Eric Brad’s Blog

I think I was very nicely voted off the island and not wanting to persist over time if it doesn’t increase the flow, I will post my follow up remarks here.  My main point is that disagreeing with Operant Conditioning and using a term such as energy is not necessarily unscientific, which is how Eric Brad initially characterized Natural Dog Training. So we could go on and litigate Bejan’s Constructal law, and my application of it as a contravention to current learning theory, and while we may not ultimately agree, nevertheless this is a legitimate discussion based on the best evidence currently available to reasonable people. I think that point came across in Eric’s final comment.

Secondly, in regards to the “mystical” energy I’m supposedly talking about, I’m referring to mechanical, environmental and gravitational forces acting on the body. These are real energies, they can be measured and quantified. My theory is that these contribute to an internal sense of pressure within the body and mind, the release from which makes an animal act JUST AS IF it is electrically or magnetically charged. I’m not saying we can hold up an instrument and detect an electrical current or a magnetic field. I’m saying that these internal pressures, which again are measurable and quantifiable as neurological, physiological and anatomical energies and forces, do not find release by way of a psychology, which is what mainstream behaviorism is arguing: “If I do this or that then this or that will happen.” (Even a term such as “learn-by-association” is psychologically loaded as opposed to  being neutral.) Rather this release “treats” environmental stimuli JUST AS IF these external elements are likewise electrically or magnetically charged and so therefore, any configuration that EVOLVES from these interactions and inter-relationships, likewise reflects an electrical or a magnetic phenomena. To date these configurations have been mistakenly ascribed to psychological principles, (territoriality, survival, reproductive, dominance, submission and so on) but this will invoke vast acres of hidden assumptions which will ultimately factor out to subtle, yet profound errors. (For example, Newton’s mechanical interpretation of the universe is quite effective, but it ultimately falls apart under certain circumstances, hence science eventually turned to a new paradigm as a deeper understanding of nature and to achieve a greater application of technology.) This is what I’m alluding to when I say that one can create a group, emotional climate, that elicits the heel, sit, down, stay, recall sequence of behaviors from within the dog. The dog doesn’t learn how to down, stay, recall, etc., by virtue of understanding consequences as a chain of events over time, rather a dog is motivated and guided into these innate actions by virtue of how he feels. These feelings evolved from how wolves hunt as a group and the scientific evidence supports this thesis that hunting is what bonded humans and canines.

Cesar Milan approaches the dog primarily from the electrical end of the continuum, but misidentifies it as dominance and submission, Operant Conditioning primarily from the magnetic, but misidentifies it as positive. Whereas I’m suggesting we call it what it really is, electromagnetism, and then learn how to best get in the flow based on these principles by which all configurations in nature evolve. I believe this is the most conservative interpretation of the evidence and is most consistent with Darwin’s theory of common descent. (1) Complex organisms evolved from simpler organisms. (2) Organisms evolve by adapting to environmental change. (3) The environment changes according to principles of energy. Therefore, if emotion is the physical embodiment of the laws of nature, then animals are best adapted to persist over time in the presence of change.


(So the animal mind is configured so that perceptions implement a gap between the organism and the environment (projection of p-cog into object of attraction in order to compose a sense of self) and this is an action potential. All the emotional affects (neurological/hormonal/physiological activity) reflect a build up of energy on one side of this divide. Thus the organism feels compelled to move. Then behaviors become available to discharge this build up, and these flow according to the principle of emotional conductivity. This is the external current as a reflection of the internal current, i.e. can the organism “emotionally digest” via the hunger circuitry the object of attraction. The object of attraction is thereby influenced and will respond just as if it is a likewise charged particle of consciousness. The two individuals may then entrain and thereby in their relationship, create a virtual magnetic field as a means of increasing the efficiency of their expressions of emotion into action. This a higher elaboration of the same action potential. This flow goes on and on with internal currents manifesting external currents manifesting external fields, to entrain all organisms within one interconnected matrix of ecosystems. Evolution. Evolution can happen very slow on an epoch by epoch time frame, but it can also happen very fast as in the domestication of species time frame, and then it can happen hyper-hyper-hyper fast as in the phenomenon of animal learning.)

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 June 15, 2012 by Kevin Behan
Tags: , , , ,

22 responses to “Eric Brad’s Blog”

  1. Ben says:

    Really fascinating how those fully entrenched in the behavioral science “camp” seem to regard emotion as almost a threat to that paradigm. Or if it IS taken into consideration, it’s minimized as a secondary and inconsequential phenomena (because it cannot be accounted for in that model).

    “I’m troubled by those in dog training who set themselves up as something “better” than the science that is out there about dogs.”

    What an unfortunate viewpoint. So instead of thinking for ourselves, imagining possibilities, and exploring new avenues we should throw all that out and just stick to what the accepted mainstream view is at that time. One thing science has taught me is to be skeptical, even of science itself.

    As Mario Beauregard said in the *excellent* “Brain Wars” (highly recommend to anyone reading this!)– “True skeptics conduct an open-minded and objective inquiry for truth. Unprejudiced, they have a questioning attitude toward facts and views, and they are willing to challenge their own beliefs. In contrast, pseudoskeptics are believers, committed to defend scientific materialism.”

    Ignoring the influence of emotion on dogs (and their relationship with humans) makes about as much sense as not believing in gravity 🙂

  2. wetnosewarmhearts says:

    Please enlighten me. I seemed to have missed the “Brad’s Blog” thread of conversation. I am not certain of which Brad is blogging. Would you provide a link please?

  3. Eric Brad says:

    Hi Kevin –

    I’m delighted to continue our discussion over here at your place. May I first say that your explanation above is far more detailed and understandable than I found your “About Natural Dog Training” section of the website. If I may suggest, it might be good to move some of your detailed explanation of it there or at least hyperlink to this blog piece. I think this does a much better job of clarifying your theories and methods than the “About” piece does.

    Having said that, I’m not sure what you are suggesting about being “voted off” of some “island” with regards to your views. The dog training community is sufficiently diverse that I don’t think anyone has the power to exclude anyone. Certainly I do not. I’m just one guy looking for the truth in my relationships with dogs. Your mileage may vary.

    With regards to your characterization of “mainstream behaviourism”, I believe you have it wrong. As I was taught, the basic behavioural “formula”, if you will can be defined as A-B-C. That it is: Antecedent (that which comes before), Behaviour, and Consequence. Your description “If I do this or that then this or that will happen.” would represent the A-B segment of that formula -Antecedent causing Behaviour. This is not Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning works on the B-C segment of the formula and follows Skinner’s statement that “Consequence dictates behaviour.” That which happens after a behaviour will influence whether that behaviour is more or less likely to be offered again. So, as an operant trainer, I’m not trying to CAUSE behaviour to happen, I’m rewarding the stuff I want when it happens so that my dog will be more likely and willing to offer it again. It’s remarkable to me how many criticisms of behaviourism fail to understand this distinction.

    Perhaps to put it in your own parlance, if a dog behaves in a way that makes him feel “in harmony” with his group or the energies around him, this will be pleasant. To behave in a way that is not in harmony with these forces would be uncomfortable in some way, less pleasant then being in harmony. So perhaps the dog is looking for the consequence of “well-being” that comes with behaving in concert with the “energies.” This is still consistent with the Operant Conditioning model. The pleasant consequence of being in harmony with his group would reinforce the behaviours that engender this feeling in the dog. Do you see?

    Strangely, both points of view may be converging here. For me, one of the great fascinations in Operant Conditioning is the variety of things that a dog may find reinforcing – play, affection, food, physical contact, etc. And it’s never the same constellation of things in two different dogs.

    To address Ben’s point about emotion being a threat to some behavioural “paradigm”, I’m just flabbergasted. Science has proven beyond doubt that dogs do, in fact, have emotions and has even provided a crude roadmap as to where and how they occur in the canine brain. The foundation of Operant Conditioning is emotional at it’s core – the dog either “likes” the consequence or “dislikes” the consequence. That emotional response to the consequences of a behaviour are what drive the behaviour to become more or less likely. Rather than threatened by emotion, those of us who use Operant Conditioning with our dogs DEPEND on it!

    And as far as my views being anything close to “mainstream”, I think we can agree that the shock collar/choke chain/compulsion trainers are far and away the mainstream as far as the “conventional wisdom” about dogs. If anything we are at different edges of the fringe these days.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment and thanks for writing this blog!
    All the best,

  4. kbehan says:

    I’m happy you followed through here. I am getting a little punchy in terms of discussing my theory online so I inferred from your closing comment on your site that the discussion was closed and so I didn’t want to intrude any further, hence “politely voted off the island” —-the island being that particular thread of discussion. I see now I was wrong. Usually I run into the presumption that if someone disagrees with OC, that by definition they are being unscientific, and negative. So I was happy to I read your comment to mean that you were willing to acknowledge that NDT wasn’t an anti-scientific, tapping into New Age hype, commercial kind of venture. I can appreciate that it might have seemed that way from skimming the site.
    Okay, so I do think I understand OC properly, despite tripping over the terminology from time to time. My understanding has always been that the dog might do something that could be of service to a trained repertoire, it’s “marked” in some way, and then string of these are gradually shaped into whatever sequence of behaviors is being sought by the trainer. I think however it remains implicit in the trainer’s mind that the dog’s mind is working akin to a “if I do this then I get that” kind of logic statement. In other words, the consequence of what happens is what determines. In other words, learning is a function of reinforcement. I’m arguing however that there is a deeper template at work and all “learning” has to fit into this template, and this is in service to a much deeper agenda than the individual is aware of, the so-called current to which I refer as emotion. For example, we can look at two people in a business transaction and understand them as isolated minds negotiating a deal, but deep below this is all the economic realities of interest rates, currency fluctuations globally, inflation, money supply and so on and on an aggregate level of all such business transactions, their behavior is being guided above and beyond what their individual perspectives can entertain. If we consider your statement below I can show a point of distinction in this regards.

    EB: “Strangely, both points of view may be converging here. For me, one of the great fascinations in Operant Conditioning is the variety of things that a dog may find reinforcing – play, affection, food, physical contact, etc. And it’s never the same constellation of things in two different dogs.”

    I’m saying that two dogs will vary according to an invisible template, not because of their individual experiences. We mislabel this as the phenomenon of personality by genetic predisposition, and then their specific reinforcement criteria, when that isn’t true on the deepest level. Likewise, all reinforcements have an inherent value, and these can change, but not by virtue of the individual’s personal experience, but because of how it fits within the group, and then how this influences the deeper emotional dynamic which arises around emotion as a current.

    When I talk of energy, I mean actual external physical forces, and internal physiological/neurological workings. The mainstream, be it high tech science or rudimentary dominance, is working on the assumption that an animal perceives these external and internal influences the same way the human mind does, as the wind, as the influence of gravitational pulls, as incidental, inanimate forces that just happen to influence the body. I’m arguing otherwise. That the animal mind is configured to capture these energies and incorporate them into its sense-of-self, and then whether or not it feels fully integrated into its surroundings in terms of this. So in my understanding of emotion, Operant Conditioning isn’t emotional at its core because a dog’s likes or dislikes aren’t a function of a self-contained agency of intelligence, but of whether or not it feels connected to its surroundings, and this connection proceeds according to the laws of physics rather than anything to do with personal experience and what we would call reinforcement. I’m very interested in your response to this proposition.

  5. kbehan says:

    (Perhaps the following analogy will clarify. Whenever two dogs live together, they develop a complementary registry of likes and dislikes, this is a flow configuration rather than a personality, so it’s not accurate to say that they are different in this way. It’s just a reflection of how they are fitting themselves into a flow system, like four people wanting to sing in a barbershop quartet. They will each gravitate to a specific opening based on the overall flow system. Someone who is actually a true tenor, may have to take up the bass position because the other tenor is higher and the group sounds better in that configuration. But then in a different context when there is a true bass available, the tenor will revert to his natural position. He has both potentials, but he will feel most comfortable in one over the other depending on the musical potentials of his choir mates. This is what is going on in a wolf pack, they all have the potentials for bass to soprano, but feel most comfortable in one over the other depending on the potentials of their group members. But then if there is a shift in the group, they shift their “voice” so that the group is at its best overall flow configuration, i.e. harmony. It’s the group dynamic that orchestrates each one’s behavior, rather than a self-contained psychology within the individual. So for example, if a dog is termed not to be “food motivated” this isn’t accurate. The dog’s temperament is inflected in such a way by the group dynamic in which it lives, so that by being sensitive rather than aroused to food, it best fits the way its group works. It has given up being food motivated (or toy motivated) in order to achieve group harmony.)

  6. Eric Brad says:

    Hi Kevin –

    Ok…so I think we have finally run into that familiar brick wall. By which I mean “familiar to me.” Just as you frequently run into the assertion that your ideas can be “unscientific”, this is a situation that is familiar to many behaviourists. It comes down to a simple idea with complex and , some would say unsolvable, implications. It is simply this:

    HOW behaviour happens versus WHY behaviour happens.

    To me, this is an incredibly important distinction. The “HOW” of behaviour is observable, measurable, and, from data recorded and analyzed, can be predicted accurately. The “WHY” of behaviour is much more difficult to pin down. We know for certain that there are biological factors at work. Skinner and other behaviourist have put forward the idea that a history of experiences plays a significant role. And then we get to the more nebulous factors like the contributions of genetics with regard to preferences. Your proposal of a “deeper template” also falls into this category as a “WHY” factor for motivating behaviour. All of this attempts to make some sense of the anomalies that invariably arise from the behaviourist approach.

    But here’s the thing. Behaviourists are not concerned (generally speaking) with WHY behaviour happens. And there is a simple reason for this. There is nothing we can do about that. On the other hand, if we can understand the mechanics of HOW behaviour happens, we have a chance to affect it. A simple example: A dog is nipping at the handler as they put down the food bowl. A behaviourist would seek to define all of the environmental and behaviour variables in that scenario and systematically change HOW those are arranged to get a different result, one more acceptable to the handler.

    In the field of psychology, those concerned with WHY behaviour happens are considered Cognitivists. It is a legitimate and important field of study that has yielded tremendous insights into the workings of the mind. But it is a VERY different approach. If we go back to our example, a Cognitivist would be concerned with WHY the dog nips at feeding times. Is it fear? Resource guarding? Aggression? A traumatic experience when the dog was a puppy? It may take some time to work out what the dog’s motivations are for exhibiting that behaviour. Presumably, once the motivational causes are determined, a behaviour modification plan can be put in place to solve the problem.

    So, I would say that we are probably coming at things from two different, and equally valid, points of view.

    Let me give you an example from my own life. I am an enthusiastic competitor in the sport of dog agility. It can be a great deal of fun and requires learning on the part of both the dog and the handler. Further, the relationship of the dog and handler on the agility course is critical (in my view) to being successful.

    In teaching my students in agility, I use a few analogies that I think you would find familiar. One is that I talk about an invisible “cord” that connects dog and handler. It is elastic. It stretches and contracts. And the properties of that cord are different for each dog/handler team. The cord must have the proper tension on it for you to run well with your dog. We call that being “connected.” Get too close to your dog and the cord goes slack and the run breaks down. Get to far away and the cord stretches too far and breaks and the run breaks down. Turn too quickly, stop too abruptly, etc. and it breaks the cord and you can “disconnect” with your dog.

    As a behaviourist, I’m not under any illusion that this “cord” is a real and unseen force (an “energy” if you will) that operates between dog and handler. Instead, it is a useful analogy to represent dozens of behavioural observations I have made over time about the behaviour of a dog in agility. Some of it has to do with remaining in the dog’s field of vision so they can track you properly. Other aspects involve the dog predicting your path and making decisions on it’s own direction and speed based on the facing and movement of the handlers body. All of these observations have been analysed for years using video of teams running courses. It is HOW a dog responds in real time to the actions of it’s handler. Once this is known, we can make adjustments to what the handler does so that the dog has the information it needs to go where the handler is would like it to go.

    A different school of thought might approach this differently. A cognitivist might seek to understand WHY the dog is suddenly confused on a course. That process might take a different route and ultimately arrive at the same solution a behaviourist might use. As one who is methodical and scientifically minded, the path of the behaviourist has been much more efficient for me in working with my dogs. As I have said before, your mileage may vary. I have seen some very skilled agility competitors who have only the barest understanding of behaviour and no formal training at all. Yet they somehow work very well with their dogs seemingly intuitively. One cannot argue with observable facts, that team works well regardless of how they got there.

    I find that the HOW and WHY are very different things. They are intimately related but they lend themselves to very different approaches. Perhaps it comes down to the practical versus the theoretical. While practical experimentation often leads to sound conclusions and concepts, theoretical exploration also leads to valid conclusions and concepts. Maybe it’s a “Right Brain/Left Brain” thing. How should I know, I’m a behaviourist! (giggle)

    Regarding your conceptions of Operant Conditioning, I would encourage you not to interpret it in too narrow a context. While your “if I do this, I will get that” characterization is accurate, I think you can broaden your interpretation if it. For example, in the negative reinforcement quadrant (-R) of OC, a dog might discover that going off to sniff can stop their handler from insisting that they do a particular behaviour (like “sit”). The dog starts sniffing and the handlers goes into a more sympathetic mode and this removes an unpleasant situation. The sniffing behaviour is reinforced because it reliably turns off the unwanted pressure to “sit.” It’s not just about getting food for behaviour.

    And then there is a whole side of behaviourism that we have not even discussed. Classical Conditioning is a critical component to behavioural training and handlers ignore it at their own peril. It has a tremendous impact on behaviour and I think you would find it also mirrors some of the concepts you put forward but with it’s distinct HOW slant.

    I’ve probably take up enough real estate with this. I am certainly enjoying the dialog, thank you for your gracious and collegial approach.

    Let me just say in closing that I have difficulty with your assertions of some “deeper unseen template” in the same way I have some difficulty with the notion of the 11 dimensions for space/time that String Theory puts forward. It’s just hard for me to conceive until I run into some proof of their existence. String Theory at least has a large body of mathematics to support it’s findings. I still don’t understand it fully but it’s on me go and read the work. In the end, as a behaviourist, I may still be left wondering how this can be used practically. Such is the limitation of being a behaviourist.

    Thanks again,

  7. kbehan says:

    Actually (surprise, surprise) I see it all the other way around. I believe that I’m the one asking how, whereas modern behaviorism is asking why. For example, I’m simply saying that animals act as if they are guided by energetic principles, and that this is the best and most conservative interpretation of the evidence that requires the fewest assumptions. What they do reflects what they feel, and what they feel, feels like gravitational and electromagnetic phenomenon. Whereas, yes I read that OC says that they’re just considering the mechanics and constraining themselves to an objective reading of an external action, but when they talk about a high versus low value reward hierarchy that varies for some reason from dog to dog, or that a dog does something to increase its pleasure or reduce its stress, or that the reinforcement at the end of the road is what the dog is being motivated by, or that social order is a system to maximize gene replication, to my mind these are Why-does-the-dog-do-what-it-does rather than How does the dog do what it does. And at some point one will have to inject human thoughts and concepts into the model to make it coherent. I would also argue that I’m operating from one assumption, behavior is a function of attraction, whereas OC requires many assumptions, beginning with the animal as a self-contained agency of intelligence that sees its self as a self separate from its surroundings and adapting itself to chains of events strung together according to a chronological order. In regards to the “invisible” dynamic, let’s just say it’s whatever it is that organizes all structure into one vascular, spreading network. I hope you stay tuned to my Constructal Canine Mind site wherein I will attempt to relate these principles to the things that dogs do, as in area-to-point flow patterns, point-to-area flow patterns, high pressure to low pressure, what maximizing flow means in the animal mind and that kind of thing. Also, one thing you might explore for the fun of it, would be to construct a table of behaviors that strike you as magnetic, versus those behaviors that seem electric. So for example if a dog is guarding a food bowl, I would call that electric, i.e. “sparks are going to fly.” And then were one to shift the dog’s orientation to a magnetic-like behavior, then I predict we would see the dog no longer guarding the food bowl. In fact we would find that it’s not possible to categorize a “problem” behavior as magnetic. There then turns out to be a principle by which electric can be converted to magnetic, and so this renders quite practical applications for remediating problem behaviors. But I don’t want to argue about training efficacy, just the theory of behavior although I do want to say that my model arose from practical dog training realities rather than theory for the sake of theory.
    I would also like to point out that if one ever uses the term emotion and feeling in terms of an animal, and then do so without a having a complete model for this, they cannot say they are being neutral in their assessment of what they’re observing. They could be attributing to instinct or intellect what rightly belongs to emotion and feeling.
    The parallel to physics I think is most germane here is not the quantum stuff, but the “Ultraviolet Catastrophe” wherein the pattern by which heat radiated from a black body upended science’s belief in a smooth discharge of energy and the very foundation of how the universe was viewed. Resolving this simple problem led to the atomic model and to the existence of the photon and ultimately the quantum revolution. Likewise I believe that is someone is willing to put all the current conventions of interpretation aside for a time being, and then consider all behavior as a range along a spectrum, this pattern comes into view quite clearly. It’s not “The Answer,” just a new way of interpreting the evidence. At any rate, I do appreciate that you’ve taken the time to respond at such length and have been willing to consider what I have to say. These dialogues help me make the ideas more approachable. In the meantime, my very best, Kevin

  8. Eric Brad says:

    I salute you, sir!

    While I don’t agree with much of what you write above, I think we are working at two different paradigms and that may make clear understanding (in eaither direction) a more lengthy process than this one discussion can encompass.

    I will indeed check in from time to time to see how this is all progressing. I hope you will entertain a question or two, if they should come up from what I read.

    I cannot remember from where I remember it, but I believe there is a far eastern language that has a word the use in place of “no.” The word and the language escape me for the moment but the word means “not yet.” And that is how I feel about your theories. Do I believe or understand them? Not yet. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that eventually I will see it.

    I hope that you can have similar feelings about the behaviourist model. I think we have much to offer. But you are free, of course, to look elsewhere.

    I look forward to crossing paths again soon. Thanks for a very enjoyable discussion!

  9. Vida Clyne says:

    I am nearly finished your book Your Dog is Your Mirror, which I stumbled upon in the library. I come from a backgound of regular and special education and more lately working with people and their dogs. I am well grounded in the behviourist model. However I do agree with so many things you are writing about. I can also see that many people will find it very hard to understand or too much to think about, it has taken them years to get some idea of behavioural thoery.
    Most of the consults I do involve working with people in their homes and I find more and more that it is the people who have the problem and the dog is just following along with the home situation.
    I do not fully understand the guilt/anger connection. But I do have people who leave their dogs all day and do feel guilty. Problem is what to do about it.
    One question. I had 3 Std Poodles, one with a very sensitive nature, barked in the car: one with a very bossy filling up space slightly agressive nature. Both these dogs have recently died and I am left with one lovely natured, go anywhere over keen to please, want to get everything right girl that I got when she was 5 years old. I want to get another puppy. But I want a nice sensitive dog. given your theory of Cloe and Blacky is this possible?
    I have enjoyed your book, I like a challenge. I think it helps if the reader has a background in psychology.

  10. kbehan says:

    Thanks Vida, I appreciate your feedback. If you do get a new puppy, it is possible to have a dog with a core completely aligned with your desires, it’s just that the surface personality will always end up in mirror image of the other dog as well as reflecting according to the same group/emotional dynamic, another facet of your own personality. The more friction between the two dogs that is allowed to happen in the formation of the puppy, the more the puppy’s repressed energy will develop into a troubled aspect of its personality, but if the puppy’s core is protected and developed so that it remains intact into adulthood, its personality will just be a subtle reflection of its individuality rather than a problematic expression. Hope this clarifies.

  11. Annie says:

    Wow…my brain is smoking from having ping-ponged between Eric and Kevin….great discussion! Kevin, I particularly liked the analogy to the singing voices having to compensate individually, to create harmonic balance. By the way, the singers in such a situation are not only using their ears to reach an aesthetically pleasing balance, but are accessing a deeply embedded consciousness that tunes to a specific vibratory emission.
    Question: if a dog is “adapting itself to chains of events strung together according to a chronological order”, isn’t that really the human-imposed, linear construct of time? This seems so inadequate in terms of explaining In the “invisible dynamic, let’s just say it’s ‘whatever it is’, that organizes all structure into one vascular, spreading network”.

    Vida…good luck with your puppy! I share your opinion that the general public does not grasp theories well…most people just want to see “what works”, without having to do their homework! Or use their imagination…Einstein called the imagination a “holy curiosity”.

    This is a link to a fantastic short lecture that confirms my suspicion (I’m not a scientist, I don’t form theories!) that autism is showing us, in real time, the rapid evolution of the human brain as it seeks balance in the “Information Age.”

  12. kbehan says:

    Wonderful point. I’m convinced that music gives us an invaluable insight into our animal mind and how emotion contributes to a group consciousness.
    I don’t know if my point was clear enough, but I don’t think animals construct in their mind a chronological chain of causes and effects as the “reason” why things happen. Rather, they feel that what they feel is what “caused” things to happen. So if a dog is afraid of thunderstorms and he finds himself still standing after one has come and gone, he feels that by being frightened, that’s what made the storm go away. Thus, he chooses to become more and more fearful with those things that are antecedent to thunderstorms such as falling pressure, wind, distant booms etc. He’s trying to “push” the storm away by becoming fearful, and he becomes more and more fearful as he feels this is what makes the storm go away. The reason this isn’t a linear kind of comprehension as in distant thunder means storm is on its way even though the dog very much is feeling its approach, is that emotion is a rising and a falling phenomenon of the mind, just like the tides. So what the dog experiences on the loading up, rising, phase of an emotional experience, is mirrored on the falling phase of the emotional experience, like the rising and falling of the tides. So little by little since emotion takes so long to rise and fall as it runs through a cycle, (unlike cognitive thought processes which are instantaneous) the cogent variables in the moment become linked together as part of one emotional cycle. This is why it takes a relatively long time to condition an animal, as well as once conditioned, the conditioned response can prove to be so reliable. My basis for NDT is that if we link these variables into lessons gained via the dog’s prey drive, the lessons will be retained no-matter-what because this is the deepest and most powerful emotional cycle in the animal mind.

  13. Annie says:


  14. Ishe Boge says:

    I’m a latecomer having just found your site Kevin, and I’m intrigued by this discussion. I like your approach and I’m also a fan of Cesar’s. Drawn to both I guess because emotion (energy in motion) is something we share with animals (sentience) and maybe not plants, which are rooted to the ground. And that’s about as scientific as I get. That’s why I’m also not a big fan of clicker training. I mean, what if I lost my clicker?

    I’ve been reading your blog about dogs barking at strangers and, while there must be one, I fail to see any distinction between a dog sensing a humanoid predator(making him submissive) and prey(making him dominant). To me, you and Cesar seem to have much in common. So I’d like to add a personal observation about my energy interactions with dogs.

    My interest is tracking with dogs since I like to challenge them in their finest element. Most dogs love to track for the sheer joy of it, never mind the reward. About the only thing that would thwart my dog from staying on tracking course is coming across what I’ve come to know as a “fear” scent tunnel. That’s invariably some animal (like a rabbit) that saw us first and scarpered to hide somewhere. That fear emotion (energy in motion) still lingering in the coutryside will trigger his prey drive everytime. This is what happens when we humanoids carry some aspect of fear that dogs do pick up on. It’s also why Cesar places so much importance on us being calm and assertive. His advice, if we have some fear that we cannot process in that moment, is no touch, no eye contact and no talk.

    Man, I love dogs. They are like having your own emotional barometer on a leash.

  15. kbehan says:

    Glad to get your input and you couldn’t be more right about dog as emotional barometer, never ceases to amaze me. Also I’m not quite sure about your question so if you could reframe it I’ll be able to answer. But just to review, any being is a composite of a predatory aspect in conjunction with preyful aspects. If a predatory aspect is overwhelming, the dog becomes fearful as this disrupts emotion as a current within its body/mind and all it can do is focus on the being’s eyes (predatory aspect) and this leads to the fight/flight reflexes that are characterized by a load/overload kind of energy transfer. However, if the dog can hold onto a feeling of a pull toward preyful aspect, then it doesn’t experience an internal disconnect and the dog becomes aroused by predatory aspect as an access channel to the being’s preyful aspects (negative = access to the positive.) At this point the Drive-To-Make-Contact is initiated and depending on a dog’s temperament and specific physical memories this can come out in behaviors ranging on a spectrum from hyper-friendliness, supple/sensual calm sociability, or aggressive fighting drive, and these are characterized by a steady/state kind of energy transfer.
    In regards to tracking, the only thing that can help a dog resist the pull toward a vulnerable prey signal, is a stronger feeling and so I wonder if you have done any bite work or tug toy with your dog and if so, how does he behave in that regard?

  16. Ishe Boge says:

    Thanks Kevin. My post was really a comment and the question about losing the clicker was I guess rhetorical. 🙂

    We live in an alpine region where people sometimes get lost in the snow, which is the most difficult environments in which to keep a scent tunnel coherent to a dog. My first tracker dog wasn’t physically suitable to spend possibly hours in that kind of terrain. My current juvenile is. It’s possible that being juvenile (18 mths) is a factor in the distraction. However, I am mindful that sensing fear in the tunnel is very likely to be a component of the scent belonging to someone lost in the bush, so I’m in a bit of a dilemma about managing it without quashing it. I trust him completely with humans, he’s had no reason to fear them.

    I’ve not done any of the work you mentioned. He gives up balls, toys and bones when asked and he’s fairly balanced in all other respects. If you have any advice about my dilemma, I’d be very grateful to take it on.

  17. Ishe Boge says:

    I’m in Australia Kevin and I suspect that you will reply when I’m asleep. So before I go, let me just clarify the process in tracking. Normal training requires a partnership involving two humans, one to lay the track and hide and the other to follow the dog. The tracked human could be waiting for a long time (with a book to read) if the track is complicated. In training the emotion of fear is entirely absent. In the real life missing person situation, they may have started out fearless, enjoying the outdoor experience in a pleasant way. The markers for scent will be their own energy. As the walk progresses and they become lost, fear will become the overriding marker. This is why I am reluctant to interfere in a negative way when my dog comes across a fear tunnel we did not anticipate.

  18. kbehan says:

    This has been my experience in police work. First we trained the dogs in tracking the ground scent ala the German Schutzhund theory and method. We only used food and I never used a ball or a person as reward. I didn’t want dog looking for person, just faithful to the ground scent even though it was often the hardest to discern and the faintest scent available to him. When a tracking dog found a criminal at the end of track, he was surprised. We then doubled down on the foundation training after finding a live subject so that the dog, who had strong fighting drive, wouldn’t take to air scenting when on a track being that he was so highly motivated to hunt down criminals in the bite work. So when dog was on lead and harness, it was nose down no matter what. No compulsion, just food to prime the pump for ground scent and then giving dog harder and harder problems to solve until Drive took over. Concurrently however we also trained the dog for active air scenting/hunting for the strongest scent. We didn’t care who he found, we just wanted the dog to clear an area as quickly as possible by finding everyone therein. So when dog came across another hot scent of human, he was free to pursue that as well. This could lead us to an eyewitness so that was fine. The dog had been patterned to orbit handler and only left close orbit if he hit a really hot scent. We were working in a very suburban area with lots of roads, developments, and intermittent patches of dense woods and spacious parks. I don’t know how this translates into avalanche recovery work, but we never had problem with dogs chasing deer, rabbits or neighborhood dogs. I attribute the dogs faithfulness to their mission and the training holding up under difficult working conditions to the dog’s training for bite work (i.e. biting the sleeve as full, calm and hard as possible). The dogs that had trouble in bite work, had stamina and faithfulness issues in scent work, so I used the former to help the latter. I also think that the strong Drive for ground scent and being able to resist the air scent blowing them off the ground track, helped them to be more discriminating with the air scent so that they could resist going the path of least resistance, which the fear signal can be. So my suggestion would be to improve your dogs bite work so that he can resist more provocative scents that pull him off the desired scenting pattern. Thanks for the questions and hopes this speaks to the work you’re doing.

  19. Ishe Boge says:

    Thank you Kevin. We are not affiliated with any formal and paid authorities. In a regional area, it’s entirely up to passionate volunteers. We use SARDA guidelines and manual and weed out dogs by temperament. We also have summer mountain bikers as well as winter snow. One team inadvertently came across someone drunk sleeping it off in the bush once. What we will continue doing is finishing the tracking day back on the laid track no matter what and no matter how late it gets. That’s worked in the past. The rest is all field experience and the more of that, the better the dog.

  20. cliff says:


    I’m intrigued by the dialog(s) continued by those who are, so it seems, seeking knowledge rather than conflict. There seems to be much common ground and doors that are waiting to open. Please seriously consider a “seminar” with selected participants at NDT World Headquarters— TED for dogs. (In August, one hopes).

  21. Annie says:

    Cliff, that is a fantastic idea. I am a real fan of Also, having seen Kevin work with my dogs, and having read his book, I know other dog-owners can benefit from a presentation on NDT. It’s rather disgusting and frustrating to see the number of dog shows there are, hosted by “dog whisperers, trainers, behaviorists” etc, that have no other purpose than to entertain.

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: