Why are Dogs Afraid of Slippery Floors?

Because they feel the ground is moving.

In animal consciousness, just as in Einstein’s theory of relativity, there is no such thing as an absolute frame of reference; in other words, something is absolutely at rest while something else is in absolute motion. We now know thanks to Einstein that there is no ether permeating all of space as an immovable backstop against which motion takes place. Everything is in motion and so saying what-is-moving-relative-to-what, is a judgment call. The classic example of this being two ships slipping their anchor in the harbor and then currents cause them to collide. Which ship ran into the other would depend on which vessel one is on. So while we may consider time, space and mass to be fixed values in our experience of reality, these are actually relative to one’s frame of reference and are in fact malleable according to deeper influences. Time and space is dynamic, not static, and while this defies and confounds our human reason, the animal mind is not organized in such a way where it must contemplate such paradoxes.

Since animal consciousness and emotion is predicated on the laws of physics rather than a human, mental construct of reality, this means that when a dog is attracted to something and that object of attraction moves, it feels to the dog just as if its physical center-of-gravity is moving within its own body, – just as if it is moving itself, even though it may be standing perfectly still. It’s exactly like a process of magnetic induction wherein it doesn’t matter whether one moves a magnet toward and around a coil of wire, or whether a coil of wire is moved toward and around a magnet; either way an electrical current is induced in the wire. As far as the wire is concerned, the energizing effects are identical.

Therefore, a dog has no idea that it is moving relative to something motionless, or that something is moving relative to it. It feels the exact same internal movement within its body either way. This is why a dog in a moving car might strike out at something going past. The dog has no idea that it is moving relative to something that might be standing perfectly still, rather, the dog perceives that something flashing past at 30, 40, 50 mph etc. is indeed running like prey. So when a dog encounters a slippery floor for the first time, it has no idea that it is moving relative to a stationary floor. The dog doesn’t understand that because its claws are tightly clenched, it is failing to secure a purchase and so is in effect running in place. Instead it perceives the situation as if the floor itself is moving. And the faster the dog tries to run to stable ground, the faster the ground seems to move, which can be as frightening to a dog as it would be for us to be standing on ground that’s heaving and shaking due to an earthquake.

Eventually of course, most dogs get over the problem, but not because they understand there was an error in their perception, as for example a young child might do after their first experience on an escalator, or Einstein did when he contemplated the nature of light, mass and time. Rather, the physical memory of “flow” eventually will paper over this “gap” of slippery-floor-as disconnect-in-consciousness, so that the dog is able to connect the feeling of terra firma from both sides of the slippery floor. Revealingly, there is a transitional phase of acclimation, rather than an all of a sudden “AHA” moment of realization. This is because the dog’s emotional battery and its physical memory of flow as synonymous with firm footing, is gradually filling the gap in consciousness that a slippery floor causes in the sense of being grounded. This kind of learning is exactly analogous to how we ourselves learn to walk across a patch of ice. We know that if we can just maintain a constant rate of movement without any displacement from a center line, this steady pace will smooth out the temporary glitch in footing. In fact, we quickly learn in a counter-intuitive manner, that if we gradually and constantly accelerate our motion in crossing over the patch, most of our energy will be directed forward and hence the side-to-side swing of our hips will be neutralized, making us less likely to slip. This is an emotional calculus predicated on physics and the laws of motion, and this awareness arises from our animal mind and is exactly how dogs learn to negotiate the floor. They steadily accelerate as they learn to focus on the feeling of flow from their physical memory bank, and this they come to feel is what prevents the rug from being pulled out from under their paws.

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Published July 24, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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33 responses to “Why are Dogs Afraid of Slippery Floors?”

  1. James says:

    This makes no sense, what about the inner ear? It provides us with the required frame of reference, it tells us if we are moving or not when our vision/touch tells us if there is movement. Does a dog not posses an inner ear capable to perform the same function?

    Dogs do not have the capacity to identify themselves but they do understand the difference between their movement and the movement of the environment.

    Both my dogs and I have benefited from your methods but this is fallacious.

  2. I think this makes perfect sense, particularly once you realize that dogs have no “sense of self and other,” meaning that they don’t have an ability to perceive themselves as being separate from their experiences or, in fact, from other beings: their owners, other dogs, cats, squirrels, etc. Dogs feel connected to everything that holds and sustains their interest for any length of time.

    This isn’t easy to grasp because we unconsciously project bits and pieces of our own identities onto our dogs and as a result they become a part of our psyche. So we tend to think of them almost automatically as if they were just mute and somewhat less intelligent versions of ourselves.

    Meanwhile, science tells us that a dog’s intelligence is equal to that of a 3-yr. old child, etc, which doesn’t help at all when it comes to explaining this huge gulf in cognitive ability that separates our species.

    But Kevin’s explanation of how the human body (not the mind, necessarily) learns to negotiate the process of walking on ice shows how accurate his view of the dog’s first experience walking on a slippery floor really is.

    Have you ever read anything by Temple Grandin? She can be pretty valuable when trying to wrestle with the differences between the human and animal mind. She’s like an intermediate step between the way traditional science explains behavioral phenomena and the way Kevin does.


  3. kbehan says:

    I agree that the physiology of vision and hearing can accommodate the distinction between that which is “moving” and that which is not; but only to a point. In fact it is remarkably easy to trick the senses into an amazing array of false impressions, even out of body experiences in rational human beings. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/24/science/24body.html?_r=1
    And as a matter of fact according to modern physics our very conception of time is an illusion perpetrated by the human intellect. So we would be advised to not presume that animals see and think about the world as do we. That they must live in a world of time as defined by human thoughts. So my argument is about the dog’s perception of the phenomenon, not about the specific hard wiring. And of course the question remains all the more glaring that if it is true that the dog can determine an absolute frame of reference from inner ear orientation, why then is a dog afraid of slippery floors? Why doesn’t such a sure-footed four-legged animal that is not even likely to fall, simply readjust its balance and be on its way unperturbed?

  4. RLS says:

    Interesting read. I have seen many dogs fall on slippery floors. Running along, they slip, and sometimes they fall. Crazy as it may seem, many dogs that I have encountered don’t like falling. Go figure.

    Taking a fairly simple topic and complicating it beyond belief with references to physics, while entertaining, seems incorrect. But then again. It would never have occurred to me to ask why a dog would be afraid of a possible injury to himself, however slight it might be.

  5. kbehan says:

    While you may see me as taking something simple and making it hopelessly complex: on the other hand I see folks trivializing something that is extremely profound. If the phenomenon of a dog afraid of a slippery floor is simply a function of falling and getting hurt, in other words, the capacity to compare one moment in time to another, why then aren’t cats or chimps afraid of slippery floors to the same degree of overwhelming terror that dogs are capable of. I have known dogs that have gone into abject panic when their owner tries to cajole them down a corridor at the far end of which they must negotiate a polished marble passageway onto an elevator. It gets so bad the owner ends up taking four flights of stairs to accommodate this fear. And the dog never ever actually fell and/or was hurt in its experiences with the floor before the fear took over. Also, why aren’t dogs afraid of slippery ice. I’ve seen dogs take hellacious upending bone jarring crashes on ice and yet this never generalizes into a fear of frozen surfaces in the outdoors. While using scientific sounding terms sounds scientific, these really mean inserting a thought into an imaginary bubble over the dog’s head.
    I also notice that no scientist actually answers the question; rather they accuse me of being unscientific. The question remains unanswered, why are dogs afraid of slippery floors? The reason I turn to physics is that it does in fact provide us an explanation. I don’t see what could be a more conservative and scientific statement to say that ultimately, everything is a function of energy, even behavior.

  6. Mark says:

    I have never had a satisfactory answer for why a dog has a slippery/shiny floor problem.I say shiny as i have seen differences in dogs depending on the degree of polish or shinyness, the shinier being the worse they are. At times i have thought it may have been to do with the dogs visual perception and the dog percieves the shiny floor as some thing they may fall into.It is very difficult for us as humans to reconcile what is going on in the dogs head. Some people have speculated it may seem like water yet some of these dogs are confident swimmers. Some dogs have seemed fine up until a certain age and then have fallen apart.I have noticed at times an association between this problem and a fear of hieghts.

    Kevin what would be the programme or process to fix this based on your theory?

  7. kbehan says:

    Nature isn’t random. Some things absorb and conduct emotion and thereby give an animal the feeling of flow and of being “grounded” literally. However some things reflect and interrupt the flow of emotion rendering the opposite sensation of being destabilized. Furthermore that which interrupts the flow of emotion an animal perceives as a predator and then it wants to get away from the place that makes it feel as if it is falling.
    You are quite right that shinier things by virtue of being reflective, are more likely to interrupt an animal’s sense of the continuum and therefore these things are what I call predator energy. And you are even more quite right that this involves the dog’s balance mechanism because animals respond to predators just as if the ground is moving and so they become unsure about their footing. A dog’s first encounter with standing water reflects this same problem for them, but its surface is easily broken and it yields to their probing, not to mention that they can ingest it, and so they can more quickly acclimate to a shiny body of water than a shiny hard floor.
    For animals the experience of grounding isn’t an abstract or metaphorical representation of experience, rather it’s the most visceral, down-to-earth component of consciousness that there can possibly be. This is why dogs constantly smell the ground when in a new setting or when the terrain changes in order to return to a feeling of grounded-ness when stimulated by something new. By smelling, they are picking up “preyful aspects” scents of other dogs and dirt, grass, etc., because such things absorb and conduct emotion reassuring them that their footing is firm. And this is the key to helping a dog overcome a fear of falling which is what slippery floors represent in their body/mind.
    For example, when an object of attraction is moving in a conductive, prey-like manner, then within the observing dog’s body/mind it feels grounded and thereby perceives itself as standing on terra firma and this is the case even were it to be on a high chase running down a prey at breakneck speed. The ground feels firm beneath its feet because it feels “grounded” literally into the object-of-attraction, i.e. the prey. So I take a dog that’s afraid of a slippery floor into the area it’s afraid of, and see if it will eat something. I will only feed it in such a setting in order to resolve this issue as soon as possible. Once the dog is eating, I then induce it to push-into-me, i.e. give up its footing to me. The more energy that flows from the dog to me, the more it feels grounded. Finally, I will try to get such a dog to play and bite a prey toy as an even higher expression of this feeling of being grounded. I want to become the dog’s “ground” and at some point the dog will play with me on the slippery floor and then finally slippery floors don’t make it feel ungrounded.
    You also mention the time delay factor. Often, dogs will build up a charge over months and years, and since unresolved emotion in the body/mind as an emotional battery is only attracted to predatory energy and therefore needs such a trigger in order for the dog to find relief, months or years later in its life a dog seemingly out of the blue will manifest a fear of slippery floors that it had passed over without concern earlier in its life. But this is merely an excuse (so to speak) to download energy that has been building up so that the dog can find some measure of relief. And because an expression of panic works in that the dog gets to express stress and temporarily get it out of its system, the dog’s fear of these things becomes reinforced and we see the dog becoming more and more neurotic. But there’s nothing wrong with the dog’s mind because this makes perfect sense once we understand how the emotional battery works.

  8. jamie says:

    this is interesting, however i have several questions to ask if you would be so kind?
    firstly, i have a 5 year old working GSD who has this issue which manifested itself at 12 months. He has never fallen or injured himself in any way and yet this problem presented itself, hindering his future training. He swims, he loves to swim. in the sea, lakes rivers etc. 3 weeks ago he saw the receding shore break of the sea which left a reflective shallow on the shore – and he froze – he wouldn’t approach it – yet he had been diving into the same water moments later. as a new wave came in i tossed a toy in and he dived straight in again. i can take him to a tiled surface on one day, and he will not step on it come hell or high water. i can return to the same floor the following day and he’ll drag me across it. this generalised inconsistency persists in every building, i literally never know if he will – or he won’t?
    as for feeding – would an arachnophobia sufferer wish to eat in a bath of spiders? my dog answers this pretty well. to suggest the dog pushes against the handler to feel grounded? – i wonder as to your thoughts on secondary conditioned fear stimuli and the effects of sensitisation following flooding attempts? for a dog to push into you in the presence of a fear inducing stimuli suggests that either you have a lead on the dog, or the dog isn’t particularly worried in the first place. if i were to restrain my dog in one of his ‘sensitised’ exposures, he would thrash to escape and quite possibly attack me in the process. i would therefore set myself up as a conditioned fear stimulus and destroy any trust i had built, not to mention the damage i might have done in terms of associative conditioning towards buildings.
    to suggest the problem is tactile is also unscientifically proven. my dog will freeze at the threshold to a darkened room containing an area of tiled or wooden flooring, despite never having been in there before. the ‘slippery floor’ cannot be seen!
    i would propose the possibility of audible (echo), temperature based (reduced), scent based (ie diminished)PLUS touch, as being involved in this process. the whole theory of ‘balance’ and energies suggests only touch.
    an interesting theory, yet i fail to see the difference between your proposal for treatment, and that of counter conditioning (either Operant or classical) and systematic desensitisation, flooding or habituation??
    i would be interested in reading the studies conducted to support your theory?
    many thanks.

  9. kbehan says:

    I’m going to reread your post a few times to make sure I understand your questions, but first a quick question at my end: have you used an electric collar in training? And to your point about studies, my theories are based on personal observations, reading what others have said, and then correlating aspects with various scientific findings. In other words, you’re dealing with an amateur astronomer who has perhaps (depending on who you talk to) discovered an asteroid before the professionals have.

  10. kbehan says:

    All the senses can reveal predator (that which reflects) relative to prey (that which absorbs) aspects of the environment and so the echo of sounds off an unseen and slippery floor is quite plausible. The panic that you say is likely if your dog is restrained, is the energy that your dog is not able to process. If he is willing to bite you, then he should be willing to bite a sleeve or tug toy, and that would be a great approach because it would leave him feeling good (grounded) and would do wonders for his ability to handle slippery floors since it directly addresses his issue. Also, learning that you are his solution to this panicked energy, increases trust. In fact, he can’t trust you completely until the two of you are in sync on this issue.
    When you say that he drags you across the floor when otherwise he won’t go near it, is he scurrying out of fear or are you meaning that he is oblivious on that occurrence? And I’m not clear about what you’re meaning about shore break, but again, reflective water can be perceived as a predatory aspect when a dog is sensitive for whatever reason.
    The difference I’m talking about is sensualizing a dog rather than desensitizing them, which is why one does the pushing, biting and barking on command. Secondly, counter conditioning the dog to do something different is only meaningful up to the intensity level of what the distraction or fear trigger is generating. This is the point of the pushing/biting/barking so that if there is 800volts of intensity, the dog experiences 800v of satisfaction from overcoming 800v of resistance. If giving a dog a cookie for doing something incompatible to the unwanted behavior doesn’t balance the energy checkbook, then counter conditioning doesn’t work. Another question I have is whether you have done clicker training with your dog? Thanks.

  11. christine randolph says:

    in one of my dogs whose confidence level vaccilates from day to day i saw that the pushing exercise helped him get generally confident
    if he can bring himself to do a pushing exercise near something he is afraid of, he is on the path to getting over this fear.

    Kevin says that humans should not shelter dogs from all and any fear but humans can help dogs getting the most out of their fear, i.e. transform the paralysis of fear into positive resonnance with the environment, this transformation makes them confident.

    If I am correct in my interpretation, Kevin says fear is designed not to block and shut down a dog but to increase a dog’s drive.

    that being said I have read and experienced that ordering a dog to perform any random exercise that a dog can confidently do, and has done over and over, such as sit twirl shake a paw, can assist in allowing a dog to subsequently access something it was initially afraid of.

    i have seen it in agilty. a dog that is afraid of a tunnel will go in after he.she has done a number of well known well loved well rewarded jumps confidently, suddenly the dog is in the flow and it seems to the human observer that before he.she even knows it herself, the dog is through the previously untouchable tunnel….

    other dogs are not that “easy”. you have to inially crawl through the tunnel with them, ahead of them, etc. ’cause only with mama in there can it be relatively safe…

    again, Kevin’s comments hold true about the owner’s presence giving the animal confidence.
    By working with them in a specific way, they will look to us as a problem solver if they get stuck and we can facilitate for them to become more and more confident by pushing the boundaries a little bit further each time.

  12. jamie says:

    thanks for your reply.
    i’ll posy a fuller anawer to the points you have raised when i have more time. i do not look to argue, i just believe that growth comes from discussion.
    i have never used a shock collar on my dog, i’ve never had to.
    i am a clicker trainer.
    the pulling over floors that were previously impassible is through enthusiasm, not fear. the exit was behind us!
    a shore break is the initial wave that sweeps up the beach.
    incidentally, my dog was running on a frozen pond yesterday to get his frizbee!? – beautiful!
    i’ll post again very soon, thanks.

  13. Donnie_O says:


    Just to respond to your comment “were to restrain my dog in one of his ’sensitised’ exposures, he would thrash to escape and quite possibly attack me in the process. i would therefore set myself up as a conditioned fear stimulus and destroy any trust i had built”

    My dog (a 5 y.o. border collie/gsd mix that I rescued 2 years ago) was a notorious squirrel chaser and, when on lead, would lunge and bark at any passing dog. I began the pushing and using what most people would call the “positive” (or preyful) methods of natural dog training about a year ago. I had much initial success with her recall but I couldn’t get to the energy that she was holding back deep inside herself, the stuff that made her want to panic during thunderstorms and chase squirrels. It wasn’t until I began to do things to trigger that energy, such as posting her up and then acting “predatory” with her (pointing, stalking, teasing her with a tug toy, etc.). Her first response was avoidance, to sniff the ground, dig, scratch etc. As I got more intensely predatory she would start to run and panic a little bit but, with nowhere to hide and her previous response to fear (to bolt) unavailable to her, her only recourse was to face her fear and bite the toy or push for food. The result: when Jinxsie sees a squirrel or high-energy dog, she lets out a bark or two and comes flying at me for to push for food. If a calmer or low energy dog passes by while we’re out, she gives them no mind and won’t even get up if she’s getting a belly-rub. Clearly I haven’t become a “conditioned fear stimulus”. Rather, by becoming the biggest solvable problem in her world, interacting with me becomes more satisfying than chasing squirrels or dogs.

  14. Christine says:

    @DonnieO…I appreciate your post; it gives me food-for-thought on another way to overcome Diva’s timidity/fear issues. I’ll have to give it a try!

  15. Donnie_O says:

    @Christine: Check out Quantum Canine Episode 9. It shows how Kevin shifts from predator to prey when the young bird dog gives him direct eye contact, which is the start of triggering your dog’s held-back energy. Also, Episode 12 shows how to get your dog’s bark out. Finally I would recommend you watch the “Training Honey” videos on Facebook. I found that those two videos in particular were very helpful in getting to Jinxsie’s deeper energy.

  16. Christine says:

    Donnie…Thanks for the pointers (I love the Quantum Canine Episodes…are you talking about the ones on the NDT website or the ones at Fact8 tv?)…I’ll check them out again with Diva in mind; perhaps I’ll get ‘inspired’ and do some real work with her‼ :-$

  17. Donnie_O says:

    I’m talking about the ones on Fact8.

  18. jamie says:

    Hi Kevin,
    just to emphasise why i seek clarification on your thoughts on slippery floors. As you are well aware, working police dogs (mine) are required to search buildings totally independent of the handler (me). this is where my requirement for clarification lies in the pushing/energy exchange theory. is it necessary for the handler to be alongside the dog whilst crossing the surfaces, or do you propose that once grounded, the dog is able to generalise the feeling of safety to all surfaces, independent of handler? i ask out of despair! my force has insisted that i retire my beautiful gsd Zeus over this issue, as stated, he’s only 5! having initially trained him with compulsion due to dominance based instructors, i reverted entirely to non-compulsive methods. his ‘problem’ was, he didn’t yield to the check chain and we don’t use prongs or remotes, and so i had a young dog who didn’t trust me or anything i came to represent. through non compulsion and reward based training alone, i’ve regained his trust, only to lose him due to this floor issue. with counter conditioning and desensitisation (playing on the floors with a tug toy) i have been able to achieve partial success. as stated though, this success doesn’t generalise, and generalisation is what the police require!
    there’s a clip of him on taketheleadvideo on you tube if looking at him helps – he’s also on takethelead facebook channel.
    you’re evidently a inspirational (and very busy) guy, and thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    many thanks

  19. kbehan says:

    One final question before I respond, what is his bite work like? Thanks

  20. jamie says:

    committed chase, determined bite and responsive release.
    we have tried using a bite on a sleeve as a lure to get him over certain floors (school halls – polished wood) but it was insufficient incentive. even a fleeing criminal or handler attack is often insufficient on certain floor coverings. One of his main rewards, along with food, balls, frisbee is the ‘game’ – bite/release/rebite on a bite bar – he loves to bite and he loves to rag.
    i never drag or coo-coo him over floor surfaces, my best results have been a brisk confident walk or jog with him on lead beside me. if he baulks, i say nothing, turn in a wide circle and then up the pace across the floor which seems to work with him – although his body language can still portray distinct uneasiness. the problem comes in the police requirement for your dog to search such flooring independent of handler assistance – he simply won’t. not for a run off from a criminal or a visible bite reward on a reflective flooring.
    any thoughts are appreciated

  21. kbehan says:

    I believe I have the overall picture of what’s going on and apologize that this is going to be such a long answer. At any rate, here’s my overview. First, the dog is holding back its energy and this builds up a charge. The most noticeable symptom of the charge is a heightened personality. In order to find relief from the charge, the dog’s brain invents a dangerous situation in order to facilitate a panic attack which represents a sudden downloading of the dog’s energy and which brings the dog to a state of relief. Because the dog experiences relief after the panic subsides, everything about its mind becomes organized around its fear of slippery floors. The episodes are intermittent because it’s a function of his emotional battery and the conductivity of the moment. Nevertheless, what I’m saying is that everything the dog experiences before such an event, even positive experiences, are actually contributing to the panic attack and thereby serve as part of the reinforcing dynamic. In other words, every time you play ball with him, or give him a pat or a treat, you are training him to be afraid of slippery floors because fear of slippery floors is the organizing principle of his mind, which works on an energetic rather than a rational logic.

    First of all, it’s vital to understand the notion of the emotional battery and the related concepts of personality, stress and drive. When a dog’s emotional capacity to handle stress is overwhelmed, its brain creates a predator in order to allow for an intense download of all the stress it’s carrying. You mention that Zeus had an overly compulsive foundation in his training and this therefore has limited his emotional carrying capacity by which I mean that at peak levels of intensity, he goes by instinct/habit rather than by feel. In other words, he senses the presence of his overbearing handler in these situations. In these contexts, his nervous system “misconstrues” the variables in a situation so that he perceives a predatory aspect (that which is reflective) and this then gives the dog instinctual permission to download all this built up stress through a state of panic. His brain creates a predator (be it the slippery floor or shore break, i.e. a break in the continuum, a threshold) so that the organism can download, purge itself of too much stress and this then brings on a state of relief which is how the syndrome reinforces itself. The most important point to understand is that on an instinctual level the dog’s fear of floors serves a therapeutic purpose because it gives the dog a chance to download. A dog just can’t panic out of the blue; it must perceive a predator and the nervous system will invent something to fit the bill so that the dog can get to a sense of relief. Again, the most important thing to grasp is that the dog’s entire mind becomes organized around these intense events and absolutely everything positive he experiences, is actually feeding into the problem because it’s merely adding more and more energy to the battery and thereby impelling the dog to find a panic opportunity in order to do a stress purge.
    This built up stress has to be converted into aggression (as in the most intense expression of fighting drive) in order for the situation to resolve itself. It sounds to me that he is too clean and compliant in his bite work, and is probably working through what most trainers call positive prey drive. Also, what stands out in the video for me is that from dog’s point of view, and just to put it into completely neutral terms of an energetic logic, the handler is an object of resistance that the dog redresses by being playful. In other words, he’s not fighting for what he wants; rather he’s “vibrating” at a precise pitch of personality in order to get what he wants, for example, note how he splays quickly into the down, and nudges forward to receive the treat, and changes direction with a certain flick in his body carriage. Zeus isn’t learning “if-I-do-this-then-I get-that” as one would logically construe from what he’s doing. Rather, he’s “learning” to vibrate at a certain intensity level (like hitting a specific musical note) in order to overcome the resistance between him and the food. This vibration is a state of personality and is not fighting drive and the problem is that personality is a modality of consciousness that can’t channel much energy (such as deep stress coming up from the battery) because in fact personality is a vibration resulting from the HOLDING BACK OF ENERGY. It’s a defensive response to wanting something. In other words, his obedience training is teaching him to hold back energy and this energy has to go somewhere and that’s where fear of floors comes in.
    Strategy for Healing:

    It Can Only Get Out The Way It Went In.
    As far as the emotional battery is concerned, positive experiences are only adding to the load. Positive experiences can’t trigger the battery. Understandably after you gain the dog’s confidence, you will tend to overcompensate for his improper foundation work, but this will backfire because it will harden the dog in his orientation to a specific vibration, one that can’t channel enough energy. I would no longer use the clicker because it’s an ungrounded sound (metallic/plastic sounds are reflective and hence predatory) that stimulates him to play at obedience rather than to fight at obedience. Nice can’t resolve unresolved emotion. Only rage moving through the heart can resolve unresolved emotion.
    The original fear must be triggered. One way would be to tie Zeus out in a wooded area, and have a helper doing his best Darth Vader impersonation skulk around at a distance. We want to bring fear up to the surface. Do not have the helper come too close and break the intensity of the moment. Only praise the dog if it adds to drive, not if it distracts dog from boogey man. If dog shows no reaction, leave dog on his own and repeat. After several sessions like this if you get a good reaction, walk dog into wooded area and have Darth jump out, but again at a distance. Want to see your dog’s hackles rise, growl, etc. Give the dog something real to be afraid about. Thus, fear comes up to the surface and becomes available for training and dog is learning not to rely on his personality. We want to identify an appropriate source for the dog’s fear so that his brain doesn’t have to make one up. At some point, have helper make sudden attacks from behind cars and the like, no biting to break the intensity, the shock effect is what is most important. Give the dog a new organizing principle, one which he can solve by working with you, rather than having a problem toward which you can do nothing to help him with.
    To Prepare Zeus For the Above, don’t do any more obedience training. Also, it’s important not to play with small toys or bite objects as rewards as these are all part of the load/overload to slippery floors cycle. (Also if he plays with toys on his own, this is part of loading cycle as he’s perceiving a predatory aspect in the toy which is why he can play with it.) Tie him out on an elastic member so that he can strain against lead, tied a little bit above shoulder length and on agitation harness, and encourage dog to muscle into you in push for food. However, your goal is to make the physical contact as extreme as you can, slowly building up the dog’s emotional capacity to handle your force. Eventually the pitch should get so intense that Zeus would really like to bite you because you are engaging his most primitive, oral urge and only your timing and distance prevents it. When he is doing excellent with you, you want to bring in helpers and they are going to do physical contacting without a sleeve or any positive preyful thing in play whatsoever. When the dog is pushing hard for them they’re going to put a little “spin on the ball” and give him a shot to get him mad. The goal is to get genuine rage coming out, (which later can be calmed through proper bite work) at which point you will be there to love him up. You want to see the deepest, dankest, darkest junk come out of his system and then be there to support that this is the precise pitch you want him to become comfortable with. There is only one drive, the Drive To Make Contact, or fight drive, and this has to be built up before the bite work is relevant.
    I would give him a tightly constrained life until this problem is solved, so that his only outlet is the genuine fear experience and the extreme pushing exercises to build up his fight drive. Then when you think he is ready, you will take him to slippery floor and do extreme pushing with him, and then have helpers do same, and then have knock down fight with Darth Vader. They can use garbage bags as extreme triggers when he’s ready.
    Finally, to keep the dog’s Temperament on line and at right pitch, during the extreme pushing exercise you can intersperse some bark-on-command stuff and this will give the dog a confidence boost and a good look inside the dog’s mind to see what pitch he’s vibrating at. The bark is also an excellent confidence builder on slippery floors as well because he has to project his “self” outside of his body and into you, whereas when in a panic state the dog is holding on to his physical center of gravity for dear life.

  22. jamie says:

    thank you – although i feel that that doesn’t quite express my thanks enough!
    i shall read over several times and digest what you’ve advised before going for it.
    i really appreciate your time in posting such a lengthy and detailed reply, and for taking the time to actually ‘see’ him.
    I would be interested in getting out to see you at some point in the future to witness your methods first hand.
    kind regards
    jamie and zeus

  23. Lacey says:

    Wow! That was amazing. Do you think Lou the cocker would benefit from something like this too? Granted, Lou is never “too nice”…

    Just as you said would happen, Lou has started migrating his bite up from pant legs and shoes. When he gets really into it (sweep feet w/ long stiff rope toy and he charges/grabs) now he is all over my sleeve/arm. He’s also started peeing in the house.

  24. kbehan says:

    Right, if you have to go deeper, you have to go deeper. The peeing in the house is related to early house training that was abusive before you got him, and now this energy is coming up to the surface as he feels freer, so use the crate to house train him properly as he should have been in the first place, good luck.

  25. Heather says:

    It is easier to relax when you know that every problem has a solution. What is problem behavior in one context or breed or with any particular owner may be purpose in another, however. How to know if you are honoring the nature of the dog?

  26. Heather says:

    And it’s quite amazing that a dog could transcend its limitations in certain situtations with the right help. So it’s certainly a matter of getting the right dog – eventually, like the dog in drive (or the person with the artificial heard that can’t be startled), he is going to have only pure desire to do things.

  27. Donna says:

    I have a gsd and have recently had a hard time walking the dog over hard wood and tile floors or any floor that may seem shiney.
    I cannot get her into her obedience training classes because the building floors appear to be shiney. I was told that this will stop however
    it has not stopped and it has been two months. The gsd is now going on 9 months and she struggles with me when this situation
    occurs. I have never had such a problem with a dog in the past. What in the world am I going to do. We are moving and the new house
    is not liked by my gsd. The trainer said this will pass, it has not passed

  28. kbehan says:

    With a young dog there’s something to be said for letting them grow out of it, but there are things you can be doing to approach the problem from more angles and indirectly. First of all, fear is a not a simple thing, it’s a complex construct of consciousness, to wit, it is function of balance in that it results from sensations due to a collapse of a state of attraction. So teaching your dog to push for food, bite and fight for what it wants, can increase its threshold so that it can resist a collapse. Secondly, doing obstacle work in the woods, crawling over blow downs, boulder climbing, etc,. gives it an opportunity to fight to retain its balance in a natural setting conducive to Drive and this raises its threshold of collapse as well. Also, I would only feed dog in area of shiny floor as the only way fear can be turned back into desire (state of attraction) from whence it came (when attraction collapsed), is through hunger circuitry. Eventually it will travel onto floor for food, and then learn to push for food on floor, and eventually play tug of war on shiny floor.
    At any rate, I would begin the process with the indirect means rather than tackling it head on. There are other areas in its life that it is overly sensitive and it is better equipped to overcome the problem in these areas because it is expressing energy already. The floor actually serves as a convenient downloading opportunity for the deeper energy it is not expressing in these other areas. So it’s repressing its core by expressing its personality, and you need in these moments to induce the dog to express it with Drive. For example, it is invariably displaying intense personality in some areas and this is being encouraged by owner, thus the shiny floor becomes an opportunity for the deeper truth to be expressed. So when its Drive is built up in the personality moments, eventually Drive will become available to solve the shiny floor problem directly. Just remember: “Go slow and you’ll get there faster.”

  29. Undeniably consider that that you said. Your favourite justification seemed to be at the web the simplest thing to take note of. I say to you, I definitely get irked at the same time as folks think about concerns that they just don’t know about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , folks can take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thanks

  30. kbehan says:

    Sometimes we find eloquence in the most unusual places.

    And from google translate on a discussion of YDIYM, my thesis on dogs acting out our unresolved emotion was summed up as:

    “All dogs need to be happy is that we know.”

    Cannot be said better.

  31. AAtlantic says:

    The physics in the original article is pretty much sound but incorrectly applied (unfortunately that renders it all pseudoscience). Despite the passable physics lesson, as the first poster states, the article misses biology all together! In addition to that, it is worthwhile noting that relative reference frames can be distinguished by acceleration, which in the example of a dog on wooden flooring is definitely a factor. I also can only begin to fathom why you think there are answers to be found in Einstein’s relativity. Least of all because his fundamental conclusions beyond those of Galileo is only relevant to relative speeds close to the speed of light. If your dog is reaching such speeds I think you have greater issues…

    With all my understanding of physics, I’d conclude that dogs don’t like slippery floors for precisely the same reason we don’t – there is a risk of slipping and hence pain.

  32. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful critique. Is it therefore your contention that a dog’s fear of slippery floors is rational?

  33. Kevin Behan says:

    If a dog is afraid of the “risk of slipping and hence pain” then according to your argument this is a rational fear. And therefore since all animals (and it would be illustrative here to consider young children as well) have a fear of slipping and experiencing pain, we should see the same proportion of individuals with the extreme fear that dogs exhibit. Yet my experience shows me that an inability to get over this fear (as well as its extreme expression in dogs) is almost only a problem with the domestic dog. This indicates that we’re dealing with something that is other than a rational process. Another clue that it isn’t a rational phenomenon is that the fearful dog can’t allay its fear by watching other dogs or people traversing a shiny floor without falling, as this would calm a child for example.
    Furthermore, I think you miss the point of the Einstein and relative-frames-of-reference, reference, I’m making. We’re not talking about a dog traveling at the speed of light (a dog that fast would be a problem indeed, but then again if the uncertainty principle is in effect a dog could be both with us and running away at the same time so maybe it’s not a problem after all) but rather how perspective can be in the eyes of the beholder. To repeat, two people standing on different ships adrift would perceive the other ship as crashing into their ship because they themselves feel at rest. So when we see a dog slipping on a shiny floor, we can make two assumptions about his perception of the event. One, he understands as we do, given our rational faculties, that the acceleration is due to the dog’s own actions. Or on the other hand we could assume that the dog feels the floor is moving relative to him. The latter assumption squares better with the irrational fear we see dogs manifest. We can also note that there are many dogs riding in cars that lunge at poles or mailboxes whizzing past, the very same reflex we see when we swish a furry toy past the dog. Since we must make an assumption in either interpretation, it’s best to make the most logical one that encompasses all the evidence. It makes the most sense that the dog perceive both events as something moving past him, not that he is moving past the post on the side of the road in one instance, but then with the flirt pole, the swishy object is moving past him.

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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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