Questions for the New Year

In the interest of organization until we work out the organization of comments situation, we can follow up on other threads with this post. Thank you.

CR: Images, I think that is an important key to dog behaviour if it is true.. what kind of images do you think dogs can hold in their consciousness, and how do they fit into the chain of attraction, collapse thereof, etc…

KB: I’m presuming that they are straight images in accord with the visual processes of dogs, like we can hold an image in our mind, but again in accord with the particulars of canine vision.

CR: if we “rehearse” certain responses to stimuli with our dogs, i.e. mom gets tense on the leash because she sees another dog, dog gets aggressive, but when rehearsing in the back yard, the dog can be trained to seek eye contact to momma tensing on the leash, instead of focussing aggression on the other dog…

would that be OK in order to get them away from red zone behaviour (my dogs do not have red zone but I guess those behaviours seem to be the ones that requires the most work by the handler to integrate our dogs smoothly into our lives..hence CMs focus on them I guess)

will that change the emotion, or are we just “intimidating” them so they give up temporarily, but when the emotional battery is full, there is no avoiding red zone ?

KB: The problem with eye contact is that while distracting, it’s still part of the intensity syndrome. Barking on command is far more relaxing as it gives the dog a safe way to express its fear, also pushing in for hard physical contact is grounding, and ultimately, having a bite toy in mouth as way to fully absorb fight/drive with owner. Ultimately however the goal is to shift dog from visual orientation to nasal. This reflects that its body is becoming sensual and in this mode (magnetic) it can feel how to connect with another dog. I’ll write a lot on aggression when I get a chance, but for now let me say that sociability evolves through a precise protocol and the owner can be the template for this evolution so that the dog’s emotional capacity increases. This should happen before trying to solve the “red zone” or “missile-lock” problem. Just having a dog around other dogs is not necessarily socializing if the dog’s emotional capacity isn’t evolved enough.

CR: so there is fear of collapse (in dogs?) and also fear as a result of collapse of attraction ? does aggression in dogs (biting etc, the stuff that makes them red zone) come about as a result of this fear ? or is it more of a Fixed Action Pattern, (fight.flight, procreation, etc.) as described by Jean Donaldson, apparently not as predictably ascribable to dogs as to species that have continuously lived in the wild.

do you even believe in the existence of FIxed Action Patterns in dogs, or is it just that it looks similar to other species’ FAPs and is basically not the same?

KB: There is only one fear, the fear of falling. The collapse of emotional attraction piggybacks on this experience so that the animal mind has a means of evaluating what’s going on. So when a state of emotion collapses, and if the resulting sensation is more than the emotional capacity of the individual animal can handle, then an instinctual fixed action pattern takes over, or also a habit in more complex beings, and this locks the individual into its network niche role. If on the other hand, the dog’s state of arousal is high enough due to a high emotional capacity, this sensation merely increases the state of hunger and then we have a dog flipping polarity so that the collapse of balance increases arousal, and then this “magnetic field” collapses increasing the strength of the electrical displacement, this collapses again into the magnetic and it continues to propagate on and on exactly like a light wave at which point the dog feels the midpoint with object of attraction in its heart. This is why we say of beings in such a state that they are enLIGHTened.

CR: Which study of dogs and energy are you referring to that shows how dogs cannot experience negative emotions?

KB: There are no such studies, it’s my opinion. It doesn’t make sense to me that there is such a thing as a “negative” emotion, just as there is no such thing as a negative gravity. My study of animals indicates to me that emotion as a networked intelligence is the most logical interpretation of behavior. And this then means that emotion can only be understood as energy, that it is a “force” of attraction, that an animal is only attracted to that which it wants, and that it doesn’t want anything that doesn’t make it feel good. Therefore there is only positive emotion (which is why young children are so literal and apprehend in terms of that which is concrete rather than abstract, i.e. time as a function of physical distance to be covered, and why they are more grounded by ice cream than creamed spinach.) and since every feeling is predicated on emotion, a true feeling can only be good. The instincts and/or thoughts that become attached to emotion and feelings are responsible for what we experience and interpret as a negative emotion or a bad feeling. This is why it’s so critical to me to make such distinctions otherwise we are completely misinterpreting the nature of emotion (fear is not emotion, it is the collapse of emotion) and the nature of animals, and sooner or later that will translate into an incorrect approach.

CR: Alistair Scott writes about his dog’s accidental pregnancy, (Tracks Through Alaska). he had to take her puppies away. as a result, she clearly is not her usual perky self, so one could say “depressed”.

what about dogs who do not eat for long periods, and are not perky, responsive to the stimuli they usually respond to, when they lose a doggie house mate or human companion.

KB: I have boarded tens of thousands of dogs and I found it interesting that it was only a certain temperament type that manifested so called depression, pining away and even what some would call grief. They manifest these states however because they feel ungrounded whereas the dogs with strong sexual/drive make-ups always had fun in the boarding context and wolfed their food down and so on. So (in the kennel) when things aren’t familiar to them and because they have sensitive temperaments so that they can’t apprehend any preyful features in their new setting with its high rate of change, their physical memories of being disconnected are brought to the surface and these are affiliated in their body/mind as emotional battery with being corrected. Thus they appear depressed as if they are missing their owner. (With the mother dog above, it did indeed project its e-cog into her puppies and so was unplugged from her “self.” So while it’s not accurate to call it grief per se, what I’m saying is even more sublime because it means the complex state of what we call grief, which is a state of emotional attraction underlying a feeling of suspension- – yearning – – that is then attached to an instinct, the collapse of the above, that is then attached to a thought, i.e. that person/being is never coming back, and then this then can become a reverberating process with a debilitating life of its own.)

My own dogs have never grieved or missed a beat when a beloved companion died. We must remember that it’s only in our mind that they are gone. If the dog carries the feeling in its heart as triggered by physical memory of the other dog, then in its mind the other dog isn’t gone. It’s always present.

Back to temperament types, when I started my own kennel in 1981, I built a big play yard to excite the prey-making attitudes of these more sensitive types and sure enough, the vast majority began to play and have fun, started wolfing down their food and became much easier to handle. However the interesting part was that when they went home, often their owners called to complain because these types very often became problematic. They wondered if something bad had happened to them while in my kennel. But what had actually happened was that the dog had come out of its shell in my kennel by becoming free to play, bite and bark and be a dog again and so when it went home, it didn’t want to go back into its old box. The owners were the ones who had put all the “shame” into the dog that it had overcome in the kennel and didn’t want to yoke up again at home. But its human reflex not to see the true source of what’s going on emotionally.

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Published January 3, 2010 by Kevin Behan

24 responses to “Questions for the New Year”

  1. Burl says:


    In the ‘What are dogs thinking?’ blog, you said this in response to my mention of process thought…”I’ll be looking into the references you’ve posted but I’ve been warned that Whitehead is extremely difficult so don’t know how far I’ll get. If you would like to submit any correlates you’ve found between this philosophical systems and dog-as-being-of-the-immediate-moment, that could be helpful. At any rate, keep us posted and thanks for checking in and offering this input. “

    Glad to see you receptive to process thought – which I have been studying on my own for several years. And as a dog person, all this time I have felt that your theory of dogs as energy processors, emotional organisms, beings of the now, etc. dovetails perfectly with Whitehead’s theory of perception thru prehension. I know it in my gut thru experiences with our dogs.

    While most examples explicating process will be from the standpoint of an experiencing human subject, except for our unique abstract thoughts (math, law, architecture, etc.), Whitehead sees and holds no distinction w/r other conscious creatures like dogs, whales, and other highly conscious beings. There are, in fact, a few passages in PR where Whitehead uses dogs to explain our common ways of perception, and I will search for them as well as other dog-related process items. In the meanwhile, to whet your (and other commenters’) whistle…

    Prehension is a brilliant means of describing how all experiencing entities on earth, especially living, sometimes conscious, creatures, take one another into account in each successive moment of experience. For a light start, see

    For a heady move, try this article by a process theologian (not a religious piece) by David Ray Griffin. If not interested in philosophy of mind arguments, after a few paragraphs, skip on down to part 3 “3. Whitehead’s Panexperientialism”

    Do not tackle Whitehead directly in _Process and Reality_ (PR). Instead, if so moved, Hosinski wrote a beautifully accessible undergrad textbook that will fill this bill, here

    Should you want a direct read of Whitehead, his _Adventures of Ideas_ is readable and follows PR.

  2. christine randolph says:


    thanks for starting this continued discussion about dog “thoughts”.

    I guess dognition is the hottest subject and deriving training exercises from new findings about dogs’ inner states.

    So, dog temperament types and . how many different ones do you think there are ?

    you have met so many dogs, it must open a world of insight !

    My husband claimed my little dog had a fit of “depression” when he took her home and I stayed with the other 2 dogs in a vacation home(on an island on the west coast )this summer.

    I wanted to do a bunch of scooterjoring on the island (and I did), and the little one is too slow to keep up with the other 2.

    and one cannot let her just run beside on her own, because we have to share the road with cars.

    so i thought it would be better for the little one to go home with my husband…only for a few days. evidently not ! she was eating OK but, not quite her usual self according to my husband.

    maybe some dogs have a drive/FAP to look for the other participants in a dog group, let’s not call it “pack” when the absence is noticed just in case “something happened to them”. that way it would not be a negative emotion but a symbiotic survival mechanism…

    …like this report of a dog helping another dog that has been hit by a car….

    …in this otherwise perhaps silly Disney Movie “8 below”, a weak dog unable to walk is given food by other dogs…would that be realistic ?

    Dogs on a hiking trail, if one person or group is lagging behind, often they like to chase from one group to the other, a bit like herding…

  3. Burl says:

    What prompted me to comment here was Kevin’s article “Nature Conforms To The Power Of Desire.” The feelings associated with prehensions in process thought seem to me be very akin to what Kevin terms emotional energy. I also seeing Jungian psychology relevance – archetypical patterns of emotional movement within a shared unconscious – though I have far less insights or competence to speak there.

    In case any of you are looking at the process thought links and see some potential for process as a framework in which to conceptualize human-dog relations, I was I,pressed by the quote below from this essay by John Cobb, another process thinker.

    “[M]y topic today is prehension. If one accepts this doctrine, one can account for the highly complex conscious experiences of human beings [and other conscious creatures] in a fully non-reductionistic way, while at the same time locating human beings fully in the context of the natural world. Nature no longer appears as passive, mechanical matter. It is dynamic. Even those things that we call inanimate are made up of entities that are continuous with simple forms of life. The emergence of life and consciousness in the evolutionary process is no longer sheer mystery. Our study of the natural world can be continuous with our study of the human world. Our experience is continuous with that of other animals and even with much simpler entities. Our deeper understanding of the world will reject objectification as its mode. We live as subjects in the midst of subjects. For me this is a great gain over materialism, sensationalist empiricism, and all forms of dualism.
    Whiteheadians are almost of necessity ecologically oriented. Our concern about the natural environment is, of course, partly motivated by our concern for the well being of humanity. But we are also concerned about other beings for their own sake. Everything has some value in itself. Everything has value for other things. All things are related. All things are akin. Nothing exists in itself and of itself, least of all human beings. Humans cannot be saved apart from the natural world. We have enormous influence in the shaping and reshaping of that world. But it is equally true that that world shapes us. Indeed, we are simply one form—one very special and valuable form—taken by that world.”

    A major source for Process info

  4. Heather says:

    I am back to a “boring” question that is going to again hilight my lack of practical experience…

    My dog Happy (7.5 months) was having the jumping/biting problem in the yard, specifically around toys and after returning from walks. With the shift to playing push and tug-of-war (letting him win) and pushing for food, the fight drive I had created by being the source of resistance relative to the prey item (the toy) was redirected to the toy and we have been having a fantastic time playing together. A simple “where’s your toy?” and he gladly finds and bites the toy when his prey drive is stimulated.

    I recently started working on short spurts of (off-lead) heeling around the house, and I notice that stopping the exercise puts me in the position of being a big source of resistance and leads to the same sort of over-stimulated jumping and biting behavior.

    I watched the video of Laszlo learning to heel, and noticed that Laszlo’s level of “drive” is similar to Happy’s during the heeling exercise – but my untrained eye isn’t able to discern what is happening so that Laszlo’s state of emotion doesn’t collapse, and he is able to flip polarity and stay in a relaxed state as the exercise comes to an end. Happy is very focused and “up” during the time he is moving by my side, and it feels to me like by breaking that connection without giving the “up” energy a place to go (besides my arms) is what is causing the problem. He gobbles the treat but that is insufficient.

  5. Heather says:

    I thought of carrying his bite toy and playing a quick game of tug or push of war following our short heeling session, but the playing is going SO well that I don’t want to do anything to derail that.

  6. christine randolph says:


    he seems to go to this behaviour in a “default” situation while aroused. i.e. when in doubt, nip and tuck. or, again, he is extending an invitation to play.

    this nip-tuck behaviour which occurs when the dog is highly stimulated, and near enough to another owner or dog to grab them, is not listed as a compulsive disorder in dogs by scientists,

    however, it seems to me to have the makings of it.

    I have only seen it in 3 dogs so far, all three are likely somehow related going back 6 generations or so…but I do not know many dogs at all.

    one of the dogs I have seen displaying this behaviour is 17 years old.

    so it could be Heather, that this behaviour is not going to be completely extinguished in Happy. because it could be Very Deeply Genetic…

    typically if a behaviour is thus implemented into an animal’s repertoire of behaviours, it is assumed that they will revert to it often in times of uncertainty.

    Just to make sure this is what your dog does Heather: The nipping is directed at clothing, especially sleeves etc, but if you hold your face to their heads, they will also go after your nose. the dog themselves start with your arm, hand, but if a blanket is nearby the blanket also gets a few nips. anything accessible gets a few nips. This is rapid nipping, in a compulsive manner, when they are in this emotional state. If it is not per se compulsive, it could be a form of play biting. or since we have no scientific certainty about either category of dog behaviour, it could be both.

    So, each situation where this unwanted behaviour “pops up”, which is however his expression of his true self, will require you to get him off the behaviour in a creative and non punishing manner.

    i.e. could you get him to sit at the end of the heeling, then quickly toss a toy which you had concealed on your body and let him bring it back to you, then a LOOOONG play session ?

    anything else that you could think of, could become a set routine which rewardingly redirects his emotions to a safe place.
    good Luck !

  7. kbehan says:

    When you move fast and there is no object in play, you become “IT” and first lessons are revisited. So you need to calm down the owner-moving bite impulse. A good way to do this is to teach Happy to heel with toy in his mouth and then you could have second toy tucked under arm, or in coat etc. The next step is you are running and he hasn’t got toy in mouth but you have toy hidden on person and you increase his threshold for being able to produce the toy from you BY HEELING. It’s a subtle touch you need to practice at. Meanwhile, you have to train him to love to push for food no matter what is going on with the toy. Finally, because there is an error deep in the code, at some point corrections will be in order but first you have to have a good foundation and so then these just become tuning devices rather than shutdown or overloads. Keep me posted.

  8. Burl says:

    Searching for process and animals led me to Donald R Griffin who had a short essay in a book on process and intelligence. Here is Griffin’s major work on animals

    I found the following to be a very relevant piece addressing animal mind, especially part 5.

    When I read academic scientists (as many are quoted in the article above) or even traditional anthropocentric theologians (as opposed to naturalistic process theologians) I simply cringe…I want to yell “Have any of you ever had a pet dog?”

    As for doing research into animal mind – cognitive ethology, as I have now learned – why not study animals that seem attracted to us the most, what Kevin thinks to be dogs and horses, rather than squids and bats? When trying to get a hold of the unknown, start with any commonalties you can find.

    I am discovering many interesting things while trying to correlate process philosophy with dogs-as-being-in-the-immediate-moment, as Kevin asked about.


    I should say that the basic tenet of process is that ALL subjects (present occasions of experience of me, you, a dog, a liver cell, or an electron) enjoy subjective experiential existence only in their immediate moment (a fraction of a second). As this moment passes into the objective past, it becomes prehensible by all other individual subjects’ occasions/moments of experience that are presently just coming into a new present occasion of experience. So in your present occasion of experience, you can prehend (take in) what your own body just felt, as well as (somehow) what your dog just felt – and vice versa.

  9. Heather says:

    –This is rapid nipping, in a compulsive manner–

    Hi Christine!

    In Happy’s case it isn’t “rapid nipping”, and it doesn’t have a compulsive feel to it. Although he is over 100 pounds and rather lumbering in his movements, he can’t really move his body very rapidly…

    It looks like overexcited play, but I don’t think it is actually play, I think I am handling things wrong like I was with the playtime, and he is just very good (and consistent) about telling me when there is something in my interaction with him that is amiss.

    I would like to adjust my interaction but I don’t have a starting point yet…my idea was also the toy following our short practice, but maybe even more significant is that I think I am unwittingly creating resistance during the heeling itself (although I am unsure what I am doing to create it – the stopping periodically comes to mind, as well as stopping and sitting at the end of practice – both times when he is energized by moving forward and stopping for no reason other than we have gone 10 steps leaves him with a lot of ungrounded energy.)

  10. Heather says:

    Kevin, thank you, we cross-posted!

    Is this abnormal, to become “IT” when there is no object in play, or is it something dogs go through in normal development? (ie, what I’m asking is whether it is something I have a few weeks to work through at this stage in his development – and I will likely make some mistakes as I’m doing it – or should I get official help by phone or in person because it’s critical that I do it right every time?)

  11. Heather says:

    One more quick fact in response to Christine – I did ask the breeder about it, and it is not something she said is typical but that Newfoundlands are generally very slow to mature emotionally. She also raises female dogs so there may be slightly different issues with young males. Another interesting piece of information is that she is striving to breed dogs that are more “athletic” than typical Newfs, e.g., she wants her dogs to show well but also work and compete (mostly water, tracking, and drafting work, but some even in agility.) Happy is not “high energy” but he does seem to be “high drive”. I have no doubt that he will enjoy working activities when his skeletal system is more fully formed.

  12. kbehan says:

    Being “It” refers to the first lesson that was troublesome to you (confronting over prey) and is reawakened when there’s energy (heeling) and no clear prey object. The main thing is not to become all intense about teaching Happy to heel. You may still be on the fast track in regards to his development which is the emotional root of the problem you’ve been having. I can’t overemphasize that the most important thing you could be doing is finding a remote place that you and he can explore together, he gets to be a dog and orbit around you and you’re not focused on teaching him anything because you don’t have to as the setting is naturally calming and safe.

  13. Heather says:

    You are right. This week was back-to-school (and work) time for everyone – I have included Happy in that, which is not what he needs most.

  14. Ben says:

    “Finally, because there is an error deep in the code, at some point corrections will be in order”

    Can you elaborate on this? If you mean typical ‘corrections’, as the term is used normally, where do they have a place in NDT?

    From how I understand it, ‘corrections’ in NDT are meant to increase drive and reinforce something (i.e. ‘correcting’ a dog while down to increase drive and stability in that position), not actually ‘correct’ (meaning to teach a dog *not* to do something which I did not think was possible).

  15. kbehan says:

    Right, a “correction” should add energy to the system, not subtract it. The subtlety however is that the addition of energy may take time to show up because there is an “error” in the dog’s development and since stuck energy can only get out the way it went in, it needs to be triggered. This is why acting confrontational, i.e. as a predator, can release energy that then becomes available to the dog’s training. I’ll write an article giving my philosophy of correction and praise to make these distinctions clearer.

  16. christine randolph says:

    I think “code” is DNA code ????

    if so, i guess “error” is a bit harsh, one could call it an “unintended consequence” of trying to improve the subspecies by breeding for certain characteristics.

    many scientists agree that if the “error” or behaviour is anchored deep in the code, corrections do not even extinguish the behaviour.

    at least not reliably, since the behaviour is bound to “pop up” when the dog is stimulated beyond the point where “learned behaviour” is accessible to them.

    so if one has a dog with such a behaviour or set of behaviours, and they are in the aggressive realm, as Kevin said, small children and other prey-type beings can be at risk., so it is good to have a Plan B…

    in other words, the training program should probably include a setup where the behaviour is provoked in the dog, then deflect the energy to a safe area, toy, etc. then praise, so the dog can learn that it is OK to do this innate and inexorable behaviour if directed towards a handler-designated spot, where it cannot do harm to anyone….

    it will be very interesting to learn from Heather, whether Happy is just puppy-rambunctious right now, or if he is expressing a pattern that will continue on into adulthood. i wonder what Happy would do if, each time he nips at you, you fall to the ground and pretend to be dead. momma unavailable. another possibility is a Time Out. trainers use time outs for giving a dog a signal, that a certain behaviour is unacceptable. It is better than a harsh “No” or other correction that involves negative harsh talk to the dog. handler behaves normal, not disappointed or anything. but play or training is suspended, and dog has to be alone for a bit. it only has to last 1 minute or so in a separate room or the crate. away from mama. another way to signal to the dog that they are out of line, is at the first nip, a toy disappears or a treat disappears. then, if they sit nicely and move very little, (no nipping of course) the treat reappears.. it is classical conditioning, but really whatever works for potentially dangerous doggie behaviour especially in the 100 lbs plus class…

  17. kbehan says:

    I wasn’t talking about genes, but rather the template formed during early phases of life which is then carried forward into adulthood. So when we raise a dog our influence on it can put a kink in the emotional works and this then gets amplified in later situations. This can be straightened out even though it can take time, and some kinks are inevitable and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect. My theory is that our personalities are a self-contradicting logic loop and our dog is a physical manifestation of this and so they bring how we contradict ourselves to our attention. What more could we ever ask of a best friend?

  18. Heather says:

    I do think that Happy is manifesting exactly what would be expected given my thoughts/reactions in his first months here. Ironically, it was my excessive worry that his normal behavior would be potentially dangerous if it didn’t “go away” before he got really big that probably caused exactly that behavior to manifest whenever those thoughts would pop up. The contradiction/irony is – how can “normal behavior” “go away” because of some resistance I intentionally add to a moment that is inherently fine as it is?

    He is definitely puppy rambunctious at times. If I see his initial expression of this rambunctious energy as him needing me to help him release that energy WITH me (vs. me working against him, trying to put the energy back in the container, so to speak), he is thrilled about that and we have no problem.

    Happy himself showed me the way today on our morning walk (along with Kevin mentioning the other day that when I did start to teach heel, to carry a prey item hidden in my coat…I’m not going to work on anything right now, but I am going to carry something in my coat from now on). We got to a turn-around point and Happy looked at me and barked and jumped a bit, and just when I was about to have an annoyed reaction, he gently pulled my hat that was hanging out of my pocket, shook his head a bit, and trotted right along with me as relaxed as could be. He needed to bite something, he needed to move fast with me in that moment, and he just sort of showed me what to do. It was really great!

  19. Heather says:

    My gut feeling is that it was/is wrong to put expectations on large dogs to mature or behave in a certain way on a certain timeline just because it would be more convenient for people if they did. I keep going back to my kids for reference – with my first, he was what we called “under the microscope” – we enriched, we watched, we analyzed, we intervened his every waking moment. We worried when he didn’t get into kindergarten at the private school we liked and on top of it they said we should have him tested for learning disabilities because he couldn’t name all the letters of the alphabet and “seemed confused” during the “test.” That poor bright, sweet kid! It was at that moment that I had to look at what I was willing to go along with as a parent, whether I was willing to step back from the madness (he is a bright, sweet kid, no apparent ill effects)

    So it’s interesting that I initially took the same path with my dog…

  20. Heather says:

    I was also thinking after Kevin’s post about bringing things to our attention, and I was reminded of a story I read about a philosophy student asking his teacher “what is the meaning of attention?” “Whack!” The teacher hits the student on the hand with a stick and sends him out. The next session, the teacher asks if the student has any questions, and the student again asks “what is the meaning of attention?” “Whack!” The teacher hits the student with the stick.

    Every time I get the notion in my head that “training” is the way through puppyhood (and I foucs my energy there), Happy goes “whack!” I have to say, he is 100% consistent with this! It is a perfect reminder of what I am doing, even when I’m nt aware I’m doing it.

  21. christine randolph says:

    i am amazed !

    my husband’s parents did that testing stuff with him. they tested the heck out of him and did not tell him why, so every weekend he got hauled away to some silly test center. he ended up thinking there was something wrong with him on an intellectual level because they never told him why they did this.

    hid dad was a Rhodes Scholar so they probably wanted to see if he was that kind of a genius.

    I can assure you he is NOT ! …not too much wrong with him otherwise…

    other than a bunch of those self-contradictory loops Kevin is talking about. …but then I have not met anyone who did not have them….

    ..I try my best to point them out when my husband displays them, so he does not need the dogs to do that for him… haha

    So Heather, what does your dog do when there are cats / children / other dogs present?

    is he relatively docile ?

    i think that all things considered, he is a very nice dog !

    can you post a clip of his biting behaviour on youtube ?

    so you think your worrying about him being aggressive AND big, and sort of interpreting every little bit of his behaviour as potentially super-aggressive and worrying about how it will escalate when he is adult, then becoming panicky about finding ways to Train Him Away from it before it is too late, is one of those self-contradictory loops that needs to be smashed ?

    …it would not be necessary to worry that one’s children become serial killers, because the chances of that are slim to none and, if they are thus inclined, we can probably not steer them away from that path anyway…just maybe teach them to kill only certifiable bad guys like in “Dexter” ?

  22. Heather says:

    Hi Christine,

    –what does your dog do when there are cats / children / other dogs present–

    What he would *like* to do is akin to WWF wrestlemania. Good-natured but rather rough play. He LOVES other dogs, but does best with young ones whose idea of a friendly greeting is jumping on his head. They get each other 🙂

    He has learned that cats have claws, so he generally ignores them. He is good with the kids most of the time (if things get chaotic he tends to rough play).

    I am not so much worried that his behavior is aggressive in the sense of his intent is to hurt anyone – he has no ill intent at all – but it is true that it is potentially dangerous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard and read that it is essential for a giant dog to never put his teeth on a person after a certain age (weeks, months, the number varies but certainly 6 months…) and the typical advice is that being the pack leader (or alternatively establishing the rules via reward-based training) will shape the behavior properly.

    Well, Happy didn’t get the memo. It turns out that was a good thing.

  23. Heather says:

    –can you post a clip of his biting behaviour on youtube —

    The good news is that it hasn’t happened but once (after the heeling training I tried a few days ago) since he started pushing for dinner and playing tug and push of war a couple of weeks ago. On the walk today he redirected himself to my hat before even going down that path.

  24. christine randolph says:

    haha, i remember as a kid walking in ths snow with my girlfriend, her family and their young dalmation. he was so happy about the snow and all, he jumped at me, put his paws on my shoulders and bowled me right over.
    i fell softly in the snow…my mother is hysterically scared of dogs and cats, so we had no animals at home, so I guess I did not expeet that…yeah those big dogs can throw their weight around…

    i do not know if i had mentioned it here before but there is this thing called
    Acquired Bite Inhibition which apparently is fixed at age of 5 months or so in a puppy, but unless it is tested under duress, you would not know what it is for Happy…

    i think if a dog has a soft mouth, like for instance my mini husky, it does not matter how often she will put her teeth on anything, she will never even create a bruise. her toe nails are far more dangerous than her teeth.

    she likes to be a Klingon and dig her dew claws into me.

    I think with other dogs, since Happy is playfull and does not have any resource guarding issues, other adult dogs will require a bit of a warm-up but then will get to love him…you should definitely try to get him with other dogs to play.

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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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