Turning Instinct Into Drive

Instinct is a load/overload manner of energy transfer. It’s how most animals most of the time make their living. Drive on the other hand is a steady-state energy transfer and it allows two beings to emotionally fuse so as their combined energies can overcome greater and greater objects of resistance. This is how complex hunting scenarios are possible.

In our domestic world, instincts are the source of all canine “problem behavior,” whereas Drive is the universal solution for all these problems. Drive allows a dog to hold back and not involuntarily react to something because the potential energy of emotionally coupling (nuclear fusion) feels better than the short term relief of overloading. In Drive, a dog can learn that something that it previously had categorized as noxious, is now arousing, in other words, a negative has thus become a positive.

The problem with this GSD is that he was overstimulated in its prey instinct and then had been attacked as a youngster by other dogs. So now, whenever his owner played with him, they were unintentionally exciting its prey instinct which sooner or later was going to be trained on other dogs since this was the deepest charge imprinted into his emotional battery. In other words, because the most intense physical memories were of being attacked, and because the most intense expressions of energy were of playing ball maniacally, every ball playing session was akin to exciting the dog to attack other dogs. It was just a matter of time until the dog’s emotional battery connected these to dots. This was obvious to me because he attacked other dogs just like he chased the ball, running at them at full speed and then covering them, at which point of course the dog would defend itself and so it became a self-fulfilling fear and had now taken on a life of its own. So prior to this video I taught the dog to push and to bark on command so that I could shift from the prey instinct to the prey drive, in the latter a dog has consciousness and is in the moment rather than being driven by the past (habit and instinct).
The video linked below begins by me throwing a ball on a rope toy which excites the dog’s prey instinct, then I want to appeal to the pushing imprint I’ve established in order to loosen the dog up and get his mind back on/line so that Drive can take over. Drive is vital because it allows the dog to take in new information in real time and to feel more energy coming in (for example: sexual arousal to the form and movements of another dog rather than the prey/predator module) by learning to hold himself back rather than go down the load/overload instinctual repertoire of reflexes.
I was really excited to see him follow me and then feel light enough on his feet to jump up on me with the toy in his jaws. The backing up for the bark is the residual of the instinct trying to take his mind back over, so then I shift to pushing him away and more physical body contact and lunging him in a circle around me. As long as he’s taking food then he is taking in new information and learning in the moment, the old memories of habit and instinct aren’t the predominant aspect of his  perception of the experience. However the toy is such a corrosive effect on his mind that he reaches his limit and begins to shut down and won’t take the food at which point I wrap up the session.  But the important breakthrough has been achieved, he pushed the toy into me and made contact with me by leaving his feet so I feel confident to begin exposing him to other dogs.


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Published September 5, 2011 by Kevin Behan
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23 responses to “Turning Instinct Into Drive”

  1. Crystal says:

    Thank you so much for this article and video. This is what you have instructed I do with Bea and seeing the vid is enormously helpful. I am copying a post here I had in another thread where you were helping me with Bea and her reactivity. Makes sense to continue on here since this is the work.

    Second session: “I worked with Bea by herself today. Got excellent bites and tugging and she can carry the toy around me no problem. She heels beautifully and keeps a loose leash, stays great. It was all so easy. No Colt. Another trainer thought that Colt was relieved not to have to always relate with Bea since he was kennelled separately at her place, but I am thinking that not having Colt around actually reduces some pressure in Bea. Would this make sense?

    Third session: “When I asked for the bite with Bea what really got her going was if I touched her head or neck. I could push her hind quarters, no reaction. If I touched her head she got really charged, growly and more push and pull. I went for it, touching her neck and muzzle and head and let her build and then after about five minutes of this ( split up with pushing ) she shifted into something else. No growl, still hard bite and more fluid in her body. Still powerful, but not like a jerky fish on a line which she had been. Was I right to pursue this? Afterwards she was very soft when I called her in and rubbed her muzzle, head and ears.”

    Today when someone knocked on the door she charged like there was no tomorrow. I feel I have unleashed the dragon. She wouldn’t even take food and usually I can get her to push, or go to her chair which I used for the box training, but nope, not this time. She has never tried to bite anyone, and I’ve never heard her growl at anyone, but her hackles are up and today she was barking full out.

    I understand we are in the middle of the work. Do I need to prevent these episodes completely? I pushed and tugged after the event. Is that appropriate?

    I set up her crate last night in the bedroom and just left the door open. She slept there all night. 🙂 Colt was really checking it out. He always chose to sleep in his crate, even in the day. Hm…

  2. Crystal says:

    Thought I would report in on progress today as well as the difficulties. I just took Bea for a leashed walk through the neighbourhood for an hour or so. My daughter had Colt leashed. Amazing. Bea kept a loose leash 90 % of the walk and had nothing to say about blackberry pickers in the woods which she had lots to say about yesterday. I pushed and tugged with her at a distance from them yesterday when she got very charged upon spying them. Still people in the bushes. So huge progress here. That loose leash is after only three sessions of working sporadically on it in the field and on the trails.

  3. kbehan says:

    Some dogs are charged by having their heads messed with, others their hind ends, different poles of the emotional battery. So this activates the untrained energy she’s been holding back and now you can learn how to play with her fire without getting burned. Keep On Pushing!

  4. john says:

    How does pushing the toy into you and making contact off his feet tell you about a change in his mindset,
    i dont see the link between associating contact and pushing with a human he trusts ,with the mistrust of the next bogey man canine he’ll meet ,,
    barking seems to have become a significant part of process in helping dogs, i know its an expression of energy, and have seen dogs having to step back away from the handler when asked to speak,,but what is barking up close doing in effect,
    ,should the dog be able to express itself through the bark up close and personnel if you like,
    ,i’ve begun to hup the dog up on a bale of hay and let him bark up close,,in fact putting the dog up and letting him walk across a few bales lined up together with him on the lead wheres he’s at my head height, seems to have a dramatic effect on him,,he gets very excited and wants to make contact ,,is the the fact he’s up high and on the same level as me that makes him so animated ,, thanks ,,

  5. kbehan says:

    The point of leaving ground is that dog isn’t “hanging on” (balance) to old frame of reference, i.e. wherein he holds onto reserve energy in order to have it available for that which triggers the last .01%, another dog. The point of the barking is to help the dog learn to let go of that last .01% and I can monitor where his subliminal beam of reference is tracking (balance or hunger) and how much energy he can focus on that site. The point of biting is to objectify the preyful aspect outside the aggressive boogey-dog trigger. The point of the pushing is that it puts the dog in drive and drive is critical because it is what resolves unresolved emotion. So in toto, the push, the bark, the bite, turns the handler into a filter so that he can play ping/pong with the charge (the last .01%) and allow the charge to smooth out, to elaborate into a more refined feeling that can increase the dog’s emotional capacity so that he can feel potential energy in another dog, rather than as the opportunity to purge the last .01% in a load/overload energy pattern. So being with the owner is what playing or fighting another dog feels like, and now it feels good because the dog is feeling emotionally energized rather than emotionally paralyzed, and then the dog gives the “credit” for a good feeling TO THE OTHER DOG since it triggered that last .01% that the owner resolved. So his charge runs to neutral rather than getting even more charged, which is what he would experience if he were to get into a fight with another dog and even if he were to win. They wouldn’t have emotionally fused and induced more energy in each other, rather they would have collapsed into a fight and both would have absorbed more charged than they relieved, hence fighting becomes addictive. So all these components allow his body/mind to increase emotional capacity so that as a handler I can participate in a process of elaboration that resolves the old pattern and this new pattern after enough “exercise” will eventually displace the old one. This is the exercise a dog truly needs.
    (When you change the relative height disparity, you change the balance to hunger ratio and this is why some dogs get really excited, the balance inhibition is reduced and so reserve energy comes up to the surface.)

  6. Crystal says:

    If you have a minute to answer this Kevin, I’d appreciate it. Want to be sure I am helping not missing something.

    “Today when someone knocked on the door she charged like there was no tomorrow. I feel I have unleashed the dragon. She wouldn’t even take food and usually I can get her to push, or go to her chair which I used for the box training, but nope, not this time. She has never tried to bite anyone, and I’ve never heard her growl at anyone, but her hackles are up and today she was barking full out.

    I understand we are in the middle of the work. Do I need to prevent these episodes completely? I pushed and tugged after the event. Is that appropriate?”

  7. kbehan says:

    Practice among family members role playing at the door before exposing her to strangers, and, really fast her so that she’s hungry enough to channel that intensity into pushing in the moment.

  8. Christine says:

    This is a most fascinating training video sequence. I’m enjoying them all tremendously and taking in a great deal of info. Well Done, Kevin. You deserve a great big rub-a-dub for all your hard work! 😀

  9. Crystal says:

    Thank you. Will do.

  10. Alwynne says:

    I’m just getting to these videos and can’t wait to see more. Thanks so much, Kevin, very illustrative. It reminds me of some of the successes I’ve had getting Cholula to push into me when I poke at her while she is looking for rats at the park; I’m going to try it with her toy and see if I can get her to come at me. By the way, Cholula in the room with me is very intrigued by all the dog barking in the video

  11. Annie says:

    I have to laugh….I watch these clips regularly, and Luke goes ballistic in my house, barking, stamping, whimpering, as he hears all of these dogs responding and learning. Maybe it’s like his Monday night football games?

  12. Alex says:

    Hey Kevin,

    First off, I love your work, how your able to do what you do is new to me. I’ve been searching for some new theory and technique for awhile and NDT delivers.

    My question is this. I am trying to relate drive to something I already know. Would relating drive to the moment after I throw a ball/stick and the duration of time the dog looks directly at me in the eyes be drive? The moment when I throw the stick and her want to chase it be instinct?

  13. kbehan says:

    Thanks Alex, glad you enjoy the material. The actual mechanics of prey instinct relative to prey drive are virtually the same since “the negative equals access to the positive” and so the eyes of the prey grant the predator permission to take the body of the prey. This linkage is clearly evident in a dog looking at the eyes of the owner as access to the thrown ball and it becomes an exhilarating rush in its own right. The question then becomes fixation. When a cheetah fixates on the eyes of the gazelle, it ascertains in this way its mid-point (center of gravity) and then its prey instinct is able to calculate momentum and compute a body mechanics to intercept through a slowly narrowing window as it “anticipates” its every move. There then becomes a “loci,” the actual point on the body at which it will bite and make contact with the prey. So this can all fall under the heading of prey instinct because the energy of attraction has “collapsed” into a fixed value. However, prey drive is the capacity to constantly generate new loci in deference to a more complex situation wherein the center point is always moving, and thus, new negatives can be used to compute new loci as these changing circumstances warrant. This is the essence of sheep herding with the herds’ center mass always shifting and over a prolonged period of time, and with the sheep herders eyes being the access channel, and the dog’s behavior becoming more and more complex rather than the prey instincts’ simple load—overload manner of operation. In this way we see that the dog is constantly energized by shifts in circumstances rather than conflicted or confused as it would be if it were stuck in the prey instinct. So prey instinct is intense and fixated and impermeable to change, like the fail safe on a launched missile, whereas prey drive is supple and constantly taking new inputs. Prey instinct is load/overload, like a battery that charges up and is then discharged and afterwards needs to recover (just as neurons build up and dissipate an action potential) whereas prey drive is steady state, (like a magnet passing over a coil of copper wire). So the parallels are very close, but the emotional capacity is the key. For example, the cheetah surveys the herd in order to fixate on one animal, its energy of attraction then collapses into a fixed set of reflexes, whereas the sheep herding dog holds the entire herd in mind, and in conjunction with the sheep herder, and its energy doesn’t collapse into a fixation on a single loci. So if you could throw the stick for your dog, and interrupt its momentum in forward direction so that it redirected in another direction, but without any loss of emotional velocity, that would be prey drive. The dog would perceive these “interruptions” as further arousals. The seeds of this are indeed there in the dog’s capacity to look into your eyes, but the carrying capacity between ball chasing in a reflexive manner, versus herding like responses, is the paramount distinction.

  14. Alex says:

    Great. Thanks for your response. When I was in the park the other day I realized what happened was what I just read about here in your blog. Very cool.

  15. Skip Skipper says:

    Hey Kevin, when I play an intense game of tug with Sur and I tell him “out” he releases the toy but he seems to be in missile lock on the toy. His eyes are glazed over and his body is stiff when I touch him. Is he in instinct, load/overload? Also when I give the down command in this scenario, he does it very slowly all the while his eyes in missile lock on the toy. After the “down” I immediately do some pushing or more tug. Am I on the right track or am I doing or not doing something that is creating the inflexibility. Thanks for all you do!

  16. kbehan says:

    Yes he is in instinct load/overload. This is good because this speaks to the heart of the issue affording the opportunity to soften him to the tug which will concurrently soften him to other dogs. First question, will he jump up and release the toy to your hand? If not, then practice having him carry toy about, get up on rocks or platforms, put your hand on toy and stroke him and praise calmly. If he starts to fight and buck back then have him on a high collar so he makes himself uncomfortable for choosing to get more intense. When he releases it to your hand, give him some food and then without any loading, offer him the toy again and repeat. Keep working until he will jump up and release toy to your hand. You can intersperse push, bark, and most importantly supple into down and then belly rubs with long, laminar, slow strokes. Even food can be too stimulating so once his hunger penetrates his balance (which is the source of all intensity) then we want to rely more on touch then food to calm and soften him, especially deep near the base of the spine. Only feed him during this exercise so that hunger can get through the intensity of missile-lock and soften it. Your goal is for him to remain soft to the belly rub-a-dub when you are thumping the tug toy near by. Then, he can get up and you offer him the toy carefully without creating a charge, he carries, he softens to your touch into belly rub, you thump the toy about the ground, etc.. You finally want to work him up to the point that you can throw the toy while holding him on a lead, then supple him into down (using push and bark if necessary to get him to focus on you). In the short term, you don’t want any gap between him and the toy because this gap is the loading trigger, you want to fill this void with the soft, calm pure emotion as induced by the touch during the course of these exercises. What you are doing is increasing his capacity to feel soft even when triggered by the old charging dynamic.

  17. kbehan says:

    You know I fail to emphasize it enough, but the point of the push/bark/bite/supple is to reconstitute the one and only Drive that animates and informs everything a dog does, the Drive-To-Make-Contact. So with Sur your goal is to get him into strong but a flexible, soft mouthy style of contacting, wherein he’s pushing in as hard as he can just for the fun of it, no food, no toy. As he becomes aroused in contacting you will see the urge to bite with more intensity coming up to the surface, this is the collapse of the Drive into the prey instinct missile-lock modality, and so the longer Sur can sustain contacting with you with a fully energized yet soft and supple body and mouth, then the more he will be able to resist the collapse into prey instinct problem when the rate of change and resistance gets too intense in contacting with other dogs. If he can stay supple at full intensity, then he is able to feel how to flip polarity to absorb the charge (transfer of momentum) from another dog when it resists and/or reacts to him. If a dog is strong enough to fight any comers, then he is strong enough to flip polarity and choose to be soft in the face of that same resistance. This is what vigorous contacting with the handler helps the dog to learn.

  18. Martin says:

    These posts have left trying to put two pieces together. With my dog Sheri I have have been increasing the pressure on her and physicality of the push and the bite in order to have her feel that pressure is good and that eventually the pressure leads to contact. Food, tug…etc. I have had Sheri on the box before the bite and have been loading up the toy as much as possible. Hitting on the ground, box, getting into her space, trying to push her off the box, with rationale that being settled leads the bite. I have even helped her stay down with one hand again with the notion that pressure will begin to be a good thing. Negative leads to the positive. I use the supple after the bite has happened to make being calm part of the flow of feeling good as opposed to being locked up. I am trying to reconcile loading up on the box and feeling that attraction between the handler with the toy and the dog on the box as opposed to having a supple dog and not charging up the bite? I feel they are related but cannot figure out quite how.

  19. kbehan says:

    I’m not sure I quite understand the logical impasse you’re trying to connect here. Perhaps you could restate it? Thanks,

  20. Martin says:

    I guess I am trying to compare two exercises to understand how they differ from the dog’s point of view. In the first the dog is on the box and we brandish the bite toy in front of the dog. If I start to hit the box with the toy the dog will get excited and start to move the toy and I make the toy goe away and the dog settles again. Then after the pressure is built up the dog is settled I finally say “ok” the dog gets the bite, we tug, and rub a dub.
    In the second exercise for Sur there is no real build up or pressure so to speak from the handler. The dog has the toy on the box we soothe him, he releases, the tug, we soothe, and then it sounds like we hand over the tug back to the dog, tug, and repeat. I guess what I am asking is that what is the difference for the dog if we create a lot of action/buildup with the tug as in example one as opposed to just restarting the game without fanfare as in example 2. Maybe there is no difference since both exercises have the supple component.
    Also, I am assuming the push exercise creates the ground work for the desire to make contact without a collapse. If I am pushing the dog way and he continues to push in and not collapse it is because we are using the food to keep the dog open and eventually the food becomes a non-issue?

  21. kbehan says:

    The overall point is to get the dog to relax when stimulated by the prey instinct, therefore he will be in drive. With an impulse driven dog, the output aspect of the emotional cycle is predominant, it’s not able to absorb the same degree of force on the input cycle. For example consider the predator seeing the prey approaching. Laying down in cover is the input cycle, it can absorb all the force that the predator is about to transmit to the prey. So when input is equivalent to output, the animal is in flow and this can allow it to remain flexible to changes in the moment as they occur. That’s what we need from our dogs, that when there is another dog focusing on them, they can absorb the charge and then come up with a softer response.

  22. Brazilian Mutt says:

    hey there, I’m afraid the video link is not shown any longer.
    would like to watch it. tks

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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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