There Is Only One Energy

Apparently Lee Kelley has the temerity to question Patricia McConnell, one of the leading lights of dogdom, over her methodology, the particulars of which she posted in public, in response to two of her dogs not getting along. In my mind Lee wasn’t “attacking” her honor, virtue, honesty, compassion, intelligence or integrity, he was questioning dogma.

I’m not writing in criticism of whatever Patricia McConnell does with her dogs. I just ask the reader to recognize that trainers such as Lee and I are constantly working against the mainstream dogma and its prescriptions for dogs and owners, and because such learning theorists claim that NDT principles fit snugly within current scientific-principles-of-learning and that NDT is merely recasting learning theory into new and unnecessary terms, (which is odd given that other than NDT there is no model for why dogs love car rides, do everything in a circle, look for the eyes of a person within a car, are afraid of slippery floors, can perform protection service, S&R, hunt birds under the gun, and on and on and on) therefore the discussion that Patricia McConnell has been leading is a valuable and necessary opportunity to discuss the nature of dogs in just such a light. The purpose of this article is to argue how points of distinction between an energy theory and mainstream thinking are substantial and suggest an alternative means of dealing with the problem of two dogs fighting, since apparently some have asked just such a question given that McConnell uses tug toys and other techniques that seem consonant with NDT. The distinctions may at first may appear subtle, but as they play out the implications are profound. In NDT “problem behavior” is not viewed as a “problem,” rather it is an opportunity, a chance to attract energy that otherwise isn’t being projected by the dog into its owner.

THERE IS ONLY ONE ENERGY. It doesn’t matter what kind of behavior a dog performs, it is an expression of but one energy. In other words, the entire spectrum of a dog’s behavior is a continuous expression of energy along a spectrum. It may look like the dog is exhibiting a range of seemingly different behaviors, each with its own separate and distinct class of motives, but these are all refractions of an underlying energy moving through the dog’s temperament (due to the physical affects of physical memory) and in response to resistance. All behavior is but a variation on a central theme, a continuous, contiguous outlet of ONE FUNDAMENTAL ENERGY (this is not immediately apparent to an intellectual mental system of analysis-a personality theory-because the forms of these behaviors look to be so different and so therefore seem to be motivated by different intentions) crystallized around the MOST INTENSE EXPRESSION of said energy.

What does this mean practically? It means that if a dog fights with another dog and this fighting represents the most intense thing that it does, then this is where all of the dogs’ energy is being invested, specifically, this activity is where the deepest layer of its emotional battery is being discharged (Deep Inner Stress). Everything about a dog’s mind aligns around this simple principle of where, when and how deep inner stress comes out. This therefore means that everything the dog experiences in the course of daily living, whether it be something positive or negative, is in fact FEEDING and REINFORCING its NEED to fight the other dog. Furthermore, even if the dog loses every fight, it is nonetheless being REWARDED for fighting, not only by the immediate-moment sensation of relief during and right after the fight, but by every other experience it is absorbing in seemingly unrelated moments. Because the fight is the most intense expression of energy the dog experiences, every pat an owner might lovingly bestow, every treat given for a trick or an obedience command, every belly rub, the thrill of herding sheep, bowl of dog food, company at the door, playful interaction with another dog, noise on the horizon, reprimand or shock to its emotional system, IS REINFORCING THE DRIVE TO FIGHT THE OTHER DOG.

To understand a dog’s behavior energetically, think of the dog’s mind as an energy system, like a bathtub with an inlet (faucet) and an outlet (drain plug.) Sensory stimulation (OVER THE COURSE OF THE DOG’S DAILY EXISTENCE, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS) is the input, while the most intense expression is the output. So if fighting a dog is the most intense expression of energy, this is what pulls the plug on the system and everything drains that way. As long as fighting the dog constitutes the outlet, the open plug, then running the faucet at full bore will not change the state of the system. It will only reinforce it. One will not be able to build up enough pressure to do something new because the plug is out of the drain and therefore no other activity will bring as intense a sense of relief as fighting the other dog. It’s that simple.

To add another layer of complexity to the discussion, we are of course talking about a sealed energy system, as in a closed water system under pressure, and the intensification of energy into a state of pressure in the animal mind comes from the phenomenon of fear. This is why it’s so important to have a model for what’s going on inside the dog’s mind so that one can see how fear, drive, hunger, balance et al. interact to compose animal consciousness. What’s essential to understand about fear is that it adds intensity to behavior so that it can acquire the force necessary to do the work of overcoming resistance. The practical meaning of this is the understanding that FEAR CAN ONLY BE REINFORCED. FEAR CAN NEVER BE ALLAYED, RESOLVED, GOTTEN OVER OR FORGOTTEN. FEAR AS FEAR CAN ONLY BE REINFORCED. Therefore while an owner may think that in one instance they are rewarding a compliant, calm, positive or obedient behavior, or teaching the dog that a snuggle session or a walk around the block is resolving its old fears, in reality they are actually reinforcing the flow of energy toward the most intense expression as the outlet for all sensory input, the pats, hugs, treats, scolds, reprimands are just the faucet running down the open drain. This is what the current paradigm on dogs, be it dominance or positive, does not understand. And this is why the phenomenon of aggression and phobic behaviors (as the most intense expressions of energy) ARE RISING despite (or I might more accurately say because of) the revolution in dog training availability and information to the general dog owning public. Human mental concepts in the modern dogdom have attained preeminence over old fashioned common sense, which is on some levels closer to an energy theory than modern behavioral systems be it of the positive or dominance schools of thought.

Resolving unresolved emotion is the thrust of all behavior and unresolved emotion is caused by one thing and one thing only, desire held back by fear. Fear adds intensity to the expression of unresolved emotion, however to ultimately resolve this unresolved emotion, the fear that caused its acquisition must be turned back into the originating desire (fear is not elemental, it is caused by the collapse of a state of attraction and every state of attraction is founded on a desire) by accessing the balance circuitry IN TERMS OF THE HUNGER CIRCUITRY. And to do this, one must be able to put emotion, unresolved emotion, fear, drive, sexual/sensual energy, nerve energy, hunger, balance, temperament and the phenomenon of personality, traits, INTO ONE COHERENT MODEL so that one can see how they all work together in the dog’s mind as an energy circuit. At first this may seem daunting, but it all follows from understanding emotion as an immediate-moment “force” of attraction. To cut to the chase, resolving a “problem behavior” ultimately boils down to the owner being able to attract the same intense expressions of energy from their dog rather than correcting or even distracting it from said energy. Everything else is superfluous and playing with toys is not enough, the dog must “make-prey” with the owner on the toy. You have to become “the charge” a.k.a. the moose.

An energetic interpretation of behavior also reveals that whatever energy the dog has invested in the “problem behavior” by definition THIS ENERGY IS BEING HELD BACK FROM THE OWNER. And how does this held-back energy manifest itself? AS PERSONALITY. And this brings us back to the NDT view that a “problem behavior” is actually an opportunity to attract energy that is being held back from the owner. Don’t even think of it as a failure, this is the reality of life on planet earth. We all have emotional batteries. We are designed to acquire stress and become overwhelmed if an appropriate avenue for discharging intensity isn’t available to us (this is what’s happening to dogs due to the modern insistence on friendly/dominant/submissive personalities as opposed to honoring working traits). Working with a dog’s nature as a means of resolving its unresolved emotion, IS OUR CHANCE TO GET OUR WILL BACK. Social beings didn’t evolve to be friendly, they evolved to resolve unresolved emotion.

So now you perhaps can see how a personality theory of behavior is a self-defeating logic loop. The more the dog holds back from the owner, the more it manifests personality, and the more the owner is likely to REWARD such expressions of personality because it will trick the owner’s intellectual mind into thinking that the dog is getting better. In reality the real opportunity is at the other end of the spectrum, in the behavior that the owner finds most mortifying, rather than the behavior that the owner finds most pleasing.
Refocusing a dog’s most intense expression of energy toward the owner may be beyond the comfort level of many people, which in my mind reemphasizes the need to understand the canine mind as an energy circuit so that a young pup is developed according to its temperament rather than its personality. If the dog is raised in a way so that it can give its most intense expressions of energy to its owner, rather than an owner focusing on its personality (friendly, dominant, submissive)then the dog can readily accept intense rates of change through the emotional bond with its owner and thus acquire a new way of doing things even if in contravention to a lifetime of learning and acquired habits.

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Published September 15, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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13 responses to “There Is Only One Energy”

  1. Crystal says:

    Just excellent. Thank you.

    Between discovering NDT and raising a purpose-bred border collie pup I think I have a more respectful understanding of the true nature of my canine friends.

  2. Hi, Kevin.

    Thanks for the support.

    McConnell seems to be an odd duck as far as +R trainers go. She doesn’t seem bound by the principles of +R when she trains her own dogs, yet still believes in them, in theory. She seems to use a scattergun approach, some +R, some dominance, and some types of drive training that seem close to NDT.

    Also, I’d like to get a clarification on what you mean when you say that working with a dog’s nature is an opportunity for us to GET OUR WILL BACK.

    What is WILL, in NDT terms? And where has it gone that we need to get it “back?”


  3. Christine says:

    Thank you, Lee, for asking the question‼ I’ve wondered the same thing more than once. ☺

  4. kbehan says:

    The Will/Spirit distinction is part of a philosophy or metaphysics I was introduced to in the early nineties and it is the only philosophy that completely resonated with my view of the animal mind, in fact, it was what allowed me to see that what I understood to be Temperament, was actually Heart. So in this system, Will is feminine and opens space out of the darkness whereas Spirit is masculine and fills the space with light. Will is the earth and the physical body, Spirit is the mental machinery and instincts. Will guides whereas Spirit inspires. Sounds at first rather new agey but boils down to hard nuts and bolts when we get into animal consciousness, preyful equals Will, predatory equals Spirit. For the most part the animal mind is concerned with Will as that constitutes the ground, and for most of human history civilization concerned itself with the cultivation of the Spirit via the great religious and mystical traditions. However notice in all of these traditions there are implicit and explicit judgments against the nature of desire, and how these traditions are about denial of the body and don’t seem to ever work out too well for women. Then when there are perversions of desire, the Will gets blamed rather than the real cause which is Spirit judging against the nature of desire. I think we’re entering a new paradigm where there will be a heightened interest in Will understandings and a turning away of a hyper-mental rational/linear interpretation of nature which is the Spiritual tradition. (This is why there is some much animal/nature programming, not to mention the Food Network.)
    At any rate, we lose Will when our animal mind projects into something and now this thing becomes part of our consciousness and gives birth to a desire and then we judge against it. For example, we might say we need something rather than the simple truth that we want something and that it is good to follow desire because this is how nature evolves. We then fragment and lose Will by slipping into a fear/guilt/control Spirit response. Where does “lost Will” go? Into unresolved emotion.
    Therefore, dealing with the nature of a dog and getting in tune with the pure energetic essence of desire is a means to get one’s Will back so that one becomes their own voice of authority rather than deferring to external sources of authority for their personal bearings. This is why it’s so vital not to see intention in behavior because this is the Spirit judging against the Will in order to control that which cannot be controlled. This is what perverts desire. Whereas when we understand that all behavior and all of natural evolution is a manifestation of desire organizing the many into one through the dynamic of attraction, we are giving Will and ultimately Heart its due credit for the intelligent organization of nature, not just Spirit. And the feeling of resonance when the many integrate into one, with the individual remaining the sacred unit of this organization, is what allows desire to follow the path of highest resistance rather than succumb to the instinctual path of least resistance. So Heart turns unresolved emotion into resolved emotion. Now this doesn’t mean one doesn’t accept external inputs, but that the internal state of resonance (Will moving and processing energy in accord with desire and external circumstances) must remain the highest arbiter of authority, not an external authority figure.
    A good example of this Will/Spirit duality that manifested in a healthful integration occurred in the Iroquois Nation wherein the tribal councils could only be led by men, however only the women could vote. They understood the dark/light–guidance/inspiration–Will/Spirit duality of consciousness.

  5. Very interesting, Kevin. Thanks.


  6. Crystal says:

    Kevin, what you describe above is largely what I have been taught by Aboriginal spiritual elders from a number of tribes.

  7. Christine says:

    So then, would it be accurate to say that Will=Desire=Want and that Spirit=Thought=Instinct? Then, if you are grounded in your wants/desires, your thoughts, rather than judging against, will direct you in the appropriate path for resolution?
    So, in fact, I WANTED each of my 3 dogs and I WANTED each of my 3 cats. I thought about each and every adoption and decided it was okay to want them and I was pretty sure I could afford and manage their care effectively. Voila! Spirit and Will working together=resolution♥☺

  8. kbehan says:

    Right, if your thoughts organize around the guidance of feelings, i.e. the awareness that a particular action is grounded in the process of Will and therefore resonant , (as opposed to being a mere vibration, i.e. an action simply to dissipate stress) then things will work out. So a thought is like an image, it inspires, you could for example see someone with a dog, or hold an image in your mind of how it would be like to have a dog, and this could inspire you to seek a dog. But the Will would guide you in selection, caring, handling and training so that the dog ends up resonant with the image that you began with. Thoughts can’t get you there because they can’t take into account the nature of the dog and will end up forcing the dog to conform to the image rather than honoring its nature. And if you are truly in a want, then you will manifest great emotional mass and displace time and space so that what you desire is supported by necessary resources. Here’s an example of this. In high school I played football in order to integrate myself into the high school community. But I wasn’t gifted physically with the resources I needed, other than dogged tenacity, to excel at football. As it turned out, what I learned from playing football when not physically equipped to do so, was apprehending the distinction between the pack instincts (surviving practice) and the group energy (connecting with my teammates by collectively overcoming a huge object of resistance on game day). Since understanding the animal mind was my true calling, I was appropriately endowed in order to fulfill my true want, understanding nature, rather than my need, trying to fit in with the pack.

  9. Christine says:

    Dogged tenacity I understand; I have plenty of that‼ Although my Nana preferred to call it obstreperousness…That’s probably why I never had much success with obedience and dog clubs, etc. I just wanted to BE with my dogs and for them to be safe to have around other people and in differing situations. I’m so impressed with excellent obedience but was never really comfortable or truly satisfied with the process. What I noted in your video, “Hessian Sees A Deer” was your statement that he’s never had any formal training. I want my dogs goodness to be from their own nature not something I impose on them or require and NDT satisfies that quite nicely. We all need a great deal more work, to be sure, but I feel we are making progress…if only I still had all my former energy and stamina, the results I desire would be more readily forthcoming…ah well, there will always be more work to do!

  10. Milo says:

    Does this mean that you have to have the will to do something first, before you find the spirit to do it? Is this why when you see something in the news that is truly horrific in its self, but not something that you have experience of personally, that you can wipe it from your mind and move on with your life? And that only things which you can directly correlate to will initiate the will to do something about that event to try and stop it happening again? And is this why we often are more horrified and outraged at cruelty to animals than we are our fellow humans.


  11. kbehan says:

    I heard the relationship between will and spirit defined this way, the spirit inspires, the will guides. And I think a motivating impulse for an inspiration in the animal mind, is not a thought but the inherent conflict between a physical memory that’s projected onto the moment, and the present reality that isn’t exactly like that physical memory. (see “Why Dogs Bark At Strangers”) This is a Charge, and it compels the animal mind to attain its resolution, a discrepancy that has to be resolved by a feeling (will) so that future actions accommodate reality and at the same time make new energy.
    The horror of the news doesn’t overwhelm us typically because there’s nothing concrete for us to project into. If we see it personally, then we emotionally project our “self” into it via our animal mind and are emotionally invested. If we have personal involvement with a place or person in the news, then we project our self to a greater or lesser degree into that event and are destabilized depending on that historical level of commitment.
    The reason we are more upset about animal than human cruelty is because of the issue of powerlessness/vulnerability. Every species of animal is a feeling, and every feeling derives from unresolved emotion. The human intellect is powerless about how unresolved emotion makes the body/mind feel. Therefore what we think about animals is actually not about the evidence on animals before us, but rather what we think about how unresolved emotion makes us feel. (To see animals clearly I believe we need to see them without projecting thoughts onto them, this allows us to make a distinction between emotion and instinct, and between a feeling and a thought. Without these distinctions a model for the animal mind is not possible.)
    We identify with the powerlessness of animals that we see as being abused since it strikes to the core of our most fundamental dilemma, a state of vulnerability which is at the root of all feelings. The intellect can’t control a feeling, this in fact is the unconscious underpinning of the formation of personality. So we develop our personal armor and strategies to guard against the stirrings of the emotional battery, and we identify with people who seem to be modeling these strategies successfully. When people fail at it and are being victimized, unfortunately this can confirm our judgments against our self and so we aren’t outraged but rather tend to be relieved and justified about our own course of action in regards to unresolved emotion. But the animal lays us bare to the realities of vulnerability because of the purity of feeling in their regard. However, we should also note that the cause of animal abuse also offers an indirect opportunity for some to vent repressed rage rather than dealing with vulnerability directly, and this I believe is what’s driving the societal urge to turn animals into persons. If a dog is a person, then it really gives someone the license to rage against those they construe as being abusive. I feel this is why folks get really mad at my theory that the information is in the energy rather than in the brain. This anger reflects an intellectual bias and one that skews the interpretation of the evidence so as to justify animal as person, even though that interpretation is the most convoluted twisting of the facts and always ends in a self-defeating contradiction. The incredible irony and paradox in this is that the need to turn the dog into a person, actually turns the dog into a machine because the notion of will and feelings are completely subordinated to hard wired processes rooted in genes and chemicals. Thoughts become both inspiration and guidance. The idea that a feeling can be intelligent without a thought, that sociability is self-organizing, is heresy to the human intellect. The idea that a feeling can guide by being open to a state of vulnerability, is the intellects’ greatest nightmare since the CNS fundamental mandate is balance/survival/control.

  12. kbehan says:

    Another thing I might add in regard to Will/Spirit and your question: “Does this mean that you have to have the will to do something first, before you find the spirit to do it?”
    In regards to the animal mind, if this discrepancy between physical memory and a present moment with its own reality, is processed through hunger as an “opening,” then it is computed into a feeling and ultimately a social impulse, so this means that there has to be a hunger before the inspiration will do any good. (hunger and vulnerability are synonymous as both are a void)

  13. Christine says:

    Ahhhh….VOID….that helps

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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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