey went after it. While on leash when she is not free she is not highly charged to rabbits. I think this is because the rabbits are all savvy enough that they freeze, so they prey controls the predator and Audrey also freezes (collects) and in about 30 seconds she looks to me, I back up and tell her to hup up, she gets a quick push, she shakes off the moment and off we go. But when she was dragging her leash this rabbit took off and so did she and I honestly have never seen her run so dang fast. I was able to get her back by shaking bushes and acting like I had cornered the rabbit and I needed her help to get it. I managed to get a medium bark out of her, some food went down, but I had to be at a full run to get her to get in alignment with me. Eventually she was back in her body and we carried on.

    Here are the questions I have: 1) when she was running, Audrey was squealing. She is a vocally leaky girl anyway, but this was almost like the sound a rabbit makes when it is caught and screaming. What was happening? 2) now that the big chase happened, that area is charged. I took her back a few days later with the bite toy and went about trying to put all the rabbit energy into the bite/tug/carry. All was working pretty well and then it hit a certain intensity and even though there was no rabbit (that I could see) she took off in a manic search for one. My sense was that the energy level (along with the physical memory of the area) triggered the behavior. When I got her back the normally very attractive bite pillow was of zero interest so my question, should I keep working towards the bite and carry in that area?

  12. Kevin Behan says:

    Hope this response proves timely. Yes that’s the perfect opportunity to capture the Charge. It’s critical however that Audrey not get the chance to zoom off after a rabbit as the frequency of its running is tuning Audrey’s temperament to that frequency of motion that triggers her deepest unresolved emotion. It’s a path of least resistance and so it will be harder for her to do what you want, the path of highest resistance. I would only feed her in the charged zone, it’s an opportunity to capture that energy and run it through the core exercises. Hide ‘n Seek with a helper would also be a great channeling opportunity for that charge and a bite/carry would be the optimal response. Once you capture the Charge, you can have her on lead start to chase the rabbit, say “Ready” capture the Charge and run it through the core exercises. The reason she squeals is because she can’t move her body fast enough to sync up with the rabbit’s frequency, i.e. keep up with it, and that represents a loss of emotional momentum, akin to being corrected so it’s the reliving of a pain memory.

  13. Sundog says:

    Thanks Kevin. Been going back to the rabbit zone and doing the 5C’s all around the bushes where she would typically be trying to root them out. At first, getting her to plug into me took hunger inducement. But after a couple of weeks, the other day we got the point where she was doing a bite and carry as we wound through the bushes and jumped up on nearby rocks. I did have to keep the tug a little active, giving little jolts to keep her flowing. The next day we simply walked by the rabbit zone without any charge. Thanks for the help, we will need to continue to work on this as the rabbit trip wire will continue to trigger her.

    One thing I have also started to see evolve is where she grabs the bite pillow at different voltage levels. The bite pillow I use is about 5 x 8 inches with three handles. When she first gets to it she wants the handles and will shake it pretty violently. I used to try and keep her away from the handles because I know that is stimulating (and expensive). But I started noticing that after the big shake-a-thon, within about 60 seconds, as we start to move with it, she naturally grasps it at the meaty center part and that is where she will be calmly carrying it without any input from me. When she is electric she wants the handles (mousey) when she is grounded she wants pillow (moosey). My question, should I be trying to do anything to prevent the electric/mouse start or should I let her go through her levels?

  14. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes, the thrashing is part of her discharge, but help her move through it to the bite and carry by walking away and pulling on her lead so that she has to clean up her grip and get to the center in order to keep up with you. Good job!

Leave a Reply

Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
%d bloggers like this: