Heart To Heart: Stories of Transformation

In “Your Dog Is Your Mirror” I observe that everything we say about dogs, that they are faithful, devoted, courageous, steadfast, persistent, we likewise say about heart as well. In short we say that dogs are all heart because we know that dogs are heart, from the lion hearts to the soft hearts. However the ways of the heart are all its own, heart knows no reason, it cannot be tamed, conditioned, desensitized, trained or dominated. This site is dedicated to learning these ways and I believe that any step taken in that direction, no matter how small, can ultimately lead to amazing transformations in both dog and human. If a reader would like to contribute such a story, please feel free here however the story need not be a grand “Ta Da” epic of arrival. Rather, I think those first inklings and the sense of awakening to the nature of the dog are especially valuable for each of us in our own particular journey back to the ways of our heart.

Published December 22, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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32 responses to “Heart To Heart: Stories of Transformation”

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you, sensai. This is just perfect♥

  2. PHYLLIS says:

    Thanks Mr. Behan. GREAT!

  3. DaveD says:

    Merle’s Door is a powerhouse tribute to what a fully actualized dog and dog to human relationship can be.

  4. kbehan says:

    Then let’s nominate it for the next book of the month selection after Masson. It’s got my vote.

  5. Crystal says:

    Excellent. I took a look and want to to read it anyway. Thx DaveD.

  6. Christine says:

    So…this is a small story, no Ta-Da here. Duncan has always been food-treat-toy aggressive/possessive. When this is triggered in him there is no warning; it’s explosive and I have to get physical with him to get his attention and redirect. The other day, he and Diva were anxiously (as always) waiting for dinner(Bode too but he’s learned to keep a safe distance from them). Usually, Duncan and Diva are sitting side-by-side; Duncan sits quietly waiting to be let in while Diva stands on her hind legs acting like she’s about to die from hunger! lol

    This time, when Diva came up to take her usual place beside Duncan he went off on her; throwing himself into her, biting at her and making some very angry sounds. I couldn’t step in as there was a physical barrier separating us so I said “Back-Off!” and he did‼ That is a BIG first. From my frame of reference it’s pretty big as I usually don’t exist when he goes off, but this time he responded positively to a verbal command with no physical contact… period. I was pretty amazed and so proud of Duncan…so he of course got to eat first and some well-deserved praise. No time for a rub-a-dub as I still had 2 dogs to feed.

    Just had to share with those who care♥

  7. Sang says:

    Very cool Christine! And thanks for sharing. Always great to hear what other people are experiencing.

    That’s similar to what I’ve experienced with my dogs too, as far as the fighting thing goes. Jackie and Roxy used to get into some wicked fights, and all I could do was pull them apart to stop it, hopefully not getting bit in the process. They would just get totally tuned out. But now, for one thing, a fight is extremely rare. But when it does happen, it’s just a lot of noise and they get themselves out of it without me having to do anything. In other words, I don’t have to manage them anymore the way I used to before NDT.

    Also, and this is such a small thing but a really interesting phenomena. Roxy has always been a very pushy dog. She’s a terrier after all. She would push aside any other dog or cat that was at the water bowl, so she could get her water. It was as if the other animals just didn’t exist. So the interesting thing is that when we were at Kevin’s farm, we had come in after a working session and we were giving the dogs some water. Normally Roxy would have charged through the other dogs to get her water first, but this time, instead of pushing through everyone, she actually stood there and waited her turn. It was actually pretty shocking to see that.

  8. Christine says:

    Thanks Sang…my Diva is a pushy broad. She’ll stand over Bodie while he’s enjoying a bone (and I mean she really hovers there). He pretty much ignores her and will get up and move, get up and move, get up and move…until finally he just lets her take it. And she’s the same at the water dish as Roxy.

    Today was another similar incident between Duncan and Diva. They are all pretty excited when I get home and it takes a minute for them to settle. In the fray, Diva must’ve nipped Duncan because I heard him yip as he was jumping out the door. As soon as his feet hit the ground he turned and snarked on her. They were both reared up on their hind legs with front legs over the others shoulders, face-to-face, snarling and snapping. I told them to back-off a couple of times and they did.

    There’s some bad blood between them from when I first adopted Diva. Duncan had a real hard time having her inside the house and eating. The first two weeks were touch-and-go to say the least as Duncan frequently would attack her, unprovoked (usually after she’d eaten). I’m wondering if they’ll have to have a knock-down, drag-out fight to get it all out and over with!

  9. kbehan says:

    The important thing is to keep softening them, and trigger their battery as needed. For if they were to have a knock down drag out fight, they will achieve stasis between themselves if one is the clear winner, but even so they will become more touchy in other areas. E–>UE–>RE through the power of synchronization. Keep On Pushing!

  10. Crystal says:

    Congrats Christine, so glad you made it to alpha. Just kidding.

    Good to hear of your progress.

    Kevin could you say more about being touchy in other areas if they fought it out?

    There is a dog that Bea had “words” with on the trail about the other dog’s ball. I saw her getting ready to fight as the other dog rightly so tried to take her ball back. To me this dog felt equal to Bea in her tenacity and intensity so they were actually taking their time and arguing. No physical touching, lots of dekeing with the ball, trying to get it back, lots of posturing. I stepped in and told Bea to drop the ball which she did and I gave the ball to the other dog. Well Bea was pissed and had a few things to say that weren’t very nice, the other dog dropped the ball and they were about to go when I stepped in between them and shooed Bea back and told her to chill. Which she did. It didn’t take much from me.

    The owner of the other dog suggested I let the dogs work/fight it out between them. She sensed they would not take long and it would all be fine, but though I thought she was probably right in that it would not escalate into anything dangerous, I said that I wanted Bea to take her cues from me, not other dogs and that it was important especially if we met a really aggressive dog. The dogs continued the walk just fine. No more ball stealing and lots of close contact with each other. Running and hunting, etc.

  11. Sang says:

    I posted this over at Neil’s forum, but I wanted to share it here too.

    I speak often about my troubled dog Roxy. She is the one who brought me to NDT, and has occupied most of my time and energy. However, I rarely talk about my other dogs, because for the most part, they occupy the background of my life. But I wanted to share a NDT success story about my girl Jackie.

    Years ago, during my dominance period, we used to live next to a house that was also occupied by 2 Chihuahuas. Every day they would come outside and bark at us through the fence. They put such a charge into Jackie towards small dogs, that this all started building up and manifesting itself when Jackie started lunging at and attacking smaller dogs. Basically any dog smaller than her, she’d be on them. She also became very reactive to all dogs. Pile the stress of the dominance stuff on top of that, and it was inevitable.

    So tonight a friend of ours moved into our place for a while. With her she brought her small dog Kamala. We went through the whole process of introducing Roxy to her, but I won’t get into that since this isn’t about her. Once it was Jackie’s turn to meet her, I assumed that Jackie was going to have a BIG charge towards Kamala. The reason I believed that is because I actually haven’t introduced Jackie to ANY new dogs since the time I spent with Kevin in Vermont, over a year and a half ago. Now, any trainer or behaviorist would have told me that I needed to “socialize” Jackie around dogs, especially small dogs, either rewarding her to make the experience “positive”, or correcting her for acting up if you subscribe to the dominance school of thought. Well, I didn’t do any of that. All I’ve done with her this past year and a half is pushing and bite work at high levels of intensity. Just her and me, without ever bringing her around any other dogs. And this is how Jackie’s introduction to Kamala played out tonight…..

    My wife Amanda was pushing and playing tug with Jackie outside. I had Kamala on leash and brought her over. Even though Jackie was aware of Kamala’s presence, she was laser focused on Amanda, pushing and biting. Even when there was a pause in the action, and Kamala was up close and smelling her, Jackie kept her laser focus on Amanda, not even turning to look at Kamala, a dog she has never met before this moment. Now, in the past, before NDT, she would have been on Kamala and would have “attacked” her at the mere sight of her. They were then ready to walk together, and we all went for a nice walk, with Jackie and Kamala walking along together as if they were old friends.

    So then I put Jackie back in the house, and then we brought Kamala in a bit later. When Kamala came in the house, Jackie was totally cool with her. Again, just as if she had been living with Kamala her entire life. I mean, I know that NDT works. I’m a huge supporter of it. I understand the theory and the model, but there are times like this that still surprise me when it all comes together. As I’m watching Jackie and Kamala interact, I’m just thinking to myself, “Wow, WHAT is going on? This is NOT how this is supposed to be playing out. Nothing is happening. How is that possible?”

    With so much of my time, focus, and energy on Roxy, it’s very easy for me to forget and not see how far my other dogs have come. Jackie doesn’t get much of my time and energy, yet she has had these major shifts that go unnoticed until something like tonight comes along that allows me to see it. Again, I haven’t “socialized” her around any dogs since starting NDT, yet she has become more social around other dogs.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share this with everyone, since it’s always nice to hear everyone’s little successes. In the words of Kevin, “Keep on pushing!”

  12. Christine says:

    Thanks for the reminder Sang…I’ll have to repost these on Neil’s forum as well. I’m not in the habit of posting there yet.

    Thanks also for sharing your ‘small’ successes. They add a much-needed layer and depth for me with my three. There’s much I can draw from your experiences.

    Kevin, by softening and triggering their battery you are referring to the pushing exercise, yes? Or are these two different concepts? I’m a slow learner who requires a plethora of repetitions! lol

  13. Ben says:

    Very cool Sang — good example of network consciousness and how healing one “part” of the system can affect the entirety. It amazes me as my dog heals how it produces changes within myself as well (and vice versa).

    Christine — Sounds like they need to BITE, and that the bite needs to come from waaay down deep in their emotional battery.. in other words the bite needs to come from the same stuff that’s brought up when they have their scuffles. I think that’s how true healing and softening happens — pushing and barking get everything open and ready to be channeled, but the bite is the only thing that will bring it to true resolution. At least that’s how I understand it!!

  14. Christine says:

    Thanks for the input Ben, makes sense…should it be in a particular context? For example, can it be one-on-one out in the back yard or should they be together with one posted-up or some such while the other one bites?

    btw…it’s nice to have suggestions from someone other than Kevin (not an insult) as it puts the same info in another frame of reference, which enhances digestibility. It’s all good‼♥

  15. Sang says:

    Hey Christine, I agree with what Ben is saying. Duncan and Diva need to bite. Once you can get them to invest all their energy into the bite, they won’t feel such a need to take it out on each other. Right now they’ve become attuned to each other as the way to dissipate the charge they’re both holding. So as strange as it may sound, their entire existence is based around the times they’ll get to go at each other. So letting them get into an all out fight would actually just make that charge to each other stronger. Once you can recreate the levels of intensity they feel when they get into scraps with each other, only channel that energy into the bite, then they’ll start to retune themselves and wait for the bite instead of waiting to take it out on each other.

    You can start one on one with them to prime them and get them used to biting. But once they become acclimated to it, getting the 2 of them outside together and posting them both up at the same time, opposite to each other, is going to really help. They’ll feed off each other’s energy making more available to you to channel into the bite, which will let them dig even deeper into the battery.

  16. Christine says:

    Sounds like a plan Sang, thanks for the tweak!

  17. sylvia spain says:

    hi, folks, this is a great discussion. Some of you may recall I had a little incident with my big dog, Minky, in November. I was just recovering from abdominal surgery and decided (because I didn’t want to be pulled around on the end of the lease – ow!)to let Mink and my other little dog, Mercedes, the black lab-bassett, romp around the yard loose. They were having a great game of tag and tug when some folks walked by on the road with their dog on leash – and both my dogs ran out to the road and in 2 seconds flat, Mink and this other dog were in a major snark. I ran out and separated the dogs – a mere touch on my dog’s collar and we were running backwards and away from the other dog. The fight was immediately off for Mink even tho the other dog was still lunging forward, barking and snarling pretty ferociously. Anyway, I deposited Minky in his crate without really looking at him and ran out to the road to inspect the other dog and make sure she (a yellow lab) was okay. She was shaking but unscathed. SO, a snark, not a dangerous fight. I talked with the other people and did my best to soothe and discuss what had happened here. It took longer to calm the people than their dog. Then when I went back in the house I discovered that Minky had sustained some pretty heavy damage. Numerous deep puncture wounds to the muzzle and ear and top of head and he had a big flap of skin hanging down under his eye. He had to go to the vet and get stitches and drains put it. As I’ve thought about this incident since then I realized that NDT really saved my dog’s life. All the pushing and tug I had done – even with the disruption of my cancer and surgery – had tapped into and drained the emotional battery sufficiently that when another dog grabbed his face and began to rip and tear, Minky’s only response was to pin her and SHOUT at her, biting at the air, not biting her. Talk about Getting the Bite Out! I realize now that for my dog to have engaged that other dog in a real, damaging fight would be like the wolf engaging and making prey on a strong young moose – there is so much resistance in a deep body sense, that to overcome that resistance and engage at that perilous level, my dog or the hypothetical wolf would have to have a lot of stored stress/energy to over come the resistance.
    Am I making any sense at all?
    Since then Minky and I have met this dog again (on leash!) and I am happy to say I got Minky referencing his gut, pushing into me pretty powerfully and then put him in an energized focussed-on-me down-stay (on leash!) whilst this poor yellow lab lunged and barked and tried desperately to drag her owner across the street for engagement the only way she knows how.
    Hey, I know Minky is powerfully Attractive to this other dog, and the more her owner hauled back on the leash, the more the little yellow lab Wanted Minky. Mink behaved like a champ, good as gold.

  18. Christine says:

    Fabulous Sylvia‼ 🙂 I too am struggling with health issues and am not able to do much with pushing/tugging so your experience gives me hope that all is not lost; the work I’ve done in the past is sticking as evidenced by recent incidents. Not only that but the energy seems to be continuously changing/redirecting on its own in my (physical) absence. I hope to be able to do some bite work with D n’ D this weekend (separately of course).
    And YES, you make perfect sense. Sometimes the student restating the teacher’s words in another way is just the ticket for clarification. Thank You ♥

  19. kbehan says:

    Very good job Sylvia. This is why it’s so important not to let two dogs work it out if there’s potential for real harm because even if they have a fight that’s severe enough to settle things between them, this stasis is only good BETWEEN THEM. When they see other dogs, their nervous threshold is lowered as the dog has to push the other dog down in order to feel in stasis. So we don’t want our dogs orienting from balance, but from hunger for flow. A strong natured dog like Minky will actually take the shot without responding in kind because when you do this work he’s still able to feel the flow of being in sync with something, in this case you. What’s really amazing is that as Minky’s threshold to other dogs is raised, he actually gives you credit as being his ground and the strength of his attraction to you becomes enhanced, which is why he was able to be calm around dog on next outing. Also note how the other dog’s threshold was lowered so she’s becoming more and more hysterical toward dogs. Finally, when Minky is fully calmed, he’ll be able to size up a dog at a distance and say in effect, “Why would I want to stick my wet nose into that hot socket?”
    What a dog and Keep On Pushing!

  20. Crystal says:

    Hey all great stories!! So glad you posted.

    Very cool Sang that the work you did in the past allowed such good relations for Jackie in the present.

    Sylvia, how wonderful is it that you get to see your work paying off and while you have full view of what opposite actually looks like. Perhaps your neighbor might wonder why that is!!

    Sounds like I need to do more bite work and pushing with Bea.

  21. Donnie_O says:

    Over the last year-and-a-bit of practicing NDT, I’ve seen some very profound changes in my dog. The biggest challenge I’ve had since rescuing her two years ago is her intense attraction to squirrels. Before NDT, I would correct her if she was on-leash and even looked at a squirrel, and if she was off-leash and saw a squirrel she would be off in a flash and at times it would take up to half an hour to get her back. When I first started practicing NDT my first step in tackling this problem was to get her to feel comfortable around me when she saw a squirrel, so anytime we were on our walk and saw one we would chase it together. Over the past year we have worked on getting her bite and bark out and now when she sees a squirrel, she’ll give a bark or two and fly to me for a push. However, the big success happened last week when we were on our way back from the park after a very intense pushing session. A squirrel darted up a power pole right in front of us, and Jinxsie gave it absolutely no mind whatsoever. She was completely unfazed by it. Just for good measure, I got her to speak and give me a hup but she didn’t need it. That was the moment that I’ve been waiting for, for two years. 🙂

    Another little success I experienced today: Jinxsie has a fear of walking over sidewalk grates. She usually jumps over the two that are outside our house. I really haven’t done a lot of work to resolve this (a little bit of pushing around them at the most), thinking that through the pushing it would eventually take care of itself. Well today, for the very first time, she walked over one of them without issue. She jumped over the next one, but I still consider this a success.

  22. sylvia spain says:

    Hi Christine, and all,
    I find that even on a bad chemo day – ugh – I can do some pushing out in the driveway (less snow) maybe just for 5 minutes if it’s really cold out, and that keeps that channel open between us.

    For cold weather pushing, I like to use these Wells Lamont rubberized winter gloves. They are thin enough to be able to handle treats out of my pouch without fumbling too bad and are also super grippy so you don’t fumble the leash or long rope. Drawbacks : they’re latex which might give some an allergic reaction, and they really aren’t going to keep your hands warm on a long winter walk.

    And yah! Donnie-O for becoming the Squirrel.

  23. Christine says:

    It seems to me that every little success we note and are pleased with resonates out and connects with the recipient (in this case Jinxie) and builds on the foundation in the right (NDT) way. So kudos and a well done, too!♥

  24. AZStu says:

    Been reading this comment section and am inspired by everyone’s stories. NDT has helped me so much to learn about the subtle nuances of a dogs behavior that I haven’t seen written about anywhere else. This lets me see success where traditional methods might see failure. When I worked at a dog day care, there was one dog who had the most joyous bark when he wanted a treat, his head would toss back and he would shout to the sky. Well, today I was working in the car with Bootsy by a dog park and right before my eyes I would watch her get tense, puff up, growl and bark very aggressively. Instead of a reprimand, would I would have done prior to NDT, I just “conducted” her barking and soon enough, this SAME joyous bark of the hound began to spontaneously emerge from her and I could see her switching from balance to hunger. Pretty cool.

  25. Christine says:

    Yes, pretty cool. So glad you shared your “little” success!♥

  26. Crystal says:

    AZStu your post inspired me to try this more with my pups and I have to say that after a few days of doing this consistently when they bark at someone outside passing on the street while they are in the lvgroom which they only do on certain days (haven’t figured that out yet) they are both quieting down within a very short time and getting very waggy tailed/body about it.

    I actually called Speak from the office today when I heard them and they both came running, barking all the way down the hall, sat and “spoke” some more on command. Big rubs and much cooing.

    So thx for posting and congrats.

  27. Christine says:

    I just had to share this with all of you and ask for Kevin’s insight as to the inner workings of this scenario; it really is an amazing story (BTW – it’s not my story):

    I Didn’t Expect That
    Okay, something fun that I have to share with you. I saw something yesterday that made me laugh and then learn and then be amazed. Very amazed. A man was walking with his dog, a Jack Russell. I watched and began to giggle. After a bit I followed, my mouth open in amazement and one foot in front of the other. I watched as the man sped up and slowed down again, his head leaning slightly forward as he slowed. He’d speed up, his head coming up, he’d slow down, his head would start to sag forward. As if he were sleep walking. Every time he would start to slow down, the dog would reach over and grab his pant leg and shake it with a mighty shake, the dog’s back legs coming off the ground. The man would speed up and the dog’s nose went forward again in a perfect heel. Over and over. Dog trains man, right? That’s what I thought at first, too. Then I realized that more than that was happening. I followed. Finally the man turned and looked at me. He smiled and I walked up to him. He said, “Not many people follow me. They usually think I’m nuts and go the other way.” I replied, “At first I thought your dog was misbehaving and I was going to help, I’m a dog trainer. Then I realized that something else was going on. Would you share with me?”

    “I sleep walk,” he said. “I have a form of Narcolepsy and I fall asleep. Jeff wakes me up so I don’t fall down and hurt myself. Thanks for asking about it. It’s so nice to talk to somebody who cares. It scares most of the people I know. I’ll be in the middle of something and off I go, sound asleep, falling on the ground. They’re afraid of Jeff because he’s protective of me, they think he might bite.” (An aside here…Jeff didn’t seem to notice me at all. I didn’t try to pet him and he didn’t ask for my attention, I could have been invisible.)

    The man and I shared a cup of coffee and talked. Jeff woke him 6 times in about 60 minutes. Each time Jeff put everything he had into waking up his man, shaking the pant leg and wagging his tail like crazy. Then he sat and for all intents and purposes didn’t seem to be watching for any troubles at all. He looked like a bored dog until his job needed him, then when his man would fall asleep, there he was again, all teeth and wags. One time when the man fell asleep and woke up, the man looked at me and grinned, his blue eyes sparkling, “What did I miss?” I belly laughed and he did, too. What a great sense of humor. He said that I should tell you that many men sleep walk through life, at least he has a good reason. And I laughed again. Before we parted he said, “Yes, you can write about me because it’s a pretty good story but please don’t tell anyone my name or where I live. I’ll hold you to it. Life is pretty good. I have to buy new pants every once in a while but Jeff keeps me walking and waking. I don’t know where I’d be without this dog.”

  28. Annie says:

    That is both funny and touching; I’m glad you shared it.

  29. Lacey says:

    Can you hear me belting out HALLELUJAH from my roof-top? 🙂 Lou is now a “safe” dog around adults – strangers, vet techs, everyone, even in my house. You have no idea what a relief this is.

    Lou’s “manners” are not always appreciated by strangers – he greets them by “hupping” up on them. I ask people to ask Lou to speak but most of the time they just give him the treat when he hups on them. I’m happy we’re making positive social contact 🙂

    Lou and I were celebrating with a game of fetch-push-tug yesterday in a field when a UPS truck drove by and Lou chased the truck….(ok, so we still have a LOT of work to do). The driver stopped the truck for me to grab him but before I reached the them Lou was already IN the truck saying hi to the driver… and not with his teeth 🙂 Lou’s previous SOP was to bite and tug the shoes and pant hems of everyone…especially if he chased them down. Lou was in the truck, looking rather confused because the “thing” that he was chased was apparently not what he expected it to be when he reached it. “Wait! I was chasing a BIG BROWN MOOSE but this is just a human….” The UPS driver said he gets chased by a dog 20x a day. What is it about that UPS truck???

    If I had had my wits about me I could have yelled “READY!” and Lou would have turned to me instead of chasing the truck. Or I could have yelled “DOWN!” and he would have either dropped to his belly or run back to me and then dropped to his belly. But, my anxiety took over and I froze. I need more pushing and more bite work to work through the rest of my anxieties….

    Lou has also recently discovered squirrels and birds. Granted, I do not want Lou to be squirrel/bird obsessed and I don’t let him hunt them. But I see it as a big healthy step forward that they are now on his radar. He’s a cocker – birds and squirrels are supposed to turn him on, but until recently his fears/anxiety was blocking or blinding it. Until yesterday, Lou and I hadn’t played fetch for 6 months because I want him to chase ME and hunt ME. But, WOW what an improvement the NDT has made in his “hunting” abilities. I use a Chuck-it to throw the ball a looong way so many of Lou’s fetches were blind retrieves – he had to look/sniff for the ball. For the first time EVER Lou did what a cocker is supposed to do: quartered the field, used his nose, focused on the task (ignoring deer tracks) and stayed out there until he found the ball and then bring it all the way back to me. As he got close I ran away from him yelling ‘ready” and he chased me for push/tug. It was so much fun!

    The work/play continues – we have not “arrived” yet. After a few minutes of push, bite and some panic work, he’s supple around strange dogs – behind a chain link fence… I’m not ready to take the next step, yet. And, given the opportunity, Lou would still chase down and tackle children. But, I am so proud of my big-hearted dog! He has done so much of the hard work of healing! And I’m so excited for the world to meet the dogthat I’ve known all along – silly, calm Lou.

  30. Sang says:

    Wow, that is awesome Lacey! Go Lou! So great to hear of your progress. I know it’s been quite a long road for you, but you kept the faith and kept on pushing. We all share in your joy. 🙂

  31. Christine says:

    Great news, Lacey! And now we do the Dance of Joy!! 😀 I’m right there with you, sistah, with the “lost moment” of having the presence of mind to shout “Ready” before he’s off to the races Ha-Ha. I rarely have the presence of mind to avert/interrupt such occasions. It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone in my deficits…so thank you for sharing ~ smiling. I agree with Sang, we all share your joy.

  32. Rosie says:

    Well done Lacey, really pleased for you and Lou!

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