Why Are Dogs Attracted to Human Beings?

Because animals are emotional beings and human beings displace the most “emotional mass.”

I’ll never forget the first litter I helped my father raise when I was a young boy. They were housed in a stall set up in the back of our boarding kennel. It was quiet there and so the mother and her pups wouldn’t be disturbed by the hubbub of daily kennel activity. One morning I was in their pen cleaning up newspapers, and soon they forgot about me and resumed tumbling over each other with their roly-poly bellies making them look like cement mixer trucks playing bumper cars. At some point my father walked into the room to check on how I was doing and even though the pups were only a few weeks past opening their eyes and able to see no more than ten or fifteen feet, at the sight of a human they wobbled as fast as they could to the front of the stall and then pressed against the wire mesh, mewing, whining and jockeying for position. They seemed even more intensely attracted to the form of a human than when they saw their mother being returned after her exercise session. From then on I remained struck by how profoundly dogs are attracted to human beings and virtually at the start of life. I knew this revealed some fundamental principle of nature and I was never satisfied with the catchall explanation into which it seems every mystery of dogs is placed: “due to domestication.”

From my study of animals as emotional beings, I’ve learned that animal consciousness is a medium of displacement, just like the time/space continuum of the universe is displaced to yield gravity as a virtual force of attraction. Human beings displace the emotional continuum of consciousness more than any other animal, just as large objects of mass displace time and space more than smaller objects. Thus, animals are more attracted to man than they are to any other living being, even their own kind, because humans have the most emotional mass.

What is emotional mass? Just as physical mass is resistance to physical acceleration, emotional mass is resistance to emotional acceleration, i.e. being moved by a feeling. I think it’s safe to say that we are more  attracted to huge boulders than to little pebbles, but it’s easier to pitch a pebble than move a boulder. If it wasn’t for emotional mass, animals would be like a boat without a keel in the water, skimming aimlessly across the surface whichever way the wind was blowing.

The main point I wish to make in regards to the dog/human connection is that the higher the emotional capacity of a species, the more emotional mass they acquire through experience, and the more emotional experiences they have simply by virtue of living longer, the more “gravitas” they acquire and the more they displace the emotional tipping points (i.e. consciousness) of other beings, and so therefore, the stronger the force of attraction other beings experience toward such high capacity beings. (Consider how awe struck we are by a great predator such as a lion or grizzly bear, or a huge, powerful animal such as an elephant or whale. The bigger and more powerful an animal, and the longer it lives, the more emotional mass it displaces.) Likewise, while all animals are profoundly attracted to human beings, nonetheless it’s hard for most species to feel emotional movement towards us.
So just as a large object of mass displaces more of the time/space continuum and thereby generates a stronger force of attraction than smaller objects, a species with a high emotional capacity will more profoundly displace the continuum of animal consciousness and thereby generate a stronger force of attraction than animals that carry less emotional mass.

So all animals are attracted to man given that human beings carry the greatest emotional mass, however, given the high emotional capacity of canines, only the dog can fully cross the species divide and connect with man, emotionally. Only the dog can go by feel in man’s world whereas all other animals must go by instinct, and it’s a two-way street as well. The dog as a fellow high capacity emotional being, triggers feelings in us that accelerate our emotion. Dogs put our resistance into motion and so humans feel especially close to their dogs. While this explanation may at first seem technical and clinically cold, in truth adopting an “energy theory” of emotion and realizing that nature is itself constructed in accordance with emotion, can serve to open our eyes to the amazing magic by which nature (and our dog) works.

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Published June 11, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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38 responses to “Why Are Dogs Attracted to Human Beings?”

  1. Ben says:

    I’ve been thinking a bit about this, and I was curious as to how our innately “predator-like” energy comes into play. Humans are indeed attracted to large, long living animals– but in the case of a predator like a tiger, there is always an element of fear and that creates hesitation and resistance at same time.

    How does this operate with dogs? Is predatory energy attractive or repulsive? Is our emotional mass and capacity large enough (or attractive enough) to overcome any resistance created by our innate predator energy?

  2. kbehan says:

    Great questions:
    Everything is a function of attraction, even repulsion and this is because before there even be a state of repulsion there must first be a state of attraction. So first an animal sees a human at a distance and there is a displacement of its consciousness proportional to its “mass” and it feels a monolithic pull of attraction ala gravity, and this is akin to what we call curiosity. And then the closer it gets, and if it can continue to feel safe, then that becomes akin to awe, just like when we view a large dangerous predator safely behind a fence or moat at the zoo.
    However, as the animal gets closer then emotional mass as ballast becomes the “emotional battery.” Now, unresolved emotion changes its function from simple ballast into the far more complex stress. This is significant because unresolved emotion as stress operates according to the laws of electromagnetism rather than gravity and the laws of motion, and this is important because it then allows the animal to arrive at a complex view of an object of attraction, ratrher than go by the simple pull of attraction. So as the animal nears, it is able to differentiate between what is positive about a human and thereby conducts emotion, versus what is negative and thereby interrupts or resists the movement of emotion. So the body of the human will be the positive or preyful aspects, but the eyes will be the negative or predatory aspect. (There are other nuances as well)
    What’s really important to know is that only a predatory aspect can trigger stress in the emotional battery, whereas a positive preyful value cannot. But stress is also a function of attraction because it is actually the physical memory of a positive value that didn’t get to completion and hence was internalized and stored in the emotional battery, and then became compacted along with all the other acquired unresolved emotion to serve as emotional ballast as well.
    Notice that avoidance in an animal is an electromagnetic negative-pole-to-negative pole, or north-to-north pole kind of thing (same is true of pos-to-pos, or south-to-south) so that even this pushing away force is dependent on an underlying force of electromagnetic attraction.
    So the great emotional mass of a human being displaces the consciousness of other animals and they feel a monolithic force of attraction toward us, at a distance. However the closer they get, the stronger our predatory aspect becomes in their awareness and so we evolved in their perspective and mind from a simple displacement of consciousness, to electrical energy that needs to run to ground and we can see them become stressed and flighty if they cannot perceive a ground, or preyful aspect in our makeup.
    However, the animal can close the gap if the stress “softens” so that it can be converted back into a positive perception of preyful energy and this happens when the object of attraction acts in a conductive manner toward the approaching animal. I call this “defining” or “grounding” the negative and then we see the approaching animal become more magnetic in demeanor and deportment. The greater an animals sexual nature, the more it will be able to soften and perceive the negative (predatory aspect) as access to the positive (preyful aspects). So dogs are the only animal able to close that gap because they are so sexual/magnetic and this allows them to feel a ground into a human when other species feel the ground moving beneath their feet.

  3. Chistine says:

    How am I to interpret my #3 dog’s reaction to people in this light? She seems attracted to people but is very timid/skittish of contact at the same time. For example: when she is playing off-lead down at the canoe portage and a person(s) walks through the area, she will will walk towards them in a slight crouching stance with her nose extended. However, if they turn to acknowledge her or try to give her any attention, she immediately backs away and will even bark at them, showing her teeth as if an aggressive display. She is also petrified of crowds and will beat feet in the opposite direction. What can I do to help her to be more comfortable around people? Typically I will give them treats to give her when she approaches them and I encourage them to squat and not make direct eye contact; these methods do seem to help. Is there a better way?

  4. kbehan says:

    Before you try to fix the behavior of the messenger, be sure to find the message. So find the exact parallel in your own ways. But don’t try to fix it, just find it. Ultimately, there’s probably a judgment against aggression and something to do with “sharing” and being nice, that kind of thing.

  5. AZdogerman says:

    Kevin, I have been eating up your blog and all the exciting debates about OC vs. NDT, I have been working with my dog and seeing positive changes in her. She doesn’t push well for food but will shoot towards me at light-speed and then I push her and play push/war. One question. I have been working at having my pooch sit and then I walk away with the tug-toy and approach her in a predator way. When we started this she when the energy would get too intense she would break her sit and run away in search of anything to bite on. So I started anticipating the break and giving her the cue to get the toy in my grasp and play and she responded great! Now when I stare her down and become increasingly more predatory there is a point where I see a shift in her demeanor and she can’t help but bolt to me to get the tug-toy. She is becoming more attracted to me at these high-thresholds which is good, but I’m concerned that now that she has this behavior, if another dog gives her a predatory aspect she will do the same thing and run straight at the dog. Or will she instead look for something with a more preyful aspect? Thanks for the help!

  6. kbehan says:

    Thanks for your interest and participation.
    A few years ago I was listening to a story on the radio about a famous violinist; he might have been Vladimir Horowitz. At any rate, a young prodigy on the violin was brought to him for evaluation. The boy had dazzled audiences in concert and had quickly outpaced his teachers, everywhere he went people marveled at his virtuosity and proficiency with difficult works. However Horowitz in contrast asked him to play an easy composition and after listening to him play just a short while, he interrupted him and asked: “You don’t practice your scales do you?” The boy was taken aback. “Why should I practice scales when I’ve mastered the most difficult pieces?” “Yes,” Horowitz said. “I could tell something was missing.”

    In that vein I want to say that there are certain core exericises, such as pushing-for-food and one can’t do the foundation work with a high energy prey object such as a bite toy because your dog’s mind will become so fried with stimulation it won’t be able to develop the necessary power of discrimination. Whereas food is such a low order and pure emotional ground that it’s easier for the dog to learn and take in everything that’s going on around it and formulate fine discrimination capabilities. So getting a good push for food will give your dog the internal fortitude to feel you at high drive and also be able to discern the nuances of your body language and emotional inflection so that it’s overload threshold is raised rather than lowered. It’s especially important to have a strong foundation of grounding before you do the more intense predatory input. So don’t neglect your scales. Keep on pushing!

  7. AZdogerman says:

    Ah! Ok, yes that makes sense to me. I guess I’m a skip the scales type of person. I play music but was never fond of the ground work.. I will keep on pushing. Something did seem off that she wouldn’t do push-for-food with much intensity. I am looking forward to helping my dog resolve some of her stress. Thanks for the advice I will take it to heart.

  8. AZdogerman says:

    Just got back from pushing, yeah, she hardly pushes at all and is not very focused on me. She would push a little and I would release the push and let her eat then she would avert her gaze or go sniff around then eventually she would become interested in me again. I spent most of the session observing our behavior and with just the food our energy was much more subdued. I’ll keep on working at it. She doesn’t wolf down her food much at all, however my parents feed her two “snacks” in the afternoon, in the house, just put in her bowl, she doesn’t wolf in there either. I think I’ll start to feed her all her food in one meal by pushing in the park. It would be nice to have the same intensity as she gives to the toy in the near future. I am a little confused now though, should I avoid the tug-toy completely until she pushes well or incorporate it somehow? Like tease with the toy then let her push? Thanks.

  9. kbehan says:

    To build her drive for food, secure to a bungee rope of flexible sapling, and this will increase her capacity to focus because you’ve reduced so many variables. Then invite her to jump up on you and take some food. Massage her neck and then step back and excite her. Step back in invite to jump up, give food, massage and step away with praise. Eventually while massaging push her gently back and see if she exerts herself to sustain contact. She soon will. Also, don’t play toy with her but once she gets a good push for food, put toy on ground slightly out of reach and repeat all of the above. Finally you will be able to tease her with toy, put it down and she will push for food over toy and rather than having toy. She’s now learning to discriminate without the toy frying her circuits. Good luck.

  10. Heather says:

    Happy lately is on a mission to eat my arms, or more accurately to just gnaw or nibble on some part of me of his choosing…not of MY choosing. I am sensing that my efforts to direct his mouthing to toys, and even hands when gentle, made about as much sense as if I had told my kids to hug their teddy bears instead of me…and that now asking him to give me all his energy via pushing without also allowing him to connect emotionally via mouthing is causing what I am perceiving as him being on this mission to eat my arms. And although the “circuits fried” jumping/grabbing is not common, a different jumping/grabbing (I feel that it is different, an observer might not notice the different “energy”), one that is a manifestation of this conflict and that can be resolved completely in the moment via pushing followed by mouthing, is increasing in frequency.

    I am still hearing the same voice in my head that I do when my kids ask for ice cream before dinner…”this is a dangerous precedent to set!” Yet my heart says that the way to move forward with Happy is to let him mouth my arm/sleeve, that this mission he is on is something that I am not going to be able to “redirect”. Last night he laid at my feet and chewed his bone…then let out a big groan and crawled up onto the couch and onto my lap and just wanted to nibble my sleeve…when I tried to give him an alternative, even a finger, he then wanted my whole arm (only when covered by the shirt he wanted) and was more persistent – if not that, then the sock. The same shirt (literally the same one but not on my body) he wasn’t interested in.

    In my mind that little voice is telling me that he should not be able to climb onto my lab and commence eating my shirt. But he seems driven to do so. I know that I could put him off of the couch and into a long down on the floor, and when the family is there that’s where he is, but in this situation where I’m asking him to give me all his energy, my gut tells me mouthing like this is something he needs to be allowed to do to move on in his development, as I fought him so much on it as a young puppy.

    I was thinking of wrapping my arm in his favorite fleece PJ top so his teeth wouldn’t bruise my skin…but my husband is worried that Happy will start eating everyone’s PJs…

  11. Heather says:

    I may have answered my own question – I think that my indecisiveness is actually the problem. I bet if I just make the decision that I’m going to allow him to nibble my sleeve to fulfill that need, and trust in his good nature as Kevin says (keeping my confusion out of it), seeing what actually unfolds instead of thinking about what might or might not happen…we will both get unstuck (and move onto the next thing that I get stuck on…)

  12. kbehan says:

    Heather, it’s very important that your dog has his “place.” His place can’t be in your lap because then he has no place since both you and he can’t be in the same place at the same time. NDT isn’t about dogs wanting to be in their owners’ laps, it’s about the dog wanting to be in its place in order to be part of a smooth functioning group. So for now, I would say Happy isn’t ready to lay at your feet without it turning into a struggle because struggling over space is how he interprets being connected to you. This is his earliest imprint and it must heal because it is going to only generate friction. He has to learn how being in his place makes the energy move, not that by getting you to spark that gets the energy to move. Hope this clarifies.

  13. Heather says:

    Thanks Kevin! I did figure the climbing on the couch was not a good thing…my husband will be happy to hear it is not a negotiable point…we normally don’t let him on the couch but this was a spontaneous thing, and it sounds like for the purpose of connecting via struggle. The struggles are a bit discouraging sometimes! The last thing I want is to struggle with him, so it’s ironic that way.

    By his place, do you mean his pen (our baby-gated corner, which we use like a crate) or on his mat in the room with us? And this may be a dumb question, but how does the energy move when he is confined to his place?

  14. Christine says:

    I’ve always enjoyed having the puppers on the couch with me (never on my bed and not in my bedroom), so I am struggling with this one. I’m working on keeping them off the couch but I just can’t always resist them! So I guess more clarification regarding the necessity would be helpful. I know it’s been in previous posts as an NDT “No No” but more info on how their NOT being on the couch with me helps energy to move would be helpful. Thanks Kevin!

  15. Christine says:

    By-the-by…they each have their own crate as well as extra pillows on the floor for them. Diva and Duncan are pretty good at finding a spot on the floor. Bodie is the one who insists on getting on the couch with me (it’s how he grew up). Sometimes Duncan or Diva will try to get up but not as often as Bodie.

  16. Burl says:

    I am really missing something here and I know too many who think likewise… If our dogs could not roam the house as they please, I would not have them. If you really want to know how energy flows while in a confined space, spend a few nights there yourself and I think that will answer the question.

  17. Christine says:

    Burl, my dogs do roam the house as they please, for the most part. They have crates to go to when they choose it; I rarely confine them there. Only on Friday nights as it’s “Beer n’ Pizza” night for me and I watch my favorite shows that I’ve taped during the week. I fix them each a big, fat Kong and give them a frozen marrow bone along with a rawhide chew. So they get their treat and I get mine! And I get a ‘time-out’ to enjoy myself without the puppers. They look forward to Friday nights as much as I do!

    I think the “place” Kevin refers to doesn’t necessarily mean forced confinement. Duncan will readily choose a spot on the floor nearest to where I sit on the couch (Diva often objects because she wants to be in that same spot). Having such a place defined for them just makes it easier overall, is my assumption.

    Kevin, I’d still appreciate more input from you on the reasoning behind the ‘couch no-no’ and how it impedes the flow of energy. Thank You!

  18. Heather says:

    Happy is only 8 months old and pretty much has no freedom – he is in his pen (he is there at night too), or the family room/kitchen area on his mat for brief periods, or outside walking on a leash or playing with us in the yard. He does have a dog door in his pen that leads to part of the deck and down the stairs to his small run where he goes to the bathroom. When he was learning to go to his bathroom spot (up until about a month ago) we took him out every time, now he goes on his own. I like to have him in the family room after the kids go to bed for an hour or so watching TV, it is the only “unstructured” time I really have during the day to relax/unwind…but it may be that he isn’t far enough along in his development to handle that yet? I have tried crating him in the bedroom at night, but he is too big for the large crate and can’t stretch out…he also gets too hot, starts panting and rustling around. He prefers to lie next to the door in his pen where the cold air blows in from outside – like a furry draft stopper.

    Part of the reason I chose a bigger dog is because I wanted the dog to be a dog, not treated like a stuffed toy or a human baby (especially not picked up and pulled around by the kids, which I see a lot of kids do to their dogs and the dogs being shy or snappy as a result). It isn’t really practical having this dog on the furniture either…lots of the time it is like taking a shaggy 4×6 rug and soaking it in a mud puddle and dragging it all over the house…not something you want in bed or on the couch. I probably would cover the couch with an old sheet and let him up at certain times, but my husband is adamant that he does not want dogs on any furniture and this I agreed to before we got the dog.

    Even so, I’d like to know if we can look forward to more “integrated” time with the dog – I think I am rushing this but maybe it’s because I am not sure what a typical first-year-in-a-dog’s-life looks like.

  19. Seb says:


    I’m not quite sure what is wrong with trying to give a dog a specific place that s/he can always feel comfortable in, no matter what is going on in the house. Plus, if you really think about it, your house itself is a confined space for a dog, so to me, that point is kind of moot. But that being said, my main point is that I don’t think anyone suggested that one must keep a dog tied up 24/7 in a corner of a room for its entire life. I read it as a specific training solution to what an owner and her dog were going through.

  20. kbehan says:

    Great questions. I am stopping writing a training article I was working on in order to focus on the issue of place in the canine mind and to focus on these related questions that are coming up. The article will be entitled: “Dogs Love Assigned Seating.”
    But in practice my philosophy can be summed up by saying that for the first year of a dog’s life he has no freedom. Then for the rest of his life, he has total freedom. I also want to point out that in the animal mind, there is no such thing as freedom. It’s an abstraction of the human intellect. Dog’s don’t want freedom, they want to give their energy to their human, and they learn to do this by aligning around the group’s purpose and purpose is always about overcoming resistance. And if we leave it up to dog to figure out, then instincts will run the show. In other words, if you’re not fighting WITH them, then you’re going to end up fighting AGAINST them. And finally, I use the crate during the first year of a puppy’s development to protect the puppy from the owner.

  21. christine randolph says:

    haha protect the puppy from the owner is one insightful statement !!!!

    my dogs roam the house and fenced yard as they please, they get confined at meal times occasionally, so they do not steal each other’s food. other than that…they are able to go to the bathroom whenever they want which is VERY NICE !

    i have a problem with the young male, he eats plastic and occasionally wood and makes himself sick if left to his own devices too long. so I try to keep my dogs with me when i run errands, in the car.
    about the bed, my dogs can sleep on the bed if they want to, but my oldest has almost never done it, she likes her own little dog bed or any space away from us, i.e. at the hotel, when we travel. and now the younger female also is starting to seeks out her own cushion (or crate) at night when before she liked to be with me on the bed, even my young male often prefers his cushion next to the bed…
    they just do not seem to be that CRAZY about the bed, i thought this was the place they would prefer at all times unless the owner prevents it…but does not seem to be so…

    looking forward to the article !

  22. Donnie_O says:

    Do you have any suggestions as to how to make crate training easier? I didn’t crate Jinxsie for the first year that I had her and got a crate last month. I think I rushed it initially because I was able to lure her into the crate with a bone and then left her in there for about an hour. I fear that this was too long. Since then, I haven’t been able to get her to “kennel up” on command, though she will go there on her own from time-to-time. I’ve been feeding part of her meals there (but mostly pushing with her) but she keeps her back legs outside of the kennel. What I have considered doing is just closing the door on it the next time that she goes in there of her own volition and giving her a bone to chew. Does this seem like a good course of action?

  23. christine randolph says:

    i have a crate training dvd. it is called crate games. by some canadian girl, susan something.

    it shows how you reward the dog for going in AND coming out of the crate, and for building drive to go in the crate.

    make it a game with lots of hullaballo. wow good girl etc.

    rewarding the dog while you close the door and also while you open the door, while they are stationary, they are not supposed to leave the crate during these games, until they are told…

    they will associate the sound of the door opening and closing with sitting and getting a treat. etc.

    you can probably find the dvd on ebay or something. or just make up your own Crate Games

    obviously she likes the crate otherwise she would not go in on her own.

  24. christine randolph says:


    I am not sure about this but i think dogs are not too good with being indoors a bit with the family and then outdoors in the pen again, alone ?

    We saw that with a sled dog we wanted to retire from being tied to his house, to living inside the house.

    …he was unable to control his urge to mark inside, so he got put back outside. he was Pissed Off !

    I have had my dogs in the pen at a kennel when i was on vacation. BUT all the other sled dogs were outside the pen so lots of stuff that is interesting to dogs was ALWAYS going on to capture their senses, so they did not get lonely, bored, not a chance !

    and they were all three of them together so they were probably snuggling up at night in the dog house and playing together and having all kinds of social interaction I am sure. …making assumptions because i was not there !

    …this is what i do not like about a pen outside, i cannot set my eyes on my dogs too much. I like to see them, observe them and find out things about them and i can only do that when they are with me all of the time.

    but, i see how this is necessary for you to do this.

    …just wondering if Happy thinks it is not enough and hence the biting behaviour which might be… i am way out on a limb here… a sign of separation anxiety ?

  25. Heather says:

    Hi Christine, Happy’s pen is inside, in the kitchen (about 6 feet from my computer), in a 5×5 area surrounding a door, in which we installed a dog door. We use the area like a crate – he is just too big for a crate and always needs access to a huge bucket of water, which we keep right outside the dog door. He is a very messy drinker, dunking his whole head in and slopping water all over the place, it needs to be away from his sleeping area or he’ll be wet all the time. He also has a chain-link run (his potty area) that he can access via the dog door. During the day he uses the potty area himself now. I still take him out first thing in the morning and last thing at night. He doesn’t leave his pen at night. He doesn’t hang out by himself outside, he stays inside in his pen. We have a large property but he only goes there with us, not by himself. I thought he might be outside in the run area once we gave him access, but he is not, even if the neighbor’s dogs are outside barking. He just uses it for the bathroom and that’s it.

  26. Heather says:

    re: separation anxiety – I don’t see anything like that, he is about as non-anxious as I think it would be possible to get for a dog.

  27. christine randolph says:

    ohhh GLAD to hear he is indoors.. and i thought MY dog was a messy drinker but he is nothing like yours…
    it is good to have it where the dog can always go out to a fenced area whenever they want to, we have that, ours play out there, as well as go to the bathroom.
    ..i want to buy a large vacation property to have a huge dog run for them…

    our lot is only 1/2 acre

    we could have a cabin on a large lot somewhere, 20 acres or so.

    would be COOOLL!

    …if he can see you a lot of the time while you are home, i do not think he would develop separation anxiety, it would also be worse when you are not home, which it does not seem to be…

    so what is it about all this biting ? maybe he is teething ?

  28. Heather says:

    I often catch myself doing something Kevin hilights in the book – making judgments that Happy “knows” that doing one thing vs. another is right or wrong, and then looking at behavior through that filter, and making decisions about what to do based on that. Not really logical and it wouldn’t have occurred to me but for reading the book. Overall I think I am doing a good job but my challenge is not to rush things, which just results in unnecessary struggle. EG Happy could’ve been snoozing in his pen while I chilled out and watched TV, and he would’ve been just as content and not known the difference.

  29. christine randolph says:

    haha my husband also seems to think also that dogs know when they do a wrong thing, in truth they only respond to his angry body language with some calming signals…

    ..i used to think dogs do not really like doing certain stuff, they only do it because they want me to give them food and be nice to them…excited about them…not sure any more about that.

    ..so I try not to coerce them all that much…
    on the other hand they seem to begin to like stuff if it becomes a regular routine

    even if they were merely flummoxed by it in the beginning…

    some trainers think that if a dog commences unwanted behaviour, i.e.barking or in your case, biting your arm so that you get bruises… it is ok to put him in the crate for a time-out, without saying anything. each time he offers this behaviour. this seems to signal to the dog, that this behaviour will not lead to more “mom” time and could extinguish it…

  30. Heather says:

    During our playtimes if he gets too rough and grabs me instead of the toy I sometimes ask him to “wait” then release him to play. If he has just gotten overtired or too excited and I wasn’t catching it, I say ‘ow’ and go inside for a minute then come back and either wind things down or try again. Other times, which to be honest shouldn’t really occur because he should be in his pen not entertaining himself by mouthing people (but this is where I need to engage in more realistic and less wishful thinking) I just say “OK! go to bed!” in a cheery voice, while walking over to his pen and pointing to the floor. I reward him for going to bed, which he does very nicely, and if he seems to just really need something to chew on, I give him a new bully stick or a frozen kong.

    He is a great dog, sometimes I think that gets lost in the ruminating I do about things I find unexpected or challenging.

  31. Donnie_O says:

    “some trainers think that if a dog commences unwanted behaviour, i.e.barking or in your case, biting your arm so that you get bruises… it is ok to put him in the crate for a time-out, without saying anything. each time he offers this behaviour. this seems to signal to the dog, that this behaviour will not lead to more “mom” time and could extinguish it…”

    That’s what traditional learning theory says, but I think that the idea of a “time out” is lost on a dog. You can send a child to their room to think about what they’ve done because they have a sense of past and future. “Time out” is a pretty abstract concept: the idea that being sent to a certain place = punishment requires one to understand that a)their actions were wrong b)the place they’ve been sent to is a consequence of their actions. I don’t think that dogs can understand either of those ideas. If you were to send a dog to time out for mouthing, i think that the only lesson she’s learning is that she can’t interact with her handler in those moments where she’s in drive. Also, the unresolved drive to make contact turns into stress.

    Heather, have you considered getting a bite sleeve as an intermediate step to channeling his bite into a tug toy?

  32. Burl says:

    I sure would not use that same crate to represent the dog’s safe place.

    My den cannot also be my prison cell.

  33. Burl says:

    And I agree that time-out is not right for a dog.

  34. Heather says:

    My down coat serves as a bite sleeve currently…I would certainly get a bite sleeve but I am not sure how to use one per NDT ideas (or any ideas, but I wonder if the traditional “protection” training advice would be applicable or send me down the wrong path). Suggestions welcome!

    I guess I am sounding really focused on biting, it actually seems like a normal thing that he is doing, it is not excessive, I just struggle with what to do in those moments to keep the “energy flowing with what Kevin calls the ‘group’, vs. entering a struggle with the dog” is the best way to put it. I have spoken with other Newfoundland owners (and watched a lot of youtube Newf videos!), and he is certainly just being a Newfoundland puppy. There was a time when he was about 6 months when he would get overstimulated/confused and jump and grab, and I was trying the more confrontational techniques to stop that…it didn’t take long at all to realize that those old wives’ tale suggestions were not appropriate or effective – that’s when I discovered NDT and got some real insight into that issue. That’s not really happening anymore, it doesn’t seem like overload, at least to me, he is completely engaged with me, just hanging onto me sometimes. The couch day was different – really he shouldn’t have the freedom yet because he is not trained and it is inviting a struggle. I am hoping Kevin’s “dogs in their place” article gives some direction too.

    I couldn’t give him a time-out if I wanted to, but if he gets too rough saying ‘ow’ and removing myself behind a gate for a moment, not being mad but just matter-of-fact, seems like appropriate feedback. I am probably wrong, though, because it seems like whatever my intuition says, it is the opposite that is the right thing to do.

  35. Heather says:

    I do understand a dog being in drive and not wanting to rebuff him at that time…but as another example of what I’m referring to when I say “biting” – today I slipped on the ice, fell down 4 stairs, and before I could get up Happy pounced on me and grabbed my pony tail, arm, hand…having the best time I suppose thinking I was inviting him to wrestle. That seems normal, I’m not mad or anything, in fact it was pretty funny, but I sit up getting my bearings and I am body checked down again…it seemed appropriate at that point to say ‘ow’, get up, and go behind the gate. It didn’t seem that his enthusiasm was dampened, he sat down and I came out and we went for a nice walk.

  36. christine randolph says:

    so mommy goes in the “prison” for her time out !

    that is completely also a good deal,i.e.some trainers say to leave the room momentarily if it is indoors.

    i guess energetically it is exactly the same, a momentary “absence of rewards”, where the reward is “time with mom” ….

    i do not have any problems with my dogs biting unless i try to clip nails of my border collie. she is awfully defensive about that ! it is not easy to clip a nail while wearing a tough glove….ha yes i do not talk often about problems with my dogs, this one is a real problem !

  37. kbehan says:

    Don’t use your arm as bite object because the bite object has to be “objectifiable” so that it can serve as an emotional midpoint, around which you and your dog can organize sociably. It will prove hard to detach your arm so that it can be such an object. The example of how important it is to objectify the midpoint is to imagine an NFL game with 22 steroid-addled highly aggressive young men that are encouraged to run into each other, block, tackle and head slap, but then there’s no ball as objectified midpoint? Remarkably, the ball allows these men to self-organize and there is in the vast majority of cases no fighting, unlike other sports with less physical contact. So always objectify the midpoint so that your dog can self-organize with you as access-to-the-positive.

  38. Heather says:

    If my arm isn’t detachable it won’t be for lack of trying! Right now a very loud rubber chicken is the bite object, we are doing pretty well. Happy pushes for food with me and is reluctant with my husband. But Happy is also more grabby with me during play and focuses only on the chicken (no mouthiness) with my husband.

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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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