Why Do Dogs Zoom-zoom-zoom Around the House?

Behaviorists call the syndrome of a dog running helter-skelter around the yard, or zooming from room to room in the house “frequent, random activity periods (FRAPS). However this is a profound misnomer because there’s nothing random about this activity. When a dog goes zoom-zoom-zoom it is actually fear coming to the surface so that it can be dissipated.

The opportunity for the release of fear occurs when the dog feels safe. That fear is being is expressed is why one can observe in such a dog a tell tale “scoot” in its hind end with a tucked tail and hunched in hindquarters as it corners and gathers itself for the next fly by. It looks just as if the dog is being chased by an imaginary predator close on its heels nipping at its tail so that it has to zig and zag to keep away from it.

You can see the identical behavior in cats that find themselves out in the yard, a gust of wind kicks up a leaf and the cat zoom-zoom-zooms until it finds itself up a tree and “safe.” Another example of the behavior can also be found in a litter of dogs. One puppy isn’t comfortable engaging in the group scrum with all the head knocking going on in the pile, and so not being able to participate directly but feeling just as energized as the others nonetheless: it races around orbiting the litter because it’s afraid to make direct contact.

Needless to say, the worst thing an owner can do is encourage this kind of behavior or play chase because now they are becoming the very embodiment of the imaginary predator. This will come back to haunt them in one way or another as we shall see when we plumb the nature of fear and the role it plays in nature.

(Postscript: The comments from some readers of this post indicate a degree of offense by my insertion of fear into the behavior of zoom-zooming. The term seems to immediately imply that their dog is flawed and afraid of things, and this may seem puzzling for it is typically the “friendliest” of dogs that are most likely to do the most zooming. In most people’s minds fear is linked to trauma but in the natural scheme of things fear is what adds intensity to behavior, and in this sense it generic, a function of a dog’s constitution. In other words, all dogs acquire fear simply in the course of being alive and conscious and then this goes on to be manifested in their most intense expressions of behavior. So there is nothing wrong with a dog that zoom-zoom-zooms, simply that this fear needs to be “grounded” so that the intensity can be harnessed for cooperative purposes rather than left to the dog’s instincts to find a way for it to be discharged.)

(Post-postscript: 9/28/13)  OR ZOOM/ZOOM/ZOOM AROUND THE YARD

Notice the husky tucks its tail and scoots its hind end periodically, and emits high pitched distressed sounds. That’s indicative of the perception of a predator and additionally, the crinkling sounds of leaves crunching is predator energy, i.e. it reflects emotion. In this dog’s mind, the pile of leaves represents an object of resistance that it associates with its owner, hence it peeks its head out from time to time at the camera man. Note how neat and tidy the yard is, a half mile of thickly painted fence, each tree lined with paving bricks. A very loving owner and turf builder to be sure, this is not a critique, but he runs a pretty tight ship. So the dog is cutting loose with the leaves because this is its chance to connect with his owner at a high level of energy, but it must do so indirectly. Whereas if the dog could connect with his owner directly at such a high rate of energy, it would not zoom/zoom/zoom around the yard. This is a principle of behavior.


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Published June 1, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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78 responses to “Why Do Dogs Zoom-zoom-zoom Around the House?”

  1. Cliff Abrams says:

    Your last paragraph indicates that you should not let your dog chase you as it “will come back to haunt them (the owner)” Scary. Our dog does not zoom-zoom but very much likes to chase me and seems to be calmed by the game. Other trainers have indicated that chasing— building up the prey drive— is good. Which is it— good or scary?

    He also likes to “play rough” with us trading who submits (usually me/wife). This play seems to be good for him. Is it? Thanks very much.

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks for your comment and for making a good point. I failed to state my point precisely. I assumed that owners would end up chasing their dog rather than being the object of the chase, the former is bad the latter is good. But nevertheless, since the zoom-zoom-zoom behavior is fear driven there is a necessary way to defuse this behavior so it has a positive outcome rather than a negative one. At any rate, playing with a dog indoors is not recommended even if the dog is chasing the owner.

  3. Cliff Abrams says:

    Oh, right. We never chase him. If he snatches something, we use good humor and distraction to get him off and focus his attention on us rather than the “game”. And he’s snatching much less lately as we’ve been working with him and diverting some of his boundless energy.

    Indoor play is pretty much confined to some “heavy petting” with both parties pretty happy about it. The real chasing/work is outside. We’ve also been working with some jumping (up to 3 feet already) and weaving, which he took to immediately and loves.

    Many thanks for your good advice, which seems to be working for us and Lenny.

  4. Since most of the dogs I’ve seen do this are under a year old, and because they only do it just before bedtime, my perception is that they do it as a way of releasing excess energy before going to bed. And I’ve never seen it as a fear-based behavior either, even though your explanation of the “imaginary” predator makes sense, given the tail tuck, etc.

    To me the dogs always seem quite happy when they do this, though. Perhaps because they’re releasing so much tension?

    That said, in my experience when dogs get enough play time outdoors during the day, they don’t get the zoomies at night.


  5. Ryan says:

    Hi Kevin, I have a 4 yr old gsd. I have owned her since she was 11 weeks old and from day one she would always bolt off to other dogs/animals and would be far too excited when meeting people or strangers. I have tried using a tug toy and long lead to gain some control but her prey drive is huge and I have got nowhere with regards to having her under control, off leash. I have spent money on 2 behaviourists and I have also purchased your book and have tried to put into play your recommendation of playing chase using 1/2 tennis balls and a long lead, but when she sees another dog this is always far more interesting. I have always tried to play with her and train her using a ball or by using treats and when I have her on a long line she is a model dog,however, take it off and she is a model badly behaved dog. Is there anything extra that I could try?

    many thanks


  6. kbehan says:

    Hi Ryan, when dogs act differently when on lead relative to off lead, it’s because the leash was used to take away the dog’s energy, and then when the leash isn’t on the dog and it gets excited, it can sense that it doesn’t have to give up its energy. The important thing about leash training is that the dog be in a high state of drive so that it’s not aware of any variables other than the focus at hand, and this should be the food or bite object that the owner has. In contrast, your dog learned that obedience meant giving up its energy and it associated the tension of lead on neck with that lesson. Once that variable is missing, it learned quite correctly that it doesn’t have to give up its energy and then for some mysterious reason its owner is yelling and shouting something. So you really have to go back and address this missing fundamental, and the best way to begin that is through the “pushing exercise.” I’ll have to post future articles with pictures to show how to continue working from pushing for food to pushing for the bite object, but that’s a future step as far as you’re concerned for now. Only feed your dog for giving its energy to you no-matter-what else might be going on. Also, it’s not a problem that your dog has so much prey drive because once this energy is channeled to you, that will then equal the force of the dog’s attraction to you. Good luck, Kevin

  7. EmD says:

    My dog gets the zoomies after a bath and when he has walked in the rain. It is accompanied by rubbing himself against everything he can. I always thought he was trying to get his smells back.Sometimes I try to catch him with a towel because it usually happens in the middle of drying him off but I do not chase, just try to intercept.

  8. kbehan says:

    There’s an additional element with your dog that lies beyond the scope of this article. There’s a phenomenon I call “emotional induction” which is the behavioral counterpart to the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction in physics. So when you rub your dog, and especially when you “ionize” them with water, or when it just happens naturally via fresh dew, snow, etc., or a dog rolling in carrion or the blood of the kill, it’s just as if a magnet is moving over a coil of wires and inducing an electrical current. These “coils” inside your dog are virtual in that they are residues of fear radiating throughout the dog’s body in an organized way, just as if they are coils of wire. The virtual electrons inside the coils are physical memories of stress and resistance. So your dog rolls against things and most especially the ground, in order to “ground” this virtual electrical energy that’s been induced by so much physical stimulation of the water and the rubbing.
    Rather than just trying to intercept your dog, you have to become the ground to this energy by learning about the “pushing technique” because this un-channeled energy is tinged with fear nonetheless, and no matter how happy and playful the dog may look. Yes he’s feeling good because he’s moving old energy, it’s just that your dog feels safe about expressing fear in this particular setting which is why he gets the “zoomies” as a predator-escape set of reflexes. Note that it feels good for the prey to outrun the predator. After it’s outgrown its juvenile phase, when else does it get to “fly” and feel free.

  9. Pam says:

    I have to disagree with your theory that “the zooms” are a manifestation of fear. My Golden retriever has zoomed since puppyhood, and it is clearly an expression of joy and playfulness. In fact, she is 9 years old and just yesterday got the zooms while out in the yard. It was a cool day right after a prolonged hot spell, there was a brisk breeze, and she thoroughly enjoyed rolling on the grass and zooming. She is a confident, affectionate dog, and there is nothing in her life that gives her any reason to be fearful. She still loves to play and interact with us, and initiates playtime regularly. I will concede that SOME dogs may express fear in this way, but to generalize and say that all dogs are expressing fear when they zoom is just hogwash. You apparently have never met a happy Golden retriever.

  10. kbehan says:

    I can understand one’s difficulty with this premise but I’m speaking here of fear in its most generic sense, and not necessarily as the result of trauma. It might be helpful to think of how people like to go to movies to be thrilled, which is really a variation on the fear factor, they are afraid of what’s happening on the screen, but they feel safe in the movie theatre and therefore the fear is experienced as a thrill. The same thing is happening for people on a roller coaster. If there was no fear in the person, then there wouldn’t be any entertainment value and this doesn’t mean they are not otherwise well-adjusted people.
    Fear is a basic reality of life on planet earth, and anytime an animal holds back its energy for any reason, then that energy is internalized as fear and ends up being stored in the emotional battery. Happy dogs are no more immune to this biological reality than are defensive or aggressive dogs and in fact, friendly dogs are far more likely to engage in zoom-zoom behaviors than are aggressive dogs exactly because the latter types express their fear as aggression. Note which puppy in a litter does the zoom-zoom when the others are going at each other in rough and tumble play.
    So when a dog is in the safety of its yard or home and some stimulation (fresh dew, snow; release from the compression of heat) puts it above a critical threshold, then the bio-static charge of fear that is being carried internally can then be externalized. It feels good to express fear and return the “battery” to a more neutral state so such dogs do indeed look happy since they are off/loading something toxic.
    I have in fact known many happy Golden retrievers and I believe they are no more immune to the reality of fear on planet earth than any other breed of dog or animal. (In fact the bird hunting breeds of dogs tend to dissipate fear through “friendliness” which is exactly why they have become the prototypical family dog. Note the tendency toward “submissive urination” in friendly dogs.) My main point in all this is that there is nothing random about “frequent random activity periods” which is the misnomer applied to the behavior by behaviorism. And my suggestion remains that one should not excite this fear any further in a chase game but rather “ground” this energy into the pushing exercise and then ultimately, channel it into the bite toy with the dog parading around with it in its jaws and being praised by the owner.

  11. Chris Duncan says:


    I find this very interesting. I have a 2.5 yr old GSD who is highly reactive to other dogs that is fear based (he got bullied in his litter from 5 weeks of age)so some days if we get a number of dog encounters it can be quite stressful.

    Often at night while both dogs are lying on their mats Ty will bow play at Zeke (older GSD) and yap, then the zoom-zoom starts with Ty rushing out of the room and back yapping and bow playing at Zeke and off again.

    Could this be just Ty trying to start a game or more him releasing his fears?

    Thanks for all the articles enjoy them.



  12. shanty says:

    I have been eagerly reading your blog along with Lee Charles Kelley’s and Neil Sattin’s. I have a dog who is extremely attracted to other dogs but who displays his excitement/fear aggressively. He was put in a bad situation recently that unleashed his full fear/attraction issue by attacking a dog at a boarding home (he’s an olny dog). As such I have begun using the pushing and tug of war exercises to balance him and build his confidence.

    The background to my quesion is this: I used a Pavlov-type conditioning training for him from 13 weeks old. From this he seems to be the model of calm and happy at home and with children. I did allow the children to chase him as he ran with a ball, thinking we would prevent him from chasing the children (he’s a border collie) and he seemed to love it. We also abstained from any tug-of-war as I didn’t believe in dominance (where we’d always win) but did not want him to learn he could grab things from children either.

    Now, as a two and half year old we found him to be very keyed up when coming to social interactions with other dogs – particularly off leash. He is very drawn to them, but unless he gets them to chase HIM, he builds up anxiety and begins to circle them, nip or tease with a stick or object that if the other dog tries to capture, as opposed to chase him as he carries it, he attacks.

    Because of his reactivity I can no longer allow him to engage in off leash socialization without building his confidence first and monitoring each situation carefully. However, is his preference of out-running the dogs (which seems to make him feel like superman) actually a manifestation of fear? Is it why he can’t handle other forms of play without stress?

    As a side point – if given the chance he will mount every dog in the area. I read your article on neutering (he is, sorry) and can see it may be the lack of hormones failing to support him and leading to aggression, but does the mounting in itself show fear (trying to control the situation) or desire to connect in play? Or both?

    Love to hear your thoughts.

  13. kbehan says:

    Yes, Ty is releasing fear because he feels safe. He is attracted to Zeke with a force that he otherwise can’t easily discharge. This would be a very good opportunity for you to channel that energy into you and you will find that he will become less reactive to other dogs because he will be able to “give his fear to you” and then you will be able to resolve it via the pushing technique out on the street. Everything dogs do is a function of attraction, if that energy can’t be channeled, then it becomes “dangerous.” But there’s nothing wrong with the energy itself.

  14. kbehan says:

    There’s a lot going on here with Indy and I don’t like to snap to a definitive statement too soon. It seems that your dog has been over-stimulated in play, both with other dogs I suspect, but also by being the object-of-the-chase with your children and probably other ways as well. (It’s also relevant whether as an “only dog” he sleeps on your bed). In any event, his energy has been channeled that way and by running away and being chased, he becomes the prey, especially by having a prey object in his mouth. And by being the object of attraction (prey), he has emotional leverage over his pursuer (after all this is why girls want to look pretty) and also, he has learned that running away defuses “the charge” because it dissipates everyone’s energy level, including his own, and so he can interact with the other dog after this at a lower intensity level and therefore no problem. He is dependent on the stick as a crutch however in that he’s not comfortable being the object-of-attention without the stick and so he defends his access to it even though it has given him emotional leverage if he could only feel that leverage when he is in close with other dogs.
    The mounting behavior is a way to stay connected when the “system” isn’t moving, in other words, he’s experiencing resistance and sexuality is the evolved mechanism to stay attracted and to get the system moving again. He’s not trying to control anything, rather he perceives other dogs in terms of much resistance, and this is also reflected in the snarkiness and volatility with other dogs upon first meeting. Animals insulate themselves in a bubble to preserve body integrity and in order to make contact with others, that “bubble” has to collapse, however in his case, the intensity of this sensation strikes him as a sudden interruption of flow and thereby triggers physical memories of being overly-stimulated or actual bad experiences. The good news is that it’s possible to teach dogs to enjoy these collapses, note that we “fall in love.” I should also add that when he’s running with the dogs, they can get inside each others’ bubble because there is so much energy in motion and this minimizes or removes the sensation of a collapse. I can also say that if he was 100% grounded in the stick, he would never drop it, and another dog would never be able to take it from him. Not only that, he wouldn’t be volatile if another dog were to get it somehow as he would feel their emotional leverage and wouldn’t be sidetracked by intense sensations. Hope this speaks to your points.

  15. Rachel says:

    My 5-year old, 80 lb. yellow Lab often zooms around our yard with his butt tucked under after coming home even after a long walk with me. Could this be because he hasn’t worked off all his energy if he’s been walked on leash and my stride length is shorter than his? (I’m 5’4″) He doesn’t seem to do this much after a walk with my husband, who is 6’3″. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  16. Do you play tug or fetch with him? That’s usually the quickest way to work off excess energy. I’ve found that 5 mins. of playing tug very vigorously, where you always let the dog win and praise him enthusiastically for winning, is about equal to a half hour walk in terms of the amount of energy used up.

    Also, I don’t think it’s just that your husband’s stride is longer than yours. I think the difference might be more about the difference in the way the dog FEELS toward you and the way he FEELS toward your husband. For one thing your husband is a foot taller, which automatically changes the way a dog relates to someone. Plus you may be more giving and nurturing and your husband may be more stimulating.

    I’m not sure about this of course (I’ve never met you), but it might be something to consider.


  17. kbehan says:

    Lee’s right that there are many variables in play in here, but if all things are equal, then I wouldn’t dismiss the bio-mechanical reality of your dog having to walk slower with you than with your husband and thus building up a bio-mechanical charge. The other thing to consider is that your dog feels safer with you to express it’s built up charge and so the zoom-zoom is more likely to come up in your presence, even though it’s happening with your husband on the walk as well but perhaps he runs a “tighter ship” and so it comes out on your watch. And then on the other hand if you are the disciplinarian, then that would be the source of the charge. At any rate, this can give you an important insight into your dog’s perception of what’s going on for her.

  18. shanty says:

    Thanks for your response Kevin. After a week of once or twice daily tug-play and several days of hand feeding and regular pushing exercises my dog’s confidence seems to be improving immensely.

    Initially, after the boarding experience, he wouldn’t take the food out of my hand – now he runs at me and jumps, planting his feet on my stomach while I push him back. Huge progress.

    As for the tug – the first time we tried it after reading Lee’s blog and for some reason forgot to keep it up. But we started up again and he now runs for it and jumps to get it – I really have to watch out as he’s no longer so ‘dainty’ with his grasp (the first time I tried it he’d always let go as soon as I gave any resistance).

    I’m not throwing him into the social scene just yet, but these exercises, including the ‘eyes’ exercise which we have been doing for a few months, are keeping him satisfied so I don’t feel he needs the dogs to ground himself as he used to AND he is happy after a few minutes of play as Lee mentions so I don’t need to worry so much about needing the other dogs to release his energy.

    I understand what you’ve said about the chasing, and we’ve stopped since I understood about the prey/predator image. I don’t think he’s had any terrible experiences but since he’s such a ‘polite’ dog otherwise I think the excitment and stimulation of the dog park was missing in our everyday lives so he didn’t have a proper mangement technique. Thanks for your input.

    PS – he doesn’t sleep on the bed, and rarely in our room. Is that good or bad?

  19. kbehan says:

    I feel a dog should not sleep on the owner’s bed so that’s good you don’t allow it. I will explain why in an upcoming article.

  20. shanty says:

    Really enjoying your additions to the sight Kevin. Not to take up too much of your time, but I was thinking a lot about your reference to over stimulation and wanted to share my thoughts.

    Since I used a noise distraction/verbal praise technique to break undesired behaviours (barking at other dogs, jumping on the children when they played, chewing items) I suppose the constant interruption without a way of grounding could have ultimately created his unresolved issues with other dogs?

    Based on your insights I’m going to assume that even though he behaves around rowdy kids, or on leash dogs, for example, I should still direct his attention to me with pushing to resolve any possible pent up emotions and not assume his ‘behaving’ means he’s not experiencing stimulation. Do you think that would address the issue more at its core?

  21. kbehan says:

    Yes, but remember that the dog perceives the world indirectly, first the world affects its emotional battery, the dog has a feeling, and then it hears, sees, tastes and body senses. The good news is that because of this battery, one doesn’t have to act right then and there to ground the energy, you can pick another time and place to serve as the off/load and gratification zone. As the dog’s capacity gets stronger, it will be able to hold onto this feeling-of-place when in times of conflict. In fact, just your touch and a soothing word in a moment of conflict will then be able to trigger its memory of how much gratification it experienced with you. So you don’t have to stir things up for the other dogs if things are going calmly, even though you’re dog may merely be suppressing nerve energy, you can wait for an opportune time. Eventually by virtue of the emotional battery the emotional checkbook will get balanced. Keep On Pushing!

  22. shanty says:

    Thanks again Kevin, that makes sense. We just had a great game of pushing and tug of war this morning. His intensity towards me is amping up and up and to be honest I think playing with him this way is helping me better deal with stress as well.

    Its a new place for both of us and I get the same rush and calm from playing with him as he does, so thanks on both our accounts for this wonderful way to build our confidence and bonding.

  23. Adam says:

    Hi Kevin…great insight here. I have an 8 month old hound mix named Roger who does the zoom-zoom thing, typically at the dog park. I’ve always thought of it as a normal release of energy, as he is crated for a few hours most days. In the last couple of months, however, Roger seems to have developed a general fear and anxiety when walking him around our busy urban neighborhood. Carts, bicycles, buses and , most recently, people in dark clothing send him frantically scrabbling away, pulling on his leash with his tail between his legs and looking over his shoulder-seemingly terrified. He has been in this environment since he was 3 months old, and never had such an extreme reaction so often as he has in the past two months; in fact, we used to remark on his mellow disposition. He was socialized early and often with other dogs and people, has been in the city noise a long time, and hasn’t had any traumatic encounters with the above stimuli. Any idea why he has developed these fears now? Hope you can help…thanks.

  24. kbehan says:

    Hi Adam, perhaps you’ve picked up from this site the notion of an emotional battery that dogs have, by which I mean they store up energy and then need an “excuse” to download it and this frequently has to do with a predator since one of the services of the battery is to equip an animal to deal spontaneously with dangerous situations. Frequently young dogs get overloaded with stimulation, the energy that can’t be processed goes into the battery, and then waits for an opportune trigger, and then when the energetic circumstances are ripe, the brain invents a predator. I think that’s what you’re running into here. You need to get your dog grounded into the bite toy and the pushing for food exercise. Keep us posted.

  25. AZDogerman says:

    Thanks for the info on the Zooms, I haven’t known how to deal with them before reading this post. I did think something wasn’t quite right with them because my dog has the same intensity and focus while zooming as she does when fence-fighting. Plus, she just looks outright crazy when she gets them and it’s disconcerting! About a year ago I thought that if I crated her after a bath they would subside but instead, when I tried this and let her out after she had visibly settled, she politely rang her bell to go outside and then zoomed outside. Today she was about to get them so I took hold of her and played tug outside, I don’t know if it was the zoom energy or the stalking/tie-out exercise we have been doing but, wow did she give me a lot!

  26. christine randolph says:

    this is for adam…
    There is also a theory about multiple fear periods, i am not sure if Kevin is OK with this, but he can always delete it if it is not OK for him

    i found it when my malamute suddenly was afraid of the agility tunnels when before she was not:

    “Fear periods are when your young dog all of a sudden is afraid of people, objects or places he used to be comfortable with. Some dogs will manifest that fear into shyness and some into more active “go away” behaviors such as growling or lunging. The time frame I have listed here is approximate, but you’ll be able to recognize those times just by being cognizant of your own dog’s change of behavior.

    •Between seven to nine weeks of age
    •Anywhere from four to six months
    •Again at around 12 months
    •At approximately 14 to 18 months and with some dogs can even be as late as 2 years”
    there are 2 theories, socialize the puppy even more than usual during these times, or keep them a bit more isolated until they have worked through a fear period. in other words, blah.

    however, it seems that dog people have seen these fear periods in many puppies and have seen the fear disappear more or less on its own after a short while.

    that being said, all the confidence building exercises Kevin is recommending and designing, seem very good to me regardless of your puppy being in a fear period or not.

    that then, being said, my dog did not want to go through the tunnel last year either, even though she did it when she was very young, just following her older sister..then she got afraid later that year, during what I had thought I had diagnosed as a fear period ….so let us see what this summer brings….(she is 3 now)

  27. kbehan says:

    I know the studies try to pin these things down to the day/hour/minute, see Pfaffenberger, but I think these so called out-of-the-blue episodes actually relate to the formatting of the emotional battery and while it may tie into some general parameters, I don’t believe it is that specific to a day, week or month of life. Some dogs do well with noises and then at three years of age they begin to panic, some at seven years old. A lot of this is really over-stimulation when young, it doesn’t seemingly register because the input can’t yet be linked to an output, but then the dog matures and now the overload it has internalized can be coupled to an unloading kind of behavior, especially since paradoxically the dog is more confident, and now it can relieve its overload through an overt expression of fear. It may fixate on some innocuous “negative” as trigger and it looks like it’s developed a fear of this thing when it’s really attracted to this thing as a means of doing a data dump. That’s my interpretation of the so-called phenomenon of critical periods.

  28. Donnie_O says:

    Sometimes when I’m playing tug with Jinxsie, she will get the zooms. Today during our early evening pushing session, she was not pushing very eagerly so I switched to playing tug and fetch-tug. After tossing one of her toys, she ran to it, then got the zooms and ran in big circles around me, then came in and ran past me and then ran back to the toy and went into a fast down. I understand the dissapating fear/tension (because I was feeling a bit of frustration at her reluctance to push), but why the fast down near the toy? Is it because she feels more grounded to the toy than to me? And what do I do about this, more pushing and less tug?

  29. kbehan says:

    Ah, you need to see this in terms of energy, rather than in terms of her self relative to your self (which is why you experience frustration). The toy is the “midpoint,” she is flipping polarity because she can feel a circle between you and her, the midpoint of course being the circle’s center, i.e. the toy. By laying down on the toy, she is flipping polarity to you, but she’s not confident enough to flip polarity directly AT THAT HIGH LEVEL OF ENERGY. So she’s always holding back which is why the pushing isn’t strong enough and constant enough, and is why she gets the zoom-zooms when she feels safe enough to express her fear. Notice that the zooming behavior sans toy also revolves around you, so you are the midpoint of the circle but she can’t flip polarity directly with you. So when she gets the zoomies you can attract her to pushing for food so that you can channel intense fear during a moment of safety into making contact with you. When that connection is strong enough, her pushing will become reliable.
    Another element I need to add since we’re talking about you and Jinxie as an energy system, the frustration you experience relative to training Jinxie, is energy that is not moving within you, and in response, your intellect instinctively converts Jinxie into a person so that you can generate an intellectual response to her. But frustration is neurological “heat” that’s building up and which will force you to take some kind of action and nature has all the time in the world, it doesn’t care if one mischaracterizes a dog as a person, it merely needs to force one to act, hence the “heat.” This furthermore means that the dog has to act in a way to trigger the stuck energy in its owner in order to get that stuck energy up to the surface and possibly moving. So Jinxie needs to act in a way that causes you frustration in order to be properly doing her part of the energy system. Whereas if one can fully apprehend the dog and handler as one energy system, then one can calmly diagnose the problem and nibble away at it just as a mechanic interprets the car as an energy system and builds up compression before he expects the engine to be able to move the car. Our dog is always an opportunity to get in touch with energy that’s not moving within us and then take our time to get it into the proper energetic framework so we can take apart the system, polish the components and then get it all working in sync when it’s put back together again.

  30. Ben says:

    “This furthermore means that the dog has to act in a way to trigger the stuck energy in its owner in order to get that stuck energy up to the surface and possibly moving. So Jinxie needs to act in a way that causes you frustration in order to be properly doing her part of the energy system.”

    Wow– this is especially enlightening. I’ve had this nagging feeling that something like this was going on with Nelly and I. I’ve been confused why she would be so drawn to situations where she becomes panicked (i.e. waiting for dogs to pass in front of the house, intensely looking for dogs out the car window, etc).

    The simple answer is: to move stuck energy.

    Certainly gives a lot of food for thought. Thanks for posting Donnie and Kevin.

  31. Donnie_O says:

    Interesting that you mention the stuck energy. My acupuncturist has noted the same thing.

  32. Christine says:

    Hmmmm…perhaps this explains why Duncan always barks out the window at passersby? When he’s inside or out, he always barks at any one around the perimeters of our yard; it’s exasperating for me! Must…Do…More…Pushing‼ LOL

  33. Christine says:

    Yes, I am in the process of taking apart my system and, hopefully, polishing all the pieces so that when I get myself all put back together again I’ll have all my energy back…I’m really missing all that and feeling like it’s time to get back in the game‼ Only this time I want access to ALL my energy AND to know how to manage it all ♥☺

  34. Heather says:

    2 songs that come to mind when I think of my dog:

    Neil Young’s Heart of Gold
    Bob Marley’s Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright

  35. christine randolph says:

    two of my dogs also barks at things from the car and from the house.

    no idea why the third one does not participate to the same degree.

    maybe stuck energy. fear for sure.

    if I interpret Kevin right, dogs almost always have an element of fear in their behaviours and it is our job to reduce that fear by allowing the dog to transform it into positive action. because this is what nature intended the dog to do with the fear in the first place, this fear has a distinctive function, and this function is to create energy for the hunt.

    if they bark, at least they release some of the fear. even though it is annoying, especially in the car it is usually near your ear….

    humans have a similar circuitry with adrenaline which is a substance I think dogs have too.

    this is why i think that negative reinforcement trainers are not great because they add to the fear that the dog already has and leverage off of it to teach them something.

    Like the “Sharpe” character says in the famous series about the Napoleonic wars.

    Beating a soldier teaches them one thing only, to turn his back.

    It is better to teach them through the release of fear as per Kevin.

    I guess the goal is to teach the dog to turn to me for release when they feel fear.

    to achieve this, it is helpful to add food to the equation because hunger overrules fear.

    There are still trainers out there who refuse to use food for training dogs, so they cannot tap into the hunger circuitry.

    more often than not, if there is no food the teaching ends up as not overruling the fear, so probably adding to it.

  36. kbehan says:

    Just to sum it all up, desire plus fear = unresolved emotion in the battery. It’s the inevitable result of being sentient and conscious. Unresolved emotion comes out with intensity, this intensity is the adaptive function of fear because it allows the animal to overcome resistance by making its drive powerful. The key to living in harmony with a dog is to ensure that its definition of the most intense thing in its life, toward which it can express drive, is an object of resistance as defined by its owner (i.e. “be the moose”). So the purpose of the pushing/biting/barking is to channel the dog’s intensity into a behavior that is in service to how the owner wants the dog’s drive to be channeled. If your dog is biting/pulling/barking toward things you find annoying, then by definition the dog won’t be channeling its drive in the path of highest resistance which would be calming to all parties, most especially the owner. I use food to turn the fear from serving as a block, to serving as a means of intensifying the dog’s drive in the desired direction. So we want the dog to turn to owner for release of intensity, but this must also “run to ground” through the prey-making sequence by which a dog’s energy hits the “stop signal” and this requires tapping into the dog’s hunger circuitry. Hope this clarifies.

  37. Heather says:

    Always about the hunger circuitry and I am starving, am I alone with this?

  38. christine randolph says:

    Yes it is clearer to a degree, I totally get that removal of fear as a block. it has proved itself to be true in the work I have done with my dogs.

    I have to admit that I do not KNOW how to proof this thing with making a dumb object such as myself the driver more interesting to my dog who is barking at a bunch of dogs lurking outside the car.

    In other words, what exactly do i do in the car that is like “pushing for food”, when the dog starts to bark at things outside the car.

    or am i missing a bunch of steps.

    what exactly is the Stop Signal ?

    Sure Heather if you are, say, scared of spiders, just put some food behind some spiders and get yourself very hungry.

    soon, the spiders will be extensively irrelevant

  39. Donnie_O says:

    I find it so interesting how the human intellect adds another layer to the emotional battery. While thoughts and language have served us well for the most part, they can also serve as a further block to resolving unresolved emotion. Because our thoughts are related to our feelings and we’ve been trained to be thought-centric it can be easy for people to intellectualise irrational or dysfunctional behaviour. Because we’re so consciously aware of our memories we can use them to justify our fears (eg “I’m afraid of dogs because I got knocked over by a rottweiler when I was 4”). Because our society is so centred on the individual, we are allowed to (and feel entitled to) hold onto these fears, even though they may cause dysfunction in our lives or relationships.

    Before today’s pushing session I took some time to ground myself first and any time I started to experience frustration I chose to express it by taking some deep breaths or running back and forth, getting Jinxsie to chase me and then playing tug or wrestling with her. Getting the energy moving felt so much better than feeling frustration. As a result of this, we had what I consider a breakthrough! I put a bunch of pressure on her with a toy (teasing her, etc.) and we had a tug session and she got the zooms. Instead of letting her run it out like I normally would, I held her close on the leash and attracted her to me with some food. After a bit she came in for a push. Later on she started to get the zooms again and this time she came to me for a push without any prompting.

  40. kbehan says:

    That’s exactly right, when energy moves it always encodes for cooperation. It’s fascinating how you turned your stuck energy of frustration into actual movement and the “group mind” freed up.

  41. christine randolph says:

    haha, my mom has that fear of dogs she is not too keen to overcome.

    but people do spend tons of money to overcome stuff like fear of flying because it is so impractical.

    about the barking in the car when my dog sees interesting objects near her walking along etc.

    I cannot find the subsection where that discussion was going on.

    because the barking in the car is really ANNOYING.

    how could I find a very effective way to address the group purpose there (without even stopping the car would be best)

    I think she understands her group purpose as being out of the car to make sure these other dogs and objects are not a threat to her group. so she barks to make me open the door for her.

    One time (in the driveway to the kennel where 25 dogs were hecticly barking and so was my dog inside the car) i tried to make her believe that the car only moves forward when she is not barking.

    she did stop barking when i stopped the car (because she felt closer to her goal of being let out of the car so she can do her job???) but started again when i started rolling.

  42. kbehan says:

    Dogs learn by contrast. The preliminary work you must do is positive interrupt of bark for food while driving. Then, you have to create a “power zone” somewhere for your dog to learn to push/bite/bark with full abandon. Then you teach her how to lay down before she gets the bite, so that you-as-source-of-down is access channel to the bark/bite/push expression of energy. Then you have to teach her that the “correction” IS A STIMULANT to lay down as access channel to bark/bite/push expression of energy. Then you take her in car on/lead and if she barks you correct her and she has to lay down. Then you later get out of car and get as much bark/bite/push you can get from her as completion of that circuit. Then you drive in car and when she sees trigger, you say, “Let me see………down” in a gentle tone. Then you drive and when she sees a trigger you say “QUIET” and if you’ve done the following correctly, she learns that if she just watches trigger without reacting she doesn’t have to lay down and because that is more efficient, and because she’s getting what she wants elsewhere in the bark/bite/push expression of energy, it makes COMMON SENSE to her to be quiet when you’re driving in the car. Keep On Pushing!

  43. clutchess says:

    Hi! could you please define over stimulating a puppy?

    Also, is crating a cruial part NDT?


  44. kbehan says:

    Ideally, we want to construe situations so that the puppy trains itself, the answer it needs to be calm naturally arising from the way it processes energy into information. Because it takes a while for a pup’s temperament to manifest fully in its makeup, puppies are often put into situations they are not yet prepared to deal with (too much energy that they can’t process into information) and then they cope with either personality or instinct and these then go on to be the foundation of a problem behavior. So for example coming home and getting a pup all excited with attention and then finding yourself correcting it for becoming mouthy or jumpy. Or letting it be free in the house when you’re eating dinner and then having to scold it for being pushy. A crate is crucial so that the dog can learn that if it’s calm and settled, this is what makes the world go round and gets the crate door to open.

  45. Alwynne says:

    Hi Kevin: I don’t want to get overoptimistic too soon, but it looks like the pushing and other work I’ve been doing with my shelter dog Cholula for the past month (shepherd/sharpeii mix who became unhinged aggressive at random other dogs mostly while on leash) is really starting to work! After studiously avoiding other dogs for a while, I am now letting her get closer to other dogs while on leash (but still avoiding the most tricky head-to-head confrontations) and while she will not look at or take her chew toy or ball at all on a walk, she will now take food from me (which she would not do at all before) and usually will jump up on me with quite a bit of excitement to get the food (again, unthinkable before)— even able to turn her attention away from other dogs or a squirrel to do this.

    A couple of questions:

    1) As I am finally getting her to overcome her inhibitions and “get her bite out” with a chew toy (she will only play with the toy in the yard, but at least it is a start) in her excitement she is sometimes biting my arm (gently) as she goes after the toy. I believe your advice in your book is to ignore this as it will pass but I just wanted to check in about it.

    2) You recommended training the “bark on command” but I can’t find anything on how to do that in your book. What is the method for training that? Cholula is not very barky but I do think this might be a good thing for her to learn.

    Thanks so much for your insights into dog behavior–it is so exciting to see Cholula’s energy emerge in a more positive way.

  46. kbehan says:

    1) It’s okay she bites your arm because that’s the way IT (fear) went in and it has to come out that way. Just deflect onto bite toy and gradually up the intensity she can channel into the toy. The bark will help transport the bite to new moments. Tie her up, step back a few feet or more if necessary and hold food near your heart. Vibrate and excite your dog with encouragement and focus your energy toward her and then say “speak” in an encouraging way. If licks lip, snorts, snuffles, blinks, settles into hind end or breaks plane of concentration in any way, zing her with food. Gradually prolong and eventually a bark will come out. Good job and Keep On Pushing!

  47. Jeri says:

    Pranie still is crated, How can I start to see if he is ready to be free in the house when I am gone? He is 1 1/2 years old. He is good now free in the house while I am talking to neighbors outside for 1/2 hour and while I am I the shower . He still goes for shoes and socks when he is wound up.
    Jeri and Pranie

  48. kbehan says:

    Don’t be in a hurry to remove the crate, he’s still a Baby Huey, almost there. That will be the last thing to go, Keep On Pushing!

  49. velo flowers says:

    Not sure if I’m posting this in the correct place but here goes.

    I have a 16 month old (35 lb.) fox hound/terrier mix named Jesse. He is wonderful. Loves people, other dogs and just has a great personality. He’s very smart and a real blessing. We are in NYC and he was a rescue from North Carolina. To give him excercise we have to go to dog runs.

    The only problem we have is whenever he is off leash in a dog run usually after playing for 10 -15 minutes his playing with other dogs eventually evolves into him nipping at and sometimes holding on to a dogs neck skin. There are times when the other dog does it right back and then they both seem to have a great time taking turns being the aggressor and the submissive. Other times Jesse will do this with dogs that don’t like to play this way. Jesse also has no problem with switching to the submissive one while playing.
    I was told this is normal dog play BUT if the other dog yelps and is being submissive and Jesse does not stop the neck holding then his it needs to be stopped permanently. This has happened a few times and its a big concern of mine. I am very concerned about other peoples dogs and don’t want Jesse to get a reputation for it. When it happens it just looks somewhat to rough and I understand an owners concern. Sometimes the other dog that is passive comes back for more after they have been seperated but it still concerns me.
    While I want to stop this behavior I don’t want to diminish or compromise Jesse’s spirit and energy.
    I met a guy who had the same problem with his dog and he stopped it by holding the muscle on the side of the neck as soon as he saw his dog nip he quietly said the word “enough” to his dog. He said he used “enough” because it was very different word from all other commands and only used it for this behavior. He said it eventually worked but he felt it also caused the dog to become more passive when playing and in general. In a way it changed his dogs personality.
    I read where Neil or somebody here wrote about complimenting aggressing behavior as a tool. I don’t know how to use it in our case or if its the best way to go.
    We are lucky that Jesse loves Tug playing and while I’m probably going to stop going to dog runs because they’re dangerous I still want to eliminate this
    in the best way.

  50. kbehan says:

    Basically what’s going on is when Jessee gets over stimulated, out comes his deepest layers of stress and he relives the physical memory of either being hyper-stimulated or being bullied by another dog. That’s why things unravel in the middle of the fray. It’s good you’re not continuing to go to dog parks because for many dogs its too much energy in a small space and the negative effects of hyper-stimulation far outweigh the positive benefits of the exercise. They leave more emotionally frustrated than when they went in. So you have to get on a program whereby your dog learns to “give you his energy” and then at higher and higher levels of intensity so that he learns a new way of processing intensity. If one just corrects the dog, as the man you consulted, then you’re right that this just pushes the energy back down and the dog either gets worse, or learns to flat line, so that’s not the way to go. You also want to note if Jessee growls when playing tug, in that case that is charging him up to. We want soundless play, with a push of war in there as well, so that the dog’s temperament (this is what turns the intensity of change into social information) is always getting stronger. Attracting your dog’s energy is the first step in this process, then there’s the pushing-for-food technique, push/pull of war and then there’s many little variations depending what the dog is doing. Hope this clarifies and thanks for your interest.

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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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