On Training a Dog to "OUT"

I want the word “OUT” to be the decisive trigger that causes the dog to release the grip. But before the dog can be receptive to its handler’s voice, it must first be able to feel its handler and this allows it to be attracted to handler inputs. It must also come to feel that Out doesn’t mean an interruption of its energy but rather even more energy.

So the handler sends his dog at me and I catch the dog. Then I become still with dog locked on grip. As the handler approaches the problem dog begins to growl, shake and thrash with more conflict then before, as it is tensing up with the approach of its handler. When the handler arrives I ask him to take his time, pet and massage his dog while he’s biting my arm and then begin to sweet talk with that prey-like patter. The dog is now able to feel attracted to his handler because of the preyful energy the handler is putting out with his tone, touch and words.

You can see the dog begin to soften and for the first time the dog can sense that I have become still, subdued by the strength of its bite. (Sometimes I will renew the fight with even more intensity and then become still again to increase the dog’s power of discrimination between the on and the off position of the helper. I do this a number of times. I also want to become increasingly intense and violent as a way of absorbing the intensity the dog is experiencing from the approach of handler and the physical memory of having been interrupted by incorrect out training that caused the sudden jarring and stripping of the emotional gears. Paradoxically, dogs that don’t Out well are holding back an emergency reserve and until this is cleanly released in the bite, the dog won’t release cleanly the sleeve, and so the more intense the helper gets, the more the dog releases this reserve energy.)

When the dog becomes aware of the on/off modes, he can begin to sense that its energy is impacting the helper, especially the release of that emergency reserve, and thus it begins to feel more in control of what is happening to it and this has a calming effect. In other words, the dog gets into conflict with approach of handler; the helper becomes more intense and struggles to get away, so the dog perceives that a state of conflict towards handler allows its prey to get away and so it gets more focused and learns to discard the old memory of interruption by arrival of handler. As the dog calms because it is more and more focused on holding the subdued helper in position, it can now feel that its handler (the one with whom it’s bonded) is present, rather than some guy trying to fight him over the sleeve just as the helper is.

The handler is on his side so to speak. Then with the dog able to discriminate between helper on and helper off, I go as limp as possible while remaining upright, and when the dog is beginning to soften with the handlers’ words and tone, the handler says “Out” in a firm but completely composed if not gentle manner and the dog comes off easily. (If the dog is still too charged to Out, we let the dog run it off with the sleeve in its mouth and then come back to the helper, and now the handler holds the dog with sleeve in its mouth and massages and coos to it while I begin to crowd them, this then induces the release of the sleeve.

Sometimes I’ll have a second sleeve in front of where dog stops and begin to steal it rather than putting it into conflict about the sleeve that’s in its mouth and this will induce the dog to let go of sleeve in mouth.) Whichever way the dog comes off, the moment the dog Outs I begin to tense up into the poised position, but just below what would trigger the dog to strike, and as the dog gets ready to strike his handler now has a chance to get on board with the dog’s feeling of getting ready to go as well and speak whatever command he uses, “Watch Him” or “Pass Auf” to associate these words with reanimation of helper.

Then I make a move and the dog bites and so now the dog is learning that the handlers’ words control the helper. So “Out” doesn’t end up meaning let go because the handler commanded it to let go, but rather that it’s time to get ready to bite again. In other words, there’s an even better bite available and the handler knows where it is. This is an important distinction because a dog must always learn something as a function of attraction. This progression leads to the dog feeling attuned to its handler because the handler is demonstrating that he knows where more prey is, or to put it another way, how to reanimate the prey that was just dead. So the dog always stays focused on the helper-as-access-to-the-bite, but paradoxically it is therefore easier for the dog to be aware and responsive of its handler as access-to-the-helper without having to directly focus on him. He becomes receptive to auditory input. (The reason a dog is in conflict is because there are competing “negatives” of equal intensity, helper and handler and so the dog has to divide its attention between these.

Ideally, a dog shouldn’t feel different when the handler approaches; the handler should only serve to strengthen the existing feeling. So we want to straighten this conflict out to be the feeling that the handler (-) equals-access-to-helper (+) imprint, rather than dog in effect fighting the resistance of two negatives, handler and helper.) Also, it’s important to say that when the feeling is straightened out so that handler-leads-to-helper and helper-leads-to-bite- and-OUT-leads-to-more-bite –therefore the dog isn’t suffering any loss in “emotional momentum” even though it is being required to suddenly stop doing something that it was previously fighting to sustain.

In fact, even though it’s doing the exact opposite of what it was doing a second before; it nonetheless feels it’s nevertheless moving in a straight line because it can always feel potential energy inherent in the next sequence of events. It actually wants to subdue the helper to get to the Out command so as to reanimate the subdued helper. My premise is that the ultimate reward for a dog isn’t something material and tangible, i.e. the sleeve in its mouth, but rather is “potential energy” i.e. the prey poised to move again. Dogs are consumed with potential energy and so are always motivated by body postures indicating energy is about to move, from owners about to suffer epileptic seizures, other dogs about to eliminate or ready-to-fight, earthquakes, tsunamis, full moons animating prey, and so on. In the way the canine mind is constructed, it seems the moral of Aesop’s fables is wrong. In the animal mind the bird-in-the-bush must always be worth far more than birds-in-hand because otherwise nature can’t evolve.

Animals are always moving toward potential energy. So the dog never gets the idea of listening to its handler per se, rather, the words of the handler always lead to potential energy, and this singular feeling is what construes and holds a complex chain of behaviors together.

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Published November 10, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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4 responses to “On Training a Dog to "OUT"”

  1. Jenya says:

    I want a whole book like this. 🙂
    Thank you Kevin, this is really helpful!

  2. Sang says:

    This may be “just” a description of teaching the Out command, but it really hits on the basis of what Natural Dog Training is all about.

    Thanks Kevin.

  3. April Hannon says:

    Kevin, what do you mean when you say, full moons animating prey?

  4. kbehan says:

    The deer is the perfect mirror image of the canine, the prey inside the dog as predator. One wolf can kill a deer on its own, if that is it can catch it, which it can’t unless it surprises it. The wolf seizes it by the neck and so when dogs play, they most love to grab each other by the neck. You may also have noticed the “gape” and the clashing of teeth when dogs play which is concordant with the clashing of antlers when bucks joust in the rut.
    At any rate, deer are lunar animals, other than being disturbed by predators and storms, they feed when the moon is out. I believe they can actually feel the gravitational pull of the moon and this affects their behavior, probably their physiology. So if you see the moon out during the day, you’re likely to see deer grazing in the open as well.
    I’ve never seen a dog howl at the moon, and some scientists say it doesn’t happen, but back in the eighties my kennel manager who lived over my kennel once saw a young shepherd I had imported from East Germany and who lived in an outdoor kennel, late one night cock its head back and bay mournfully at the full moon. Since all the prey focus on the moon, I believe this synchronizes their mass migrations and is why the predator of such prey yearn for the moon as well. I suspect that when wolves look at the moon, they can feel where the Caribou is going to migrate, the morphic field as Lee Kelley talks about.
    So the moon is preyful energy, the sun is predator energy. We can project into the moon, we avert our gaze to the sun. Song writers and poets wax romantically about the moon, and even though the Sun is the source of all life, nobody writes a love song to the sun.
    Interestingly, it’s an old folk saying that the ring around the moon before the storm arrives represents all the unfulfilled desires on earth. Don’t get me started on the earth, the moon and the sun. But just remember that the earth, the moon and the sun comprise the environment to which animals must adapt if they are to evolve. I believe therefore that the network the earth, moon and sun comprise is the basis of animal consciousness.

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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.
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