In the early eighties I found myself describing certain behaviors as “electric,” as for example when a dog is defensive, fearful or hyper, bristling, tense, taut and touchy, while other behaviors I intuitively would call “magnetic,” as for example when a dog is rolling on the ground, body contacting with others, supple to the touch, or resting contentedly by hearthside. I quickly realized that electric behaviors were equivalent to a building electrostatic charge, like a thunderhead looming over a hot open plain. Sooner or later sparks were going to fly. “Problem behaviors” are electric because the dog is attempting to get this emotional charge out of its system and is in essence “blaming” the object of its attraction for its internal dilemma.
In contrast, calm behaviors were always cooperative in nature and appropriate to the context the dog was in. The run of this gamut was especially vivid in the police dogs I trained. The better they bit the sleeve, the harder they fought the criminal, the gentler they were with children, the more they loved contact with strangers and were easy to kennel in down time. Therefore if I could learn how to change a dog’s emotional state from electric to magnetic, which should be possible because in nature electromagnetism is but one phenomenon, then I could turn a “problem” behavior into an appropriate or “drive” behavior.
For this reason I realized that the fundamental problem for a dog was to “make contact” with whatever it was attracted to, because once it is emotionally grounded into this object of attraction, its emotional juices as a virtual electrical energy could flow. And in basic physics when electrical energy flows this then induces a magnetic field, and this virtual emotional magnetic field was now something the dog could socially navigate. In other words, animal magnetism didn’t stop evolving with the ability of geese to fly north or south, or salmon returning to their natal waters, it continued to evolve into social behavior. Perhaps this is why every mammal, even if it has no migratory cycle in its evolution, nonetheless has a tiny crystal of magnetite in its inner ear canal.
So when a dog feels grounded it becomes magnetically and therefore emotionally, aligned with the object of its attraction because it can feel which way points north. So I developed the jumping-up-to-make-contact technique so that a dog felt connected to its handler.
Meanwhile Operant Conditioning was hitting the marketplace and I found myself strongly resisting what it had to say since I couldn’t abide by the notion of nature as a random scattering of variables that an animal randomly makes sense of through a schedule of reinforcements. Knowing that nature and emotion were mirror templates to each other, I dug in my heels and didn’t want to use food, or perhaps only sparingly because I did make the exception with dogs that were fearful or too sensitive to want to make contact with me.
My guiding principle was that the prey instinct was the conduit for all emotion and it existed in service to the one drive, the Drive-To-Make-Contact. The prey instinct is the main pipe by which emotion moves (this is true of humans as well) and this movement is a matter of emotion as a virtual problem in electrical conductivity. A predator acquires an intense electrostatic charge, and then the prey absorbs it. However, this can simultaneously induce a virtual magnetic field so that if the prey resists being made prey on; then the predatory impulse in the predator evolves into a whole body state of sensuality, in other words, animal magnetism. Energized in this way, a dog is simultaneously informed as to how to make social contact with the object of its attraction. I wrote “Natural Dog Training” featuring the Drive-To-Make-Contact in service to the prey instinct as its overarching principle.
I have learned nothing in the meantime that contradicts that premise, however one day in the mid-nineties my understanding of animal electromagnetism made a significant improvement. I had trained a particular dog by inducing physical contact and he learned to heel, down, stay and recall and looked pretty good doing so. He became “light on the leash,” stopped jumping up on people and would settle himself when nothing was going on. Then while he was in a down/stay on the training field, I secured a particularly active dog to a post so that this dog was twenty feet or so off the path my dog in training would have to take to get to me when I called it on command.
When I called the dog, he instantly leapt into a full dead-out run, but even though he wasn’t even looking at the other dog, he couldn’t resist arcing towards him. While he was still looking and coming straight at me, there was this growing bow in the trajectory of his path. It was just as if he was a satellite almost being captured by the gravitational pull of a planet, or more precisely, a steel projectile being influenced by a powerful magnetic field it was trying to pass through. The dog never actually made contact with the distracting dog since his “emotional velocity” to get to me remained intense, but his drive was clearly bent.
It wasn’t that I had never seen such a deflection of behavior before, but what struck me now was the involuntary nature of what was happening to him. He was trying to come to his name, but it was as if he had to fight through this invisible field of energy that surrounded the other dog. And if I had a way to measure it in terms of the dog’s perceptions, I know the strength of the field would be inversely proportional to the distance from the source, just like a real magnetic field.
From this observation, I next realized that while I had built up an enormous electric charge between me and the dog, nevertheless my “magnetic field” must not be as strong as the other dog’s, which made total sense to me since I am an upright human being with a predominant predatory aspect, as opposed to a more prey-like animal such as a four-legged bouncing, barking dog. The training dog would play with me, but I had to concede now that he really wasn’t “making-prey” with me as a police dog in training would be.
So I finally began to turn to food in earnest because hunger is the only way available to us by which we can turn electricity, which is generated by the neurological circuits dedicated to the sense of balance, into magnetism, which is generated by the neurological circuits dedicated to the sense of hunger. (This is why working with prey objects was so powerful because obviously the prey instinct/drive is the confluence of the balance and hunger circuitry into one composite value. Thus the predator can compute the movements of the prey and intercept it.) By focusing exclusively on the hunger circuitry I wouldn’t be simultaneously invoking the balance circuitry and therefore inadvertently reinforcing whatever emotional values had built up in the dog’s mind over the years.
But I want to point out that I still wasn’t using food as a reward. Rather I was trying to increase the dog’s perception of me in a magnetic sense. While at first this distinction might not seem worth making, it ultimately factors out to be of overwhelming significance. I wasn’t using food as a reward because I wasn’t giving it to the dog to encourage him to perform an obedience behavior. I wasn’t after obedience, I was after something else.
During this time I was also giving a lot of thought to what I came to call the “emotional battery.” In other words, the canine mind wasn’t a straightforward electrical switch. It was a circuit capable of regenerating itself and so canine consciousness has a means of internalizing and storing energy so that it is available for later use when in a time of greatest need. For example, it doesn’t do any good to have wind turbines generating energy if there isn’t some means of storing the energy for peak load times or for when the wind isn’t blowing. Therefore the dog’s energy cycles through its emotional battery.
This emotional battery is “formatted” in that it is composed of layers of stress, physical memories of states of attraction that didn’t come to fruition because the resistance encountered was too intense for the individual’s capacity to overcome at that time. Any given layer of stress corresponds to the degree of intensity that caused it to be internalized and stored in the first place. This is the basis of canine memory. (The emotional battery determines its perceptions of things. In other words a dog doesn’t experience the world directly, first its battery is triggered, then it feels, and then it experiences the world, indirectly.)
The most important understanding of the emotional battery is that this latent energy was only triggered and available when that specific and originating degree of intensity was encountered again, but now with this stored reserve available to draw on, the individual could pack a bigger emotional punch and this “new energy” allowed it to make contact with the object-of-resistance. The trigger doesn’t have to be the exact same stimulus, just the exact same degree of intensity.
Of particular interest to me was the deepest layer in the battery that had been caused by the most intense experiences, what I came to call the last .01% because so many of my clients would say to me “99.9% of the time my dog listens to me.” I realized the truth was that when that last .01% was triggered and came to the surface, not only was this behavior likely to be explosive since it had to burst through so many layers of inhibition, but in these instances the dog never ever listens to its owner.
Ultimately, this came to mean that I had to gain access to this last .01% by offering the dog a high degree of resistance in order to trigger the deepest layer in its battery. Once the dog overcomes the resistance I’m offering, he is immediately inspired to align with me, which is in the final analysis is how the emotional battery computes for cooperative behavior in a wolf pack on the hunt, or when a working dog is in drive.
This deepest layer in the battery is like a master valve. And when those oldest, deepest, virtual electrons flow, the dog experiences a whole body state of magnetism and cannot resist the magnetic field it feels toward the object of resistance. So if a dog pushes into me with all its might, I am using hunger to turn stored electricity into an active state of magnetism. In the dog’s mind an object of resistance becomes is new true north.
I developed the pushing technique because in dog training, just making contact isn’t enough. A dog has to make contact with its owner with that last .01%. The truth is that if we don’t have 100% of a dog’s energy, we’re in control of nothing.
Keep On Pushing!
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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin BehanIn 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.