John’s Question about Growling

John’s Question:

“So …when a dog is growling he’s not digesting , the incoming information is not making is way through the pipe to where it is grounded in its gut , it’s all stuck in it’s head , I was mistakingly under the impression the pipe (mind/body) was flow out , the idea of flow (information) just been stuck in the head , jaws , make the fear biter easier to understand, the pressure build up needing release. In the fear biter , is the snap or bite a slight connection to the gut or is it still all in the head , I know it’s a release of pressure but it is an oral impulse which comes from the gut , ??thanks”


To understand growling, we have to approach it from the perspective of emotional conductivity, which is predicated on the mechanics of locomotion. Hopefully the following pictures will save a few thousand words.

To review, pure emotional conductivity is manifested on the most basic level as unencumbered physical motion. In a physical setting that is emotionally conductive, the dog is free to bound at full speed toward what he wants, a prey object he wants in his mouth. In this modality there is input commensurate with output, total flow. The dog is both projecting and collecting itself at full strength.




We can see in the sequence below that this wave dynamic is characterized, and executed, by three distinct pulses of strong muscle contractions, the propulsive force of the hind muscles, the planting of the rigid forequarters which thus serves as a pole vault to transmit thrust forward even faster, and then this sequence of strides culminates with the prey object gripped in the jaws with a crushing bite. There are three points of physical and hence emotional leverage. The acceleration of being attracted to something reaches culmination in the mouth.


image-9 copy



A dog associates its physical center-of-gravity with an object of attraction, and it also associates the muscle tension that configures the body around the physical center-of-gravity moving through the body, with an object of attraction as well. P-cog, tension and object of attraction all become synonymous as features of a smooth wave function of running toward what the dog wants. The tension that travels through the body as a wave ultimately meets with the actual object in the jaws. In other words, the projected p-cog connects with the real p-cog, in the mouth. This physical memory of the wave pattern is held in the heart and is keyed to the breath so that a dog can feel free and in the flow, even when not moving. In such a state, even a physical compressed situation can evoke the feeling of being emotionally conductive. This for example is what we observed in the Malinois being worked at Von Liche Kennels when thrown about the culvert while on the helper’s back. It always could perceive prey, and so it always bit harder when experiencing “turbulence” and it was energized by these so called “negatives” rather than inhibited which is why its body was always supple rather than tense. The root of this wave is derived from a subliminal beam of attention continually grounded in its gut and sustaining that smooth wave action. This is continually maintained by processing stimuli through the hunger circuitry as the dog comports through a sequence of actions. In this modality, balance serves as a tuning metric rather than as an inhibitor and/or an on/off switch.

When attracted and feeling in the flow the three main regions (hips/shoulders/jaws) are supple voids awaiting their turn for contraction, in other words, the muscle groups are relaxed and poised to receive the intense contractive impulse when it arrives as the smooth wave pattern moves through the body. The dog feels open and loose in its hind end, shoulders and jaws and this is reflected in an overall supple, fluid body mechanics, as each body region is prepared to pulse in rhythm with the the p-cog/tension in motion. The dog associates the wave moving through its body as culminating with an object in its mouth so that the supple body state in a smooth rhythmic pulse, is synonymous with having something in its mouth and with a strong subliminal beam of attention fixated in the deep gut. The subliminal beam of attention in the gut, being processed by the hunger circuitry, brings the physical memory of having something in the mouth to the surface and sustains the dog through complex series of actions even when it doesn’t have something in its mouth. Feeling emotionally conductive is a predictor that it will have something in its mouth to redress the void in its gut and which generates the feeling of being grounded during the course of a complex action that can play out over a very long period of time.





On the other hand, the opposite of emotional conductivity, is resisting forward motion because of the loss of the subliminal fixation on the gut. This brings the balance circuitry to the forefront rather than its being subsumed into a tuning metric within the hunger circuitry. The dog is only projecting, not collecting, it is actively pushing back rather than absorbing and this cuts off a subliminal beam of fixation on the gut.


image-25In this instance, the force of attraction is experienced as a force of acceleration because the dog does not perceive a preyful aspect but rather is focused on a predatory aspect. The dog counteracts that force of propulsion (supplied by physical memory) by focusing his subliminal beam and muscle energy on his forequarters in order to resist forward motion.

Growling, below, is the exact same mechanical dynamic as the above, but in this case the loci of the counter acting exertion is the muzzle rather than the forequarters, and this is because the knot of tension has slipped forward to the jaws. The heart was not strong enough to hold it back. By growling the dog is resisting forward motion from its muzzle, by exerting leverage from this point as opposed to its forequarters because the tension of propulsion has gotten past the forequarters and is leaking from the muzzle. For example we might observe a dog walking toward something and yet incongruently, growling. This condition has been grossly misinterpreted in behaviorism.




Growling is merely changing the loci of the subliminal beam of attention as a last stop measure of exerting a force of resistance. The dog is attempting to resist the entry of any more force of acceleration (by pushing back from its muzzle) from entering his body. The dog is pushing subliminally against his jaw in order to keep from bursting into motion toward something that can’t absorb its momentum because it can’t perceive its preyful aspect. Were it to break down and then bite, this would be characterized by a load/overload, electrostatic nature, typically with much noise, but in that act of opening the jaws then the body/mind as a pipe does let in some essence and so a little bit of hunger would be evoked and the dog would feel better and this short lived relief is all it can learn. (This is why for some dogs getting a snark or even a bite out, then makes it possible for them to socially interact with another dog. All of a sudden it can perceive a preyful aspect and its subliminal beam of attention takes station in the gut and now it is grounded and feels safe.) The overwhelming aspects of stress relief would be the predominant aspect of the experience and we would observe the dog to be enervated and depleted after such an episode. For example the exact opposite of the dogs doing man work at the Von Liche Kennels who always wanted more no matter how tired they were or how much stress came their way.


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Published September 7, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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11 responses to “John’s Question about Growling”

  1. Steve says:

    “The dog is pushing subliminally against his jaw in order to keep from bursting into motion toward something that can’t absorb its momentum because it can’t perceive its preyful aspect.”

    Could you clarify which “it” is which please Kevin? Do you mean –

    “The dog is pushing subliminally against his jaw in order to keep from bursting into motion toward something that can’t absorb its (the dog’s) momentum because it (the dog) can’t perceive its (the attractive objects) preyful aspect?”
    “The dog is pushing subliminally against his jaw in order to keep from bursting into motion toward something that can’t absorb its (the dog’s) momentum because it (the attractive object) can’t perceive its (the dog’s) preyful aspect?”

    I ask because twice now, when my rescue staffie’s been excited and licked my face, his intensity rises rapidly to the point a few small growls have come out, right in my face. I ended the situation both times by getting up off my knees quietly while continuing to stroke him (in a way that i could deflect him if he did lunge or snap), and then getting him to push . Both times I’ve felt a snap or eruption was only a few seconds off.

    Is this because while he’s attracted to me, I’m still too predator-like for him, so the longer he licks, the more the momentum & pressure builds? Or is it because he feels I’m not absorbing his momentum, maybe through my body language. I think it’s the former, but would appreciate your view.

  2. kbehan says:

    Sorry for the vague wording.

    The dog (dog A) is pushing against his jaw in order to keep from bursting into motion toward something that can’t absorb dog A’s momentum because dog A can’t perceive a preyful aspect in the other being, given that dog A is preoccupied with the predatory aspect of said Being.

    Because you are face to face, the dog ends up losing a feeling for your preyful aspect (thus losing the feeling of grounding/safety and in response its DIS begins to come up to the surface to maintain contact). He’s licking in order to keep the feeling of grounding, but the more excited he gets, which is akin to a driver having their foot on the gas pedal, then your predatory aspect gets all the more intense in his perception of you, and this intensity rekindles physical memories of having been corrected. So DIS has that pain memory to go through in order to keep the flow going, and the body begins to relive that pain memory and so the dog is feeling that you are about to correct him. The dog then tries to push back (this is why people feel an urge to slap someone who is in their face) by exerting subliminal tension on his muzzle, hence the growl, as he doesn’t want to be accelerated out of his body. So he’s losing his feeling for you and hence for the feeling that you are absorbing his momentum. He is beginning to see his original owner in you and then his body will indeed act instinctively to an impending crash just as a car driver grabs the wheel and slams on the brakes when they become frightened by too much acceleration.

    Good job for getting out of the impasse but please note I don’t recommend face licking sessions, most especially with damaged dogs. I recommend instead you put your affection in terms of physical sensual touch, hands on rub-a-dubs connecting his front end to his hind end through your touch via deep, laminar strokes, rather than head-on-head pressure inducing (static-electric like) interactions that renders a hyper-vibratory body mechanics.

  3. Steve says:

    Thank you for the clarification, confirmation, and elaboration (!) on what I thought was happening. The analogy makes perfect sense,I could tell when he “stopped” licking me & was licking ‘someone else’. It was an interesting experience (albeit an unnerving one for half a second) as I could see/feel it rising in him.
    Thankfully I was aware enough to prevent it intensifying, in future I’ll be aware enough to prevent it from beginning. I’m aware face to face is a basic no-no with dogs, but I can appreciate your stance on face licking a little bit more now. Having previously owned the most placid ridgeback girl from a pup to 15 year old who might have been allowed the odd lick now & then 🙂 I guess it was complacency on my part, especially as he’s been doing so well since starting NDT 3 months ago.
    I can also now appreciate, through NDT, that the rescue kennels comments of ‘bad with other dogs but good with people’ are with best intentions, but misguided. Stress is stress! He’s come a long way since learning about NDT but it shows that there’s still plenty more grounding to be done with him to empty his battery.
    Thanks again.

  4. boris says:

    On a similar note, if the dog starts growling during tug, do we want to move away and become more prey-like, get a bark out, or stop tugging altogether and develop a stronger push first?

    The growl seems to come with a stronger bite and there’s no danger of snapping and biting the handler, so my instinct is to think “good boy, let it all out,” but then I hear your voice saying growling predicts frustration. On the surface the tugging, despite the growling, does seem to help him settle and relax after, rather than a collapse and loading of the battery, but maybe I’m misreading.

    Also, if growling is an issue of being stuck in the muzzle, is possible to encourage movement of the energy to the forequarters and hindquarters by massaging them during the growl, like you recommend with rub-a-dub to connect the front end to the back end? Or does this sort of manipulation only register when the dog is calm?

  5. kbehan says:

    The intense resistance of the tug is triggering the dog’s DIS, and that is good because we need the dog to invest its DIS into the bite object. However the reason DIS is being triggered is because the dog is feeling that he is losing contact with the object of attraction, which in tugging is serving as the midpoint between handler and dog and so that aspect of the behavior is what is not good and is why tug-of-war has gotten a bad rap with behaviorists/trainers because the dog’s emotional circuits end up getting fried. Another way of saying this is that your dog doesn’t feel it can fit your intensity into its jaws and so its DIS is activating in order to counter this sense of disconnect whereby channeled momentum becomes ungrounded acceleration. To help the dog feel conductive, we want to induce him to carry the toy toward us by having dog on long/lead and running away, and toy on long rope to keep dog interested in it as we move away. What the dog is learning is to keep his subliminal beam fixated deep in the gut (hunger and thus feeling grounded by being able to perceive the preyful aspect in juxtaposition to handler’s predatory aspect) and then smoothing this spike of acceleration out into a pure wave function via the running. The mechanics of locomotion enabling the mechanics of emotion. If the dog starts carrying, then little gentle push aways and run aways to convert tug-of-war into push-of-war wherein DIS is invested in handler and dog still feels connected and fully grounded. Thus, whatever the handler does, thumping, fake hits, harsh sounds, become integrated into the smooth wave function. If on the other hand you focus on suppling the muzzle, it’s likely to increase the dog’s sense of being object-of-attention and since the dog is at a fragile juncture of its development, prove to be counterproductive at this point. Whereas after I get a good carry and push-of-war, then I start to supple the muzzle and even do standing rub-a-dubs.
    Outside of working on that exercise in and of itself, improving the bark and push in other sessions will help the dog transition in the above exercise.

  6. boris says:

    Ah, thank you, I think I am finally getting the mechanics and rationale of tug and push of war.

    When I first read about NDT tug, I thought it meant (and seemingly read descriptions depicting as much) that you are simply getting the dog to bite hard as you pull on the bite object and releasing it before he does, so as to “let him win”. And then also have him fetch and bring the object back to you for more tugging. I see that it is much more nuanced and easy to screw up.

    I got the bite-and-carry as weightlessness premise from the conference, but didn’t realize the fit with tug-push-war. So as I understand it, the bite object begins on a rope so as to separate your predatory aspect from it and make it more approachable, then you move away with it, increasing your and its preyful aspect, inducing the dog to chase and bite it, pulling the rope to encourage the dog to carry it. Then once the dog feels this wave and is grounded enough, we introduce our eyes/predatory aspect to get more energy moving by getting closer to the dog and pinging with a push and ponging with run-away + pull. Eventually heightening our predatory aspect (more pushy, noisy) to get more DIS out and then suppling.

    I’m oversimplifying to get a picture of the process, but it helps me see how going straight to face-to-face tug is way too intense and what the build-up looks like.

    As an explanation for handlers who will resist tug on the grounds that the dog will learn to indiscriminately bite and tug on preyfully moving clothing/children/etc., is the answer that the handler will be the only object of attraction that the dog feels comfortable giving all that energy to, and will naturally only do so when invited?

  7. kbehan says:

    Good question. To put it in perspective we can consider what we teach certain children. We encourage certain children to pick up a wooden bat and then hit a ball as hard as possible and in the process of this they get to beat other children at that same activity. We find that the experience doesn’t encourage violence but quite the opposite. The capacity to discriminate about when to swing a bat and what to swing it at becomes all the more refined and strongly channeled to that specific activity rather than generalized. There’s actually never any instruction on not hitting the opponents with bats if things don’t go well. We can even link being a good student to access to that activity and so the swinging of the bat becomes a reward for being studious and exercising self-discipline. In the same way when a dog’s nature is fulfilled via its primordial makeup and mandate to hunt, it ends up feeling good and this good feeling becomes the basis of a dogs’ capacity to discriminate and channel its energies appropriately. So these core exercises constitute a faux hunt, and hunting is what originally drew pro to-dog to man and was the initial filter of selective breeding for most of the many thousands of years of our two species co-mingling. It’s been only a hundred years or more that we have been selecting for fashion, and only recently universal puppy training for “no-bite,” and the physical and social constitution of the modern dog has clearly weakened as a result. My argument is let’s get rid of Little League and go back to sand lot. Do overs rather than hyper-controlling parents in the stands.

  8. cliff says:

    This is gonna sound terrible, but when L brings the tug-rope, I feel that i can’t get rough enough. The more i hit him and shove him away, the harder he bites and the happier he is. A workout for both of us, to be sure.

  9. boris says:

    Thanks, the analogies are great packaging for breaking through the psychological mindset.

    So could we say: once the dog experiences the ecstasy of a truly satisfying bite (successful hunt/big release), he’s not “tempted” by the unsatisfying small release of the inappropriate bite? To borrow the baseball analogy… once the kid cracks a hardball over the fence, he’s not likely to go swinging at a wiffle ball?

    On the flip side, is there a danger that if an ungrounded dog is introduced to bite/tug where he gets quickly overloaded (yet gets some small measure of release), that might lead him to try it on his own with an object of less resistance like a child or a person’s coat sleeve moving swiftly away? Like a kid who keeps hitting foul balls because the pitch is too fast, and then takes a whack at the fencepost to relieve his frustration.

    I would’ve thought that sounded terrible as well before I witnessed the incredible drive of the dogs at Vohne Liche. I finally understood the meaning of a “”correction”” in drive. I think when you see energy channeled properly, you lose the fear of bringing it to the surface, which I suspect keeps many people with strong dogs away from NDT. They’re asking how do I turn it off and you’re telling them where to put it instead.

  10. kbehan says:

    When a dog is developed from puppyhood, then there’s no problem. However when there is a long standing kink in the works, then there is a gray area, potentially. As the dog gains in self-confidence but isn’t truly healed, where before he might have been inhibited, now he becomes uninhibited. Many people misinterpret this as a setback, or regression, but it’s just old stuff coming through the fault line, and could potentially represent new energy if the handler is ever vigilant and takes it as an opportunity to channel and ground it out. Eventually the dog gets the point that being in resonance with handler is optimal state, and this feeling is what gives a dog the power to self-regulate impulses.

  11. b... says:

    Breaking new ground in leaps of logic and assigning human mind to dog? I can’t really follow how they came to the conclusions they did.

    The “exaggerated play growl” explanation reminds me of the claim that dogs try to make themselves look bigger to other dogs by hunching their shoulders, although here the dogs seem to have gone a step further and gained the capacity for irony (they are “joking”).

    Am curious how to interpret the looking at pictures of different size dogs based on the type of growl they heard.

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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.
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