Your Questions

Thanks to our readers, the Natural Dog Training site is full of fantastic questions and interesting scenarios. We are continuing to develop the site in order to nurture this dynamic, growing community, and hope to provide more and more resources to improve your learning experiences with NDT. At the moment, we realize that there are often questions or comments that don’t quite have a place within the articles, and so we’ve created this post for that exact purpose.

Please feel free to come here and leave a comment about your experiences, a question about your dog’s behavior, something that you’re stuck on, or something you’ve accomplished. In short, if you’re going through the site, and have something to say that doesn’t quite fit elsewhere – this is the place! We hope this will make your reading experience a little easier, and we’ll continue to develop the tools you need to Keep on Pushing!

~ The NDT Team

The Selbach family dog, Athos

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Published June 27, 2010 by Kevin Behan

506 responses to “Your Questions”

  1. kbehan says:

    The interaction between Sophie and you, would have normally involved Eva, so there would be a lot of energy involved. And since any and all interactions deep down involve a transfer of emotional momentum, Sophie is trying to “accelerate you,” get you moving, turn your resistance into motion, and because you’re especially resisting since you’ve indicated your annoyance, that invokes the group charge as your attention is what the group feeds off of. So Hektor who is normally repressed by Eva, every time he would have stuck his head into the mix Eva probably would have cut him off or bopped him back down, but now he’s free to engage and true to his core, he’s sensually internalizing the charge, he’s absorbing the momentum as evidenced by the hubba-hubba, he is quite literally pulling it into his hind end, and this too is in service to getting the charge moving as well. When he humps Sophie this knocks her off balance and she will have to move and eventually their friction will resolve itself (if things are free to run their natural course, which is where you come in) by finding a target that can absorb all their collective momentums. The whole dynamic is a group mind, rather than by being driven by self-contained personal agendas that achieve some kind of high level cognitive crescendo. Hecktor’s behavior indicates how sensuality is the self-organizing dynamic by which the group would align and synchronize around the main group trigger, the moose.

    Yes I believe that an emotionally grounded person can adopt a severely problematic dog and since they are so clear about the flow pattern by which they live, the dog will naturally gravitate into this strongly defined flow system and begin to soften. A dog will always choose flow over instinct/habit if it can FEEL it. Then in its new life with a new owner, when things come up that trigger the dog’s old stuff, these old physical memories will become subsumed into the new flow pattern and eventually the dog will be healed as pain memories are replaced with flow memories. And rather than being full blown manifestations since they’re not being fed by the original owner, they could just occur as minor blips along the way. NDT would still be a good idea as it’s the most holistic way for a dog to learn the basic skill set of aligning and synchronizing with human beings, but some people are just so clear they have it naturally internalized in their being and watching a dog soften under their care is indeed heart warming to see. On the other hand since many of us are fubbed up, it’s good to master the flow dynamic so that our dog can heal as a means of reflecting how we ourselves are becoming grounded.

  2. kbehan says:

    Yes, when you are working with a dog’s energy, you will always be dealing with intellectual instincts that are goal driven. Our goal becomes the push, and so our instinct is to command/implore/plead/cajole/coerce the dog to comply and we tend to go toward the dog, rather than go by feel and learn how to ATTRACT the dog. So dog training is a great vehicle to practice letting feelings displace instincts.

    I don’t have any opinion on internal biochemistry just to assume that something very specific must indeed be going on, but we need not concern ourselves with this. In my opinion the dynamic generates the bio-chemicals, not the other way around. And we can see and manipulate the dynamic by learning to see the dog as a component of a group mind whose intelligence functions in the immediate-moment. So there isn’t a self-contained psychology, there are overarching laws of nature by which animals communicate and connect with others.

    The height of the food does increase intensity, the angle by which the dog must look up, shifts the internal subliminal beam down deeper in the battery. Hence the dog must relive pain memories (experience of resistance/interruption of flow) to get the core up to the surface so as to compose a particular action with full energy. If the dog feels grounded into the owner, then the feeling of flow displaces the pain memories and there’s no problem. Emotion is a current of energy and the strength of the dog’s push is the connection, it’s like an electrical wire clamped tight on a terminal. If the connection between a cable and a fitting is loose, then the charge can’t flow at full force. If the cables to a car’s battery are loose, one day the car won’t start. That being said, in the pushing technique we are limited by mechanics, so all that’s important is that the dog is driving into the handler and the hand can support its weight in its neck/chest region. Dealing with resistance is the same as dealing with height because both are a function of intensity. Just find a position that is comfortable for you and your dog so that it can exert force by driving into you….by clamping down that wire and securing an unbreakable emotional ground to you….and thereby overcome your resistance. That’s the right way to do it. That way the “car” will always start when you need it.

  3. cliff says:

    For what it’s worth, Lenny pushes into us so hard that his front legs are usually off the ground, and the faster we retreat, the more he pushes in. It’s pretty easy to handle since he’s about 60 pounds. Our neighbor’s dog is a large GSD (>100 pounds, i think) that i befriended as a pup. Sometimes, just to say “glad to see you” we’ll push for a treat. It’s interesting that he’s pretty “gentle” about it. Though i’m making contact with his chest, he has all four feet on the ground and, though he’s enthusiastic, seems to “adjust”. In any case, it’s fun for both of us and i’m not supporting his full weight.

  4. John says:

    Not sure if I came across it on here but I was wondering about the use of a long line on a dog to coral his freedom in other words so he feels the owner controls his liberty
    he gets used to the long line on him and feels his handler has control to such an extent that you can shorten it up so it’s just hanging down and the dog feels he is still within the handlers grasp any thought , thanks

  5. kbehan says:

    The object isn’t for the dog to feel the owner can always control its freedom, but rather for the dog to become insensitive to the fact he’s wearing a lead. Thus, the dog doesn’t associate training with wearing a lead. I liken a dog acclimating to the long lead to a football (as in NFL) player wearing a helmet. A player wears his helmet every time he steps on the field, even when they’re not wearing pads and are just going to walk through plays during a light practice session. The helmet is de-rigeure no matter what the player is doing. In this way, when he puts his helmet on at game time he won’t be distracted. He won’t even be aware he has it on. So if the dog wears the long lead so much that it becomes part of everyday experience, and if the owner then uses the dog’s drive, the dog isn’t learning that what he’s doing has anything to do with wearing a lead and therefore there won’t be any fall off in performance when not wearing a lead.

  6. Christine says:

    I rarely, if ever, use neck collars on my woofers. It’s always the harness, preferably the “easy walk” as they are such great pullers. What are your thoughts in using a harness during training sessions, with or without the long line. Good, bad, indifferent, ineffective? Just curious…

  7. kbehan says:

    The harnesses are relatively benign as long as they don’t promote pulling like a tractor. I like a collar on the neck to teach the dog that a jerk on the lead is a Drive stimulus, the neck being particularly conducive for this because it’s the most sensual, relaxing region of the dog’s body.

  8. steve says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Apologies if this has been dealt with, its only about 4 weeks since learning about NDT & your theories, and there’s a lot of reading to work through. Just finished reading ‘Your Dog is Your Mirror’ and it struck so many chords that I’ve got a symphony going on in my head now! Thank you for writing it, such a heartfelt view, amongst other things it helps to explain why I found the dog I did, or why he found me…

    My question is relating to the ‘hunger circuitry’ & ‘flow’ & the ‘little brain in the gut’ aspects in the book.

    Bit of background to the question & also my dog. We recently homed an older (6-8ish) male staffordshire bull terrier. He’d been in rescue kennels a while, no history before that apart from he was picked up off the street. No problems with people but other dogs……….& cats, & birds, & horses, & sheep, & cows…you get the idea…quite a high prey drive! Without distractions though he’s calm, good on the lead, with no interest in running off etc
    Since learning about your ideas & beginning to implement your methods, I now think that the calm quietness & obedience were more likely blocked energy rather than ‘good behaviour’. While pushing, I can feel the energy release from him, some days far harder than others. But I can now also tell there’s a lot of ‘deep stress’ still in there. He had no interest in biting or tugging or playing at first whereas he’s biting & tugging like a good ‘un now & tonight he really ‘killed’ that tug toy, ragging it about & standing on it to rip it to bits.
    I began teaching him to bark today, only got a growl so far but was surprised by the speed and deepness/ferocity of it, maybe this is what energized him more for the tug later. It was enough to make me think that maybe posting him would be a good idea while learning that one.
    So that gives you an idea of his stress levels.

    Now sorry in advance for lowering the tone of the thread (!) but here’s my question –

    Is it possible that my dog is also having a physical unblocking/clearout, as well as an emotional unblocking? What I mean is, I’ve never seen a dog ‘dump’ as much as this little lad does! I counted 7 good big healthy piles in 1 day! And it seems like the days where he has a bit of new or extra stress, ie meeting a dog while out, gives him the ability to clear a room in 5 seconds!!
    Im guessing its similar to IBS caused by stress in humans?
    Do you think its a sign that he’s loosening & softening up emotionally, or am I seeing a link that’s not there?
    Could it be a novel calming technique I wonder, a little pressure release valve!?! Could be handy to train to drop one on command!!

  9. kbehan says:

    Thanks for reading my book. I do believe that the intestinal tract is highly sensitive to a dog’s capacity to process emotional issues. As a dog’s drive gets stronger, it’s been my experience that the elimination patterns shifts accordingly. The relief that a dog feels after eliminating does reduce internal stress. As his external behaviors get stronger (more powerful manifestations of drive) his internal organs will become stronger in kind. Then he will be able to calmly process stimuli without having to do a “data dump” because he can’t turn external inputs into smooth muscle wave action. Keep on pushing!

  10. steve says:

    Thank you for taking the time to reply, & also to my similarly “over wordy” email! Having just discovered your ideas & read your books, I think I was caught up in the excitement of seeing the dramatic effects on our new rescue SBT! I wonder how many of the people who give you a hard time about your theories have actually tried them out practically?
    Because here’s a little update on our ‘troubled’ old man, a stray who’d been in rescue kennels for months with no interest due to age, breed & the fact he wanted to eat just about every creature he met, apart from the odd female dog!
    First off, your diagnosis/ prediction about his bodily functions were spot on, he’s settled down to a regular twice a day routine now.
    Secondly, & more importantly, his reaction to other dogs. The staff at the rescue said that due to his previous unknown life (scars under his chin & a tooth missing sadly give a bit of an idea) , he couldn’t be socialized with other dogs ( I thought differently). And, when out walking him at first, any sight of another dog, even a couple of hundred feet away, would send him rabid!
    He’s still a long way to go but the changes are fantastic to see, in less than 3 months.
    First he was introduced to a friends young male wolfhound. After a little bit of snarkiness on first meeting, they ran and played in the fields, & been best friends since!
    He’s since been introduced to a female APBT. He went crazy aggressive on first sight while still on the lead, yet less than 2 minutes later was running & playing in the fields & no problems with her since.
    And finally, his response to neighbours dogs that we sometimes meet on the lane before reaching the fields, is gradually decreasing in both time & intensity. We’ve even had half a dozen non snarling or whining reactions in the last week or so. On one hand it’s joyous to see him turn to me to see what to do (push), but on the other its so sad to see those scared, panicky eyes shouting ‘Help! Save me!’.
    Thankfully, as I said, those times are decreasing. It also helps a lot having other local dog owners/walkers who give him a chance & can see past the initial snarling devil dog impersonation!
    So much for trying to keep it brief this time, but the proof is in the pudding, and I thought it was worth sharing. Thank you again!

  11. John says:

    My question is what part rage plays in the drive in a dog,

    I have two different experiences that come to mind , one is the Von liche kennels where the dogs were not put under any duress and allowed to express themselves freely in the bite with the helper wearing the jacket offering minimum resistance and an experience I had many moons ago with a so called Eastern European protection trainer who visited these shores who had a very rough way of handling dogs at a seminar,

    This individual bred Malinois in the Ukraine but couldn’t figure out why when he entered competitions in Germany with his dogs that the judges frowned on the fact that his dogs worked with a tail only half held high, he couldn’t see why it made any difference but the German judges knew there dogs,

    My point been that he would use a whip as the helper to stress out the dog in some cases before allowing the bite seemly to encourage more rage in the animal, is there logic behind that approach

    Is a dogs drive enough or can rage drag up even more fury into the bite without effecting its social outlook , thanks

  12. kbehan says:

    It’s definitely a fine line. There is required a certain degree of pressure, of a great enough intensity so as to trigger the deepest layers of the emotional battery, and so I would assume the trainer from the Ukraine was approaching the protection work from that perspective of being severe enough to induce a full triggering of the dog’s emotional battery. However if in the dog’s mind its perception of the helper’s predatory aspect totally overwhelms the perception of the preyful aspect, then ping impinges on ping in the emotional projection process and from this compression we see a mirror effect, the energy is backing up in the dog, it’s feeling blocked and seeing the block in the helper. It then goes into the load/overload with hyper prey-instinct being the relief from this. That being said, if the stimulus is too positive, the dog will have to tune out the predatory aspect and just focuses on the sleeve and the bite suit. It’s a fine line. This is why I like to do a lot of physical contacting before doing bite work so that the dog can perceive a preyful aspect even when dealing with the high level of intensity and doesn’t get bolluxed up with the mirror effect.

  13. b... says:

    Livestock guardian dogs:

    Statement here is that LGDs must imprint the animals they’re meant to guard by 16 weeks of age, as other animals would be viewed as predators to be scared away. It also says that they should be socialized with humans at the same time for same reason.

    Looking for NDT perspective on this.
    Presumably proximity to the generic form of a particular species (e.g. sheep-oid) during this formative period creates an imprint that will apply to all future sheepoids. So then is it not possible to socialize LGD to a new species — say, a cat/bird/chicken that enters the household later?

    If it is, then what’s the process?
    If we introduce cat to LGD by amplifying predator aspect (to counteract preyful aspect), then presumably the LGD’s nature will be to scare off the cat from the imprinted humanoids, sheepoids, etc..
    Does LGD scare predators away because they knock it off balance? Are we able to override this missing imprint for the cat by objectifying the balance problem? And will this effect spill over to other cats that may come and go?

  14. kbehan says:

    My understanding is that they should not be socialized with humans so that they identify completely with the sheep with which they live. When I was the dog warden a local goat farm allowed their LGD’s to hang out with workers when they were building the facility. When they grew up, they would leave the flock and go down their mountain to visit with town folks and chase farmers chickens, hence the call to the dog warden. The breeds are very primitive, they are not socially flexible and are limited in that they don’t like to leave the familiar area that they are emotionally bonded to, like puppies afraid to go too far from the den. So a restricted upbringing locks that in and they end up being reliable guardians that won’t be led away from the flock by having a strong drive to make contact which induces them to chase either prey or predators very far.

  15. b... says:

    Interesting. Seems they don’t make for very good pets then.
    Perhaps the most you can do about the cats/chickens running about is to minimize contact and discharge the battery periodically.

  16. John Cassidy says:

    Was just talking to a lad about how game ness would have developed in the pit bull and other such dogs , there are no game animals in the wild , it must have developed through domestication but how would a game dog have developed from 2 curs as such,

    In other words it must have developed from 2 non game parents, any ideas thanks

  17. kbehan says:

    There are in fact two examples in the wild that exemplify the chief components that constitute “deep gameness” in dogs (which I define as arousal of hunger circuitry to objects of resistance), and then this simultaneously speaks to why dogs are also the most social animal in nature. During the infancy stage of every mammal there is an uninhibited oral urge wherein they can perceive a preyful aspect in any context. This is why one can easily tame the young of any species. During this phase the brain-to-gut connection is the infant animals predominant manner of apprehension. Of course most animals quickly out grow this and thereafter, the mandate of balance becomes dominant and it responds to resistance with species-specific instincts, especially the plant eaters. Meat eaters are able to hold onto this brain-to-gut connection under more intense experiences of the hunt, and so they are more social yet. The other time is during the rut where even the whitetail deer will become combative to humans, especially if raised near or by humans. So due to sex, even a plant eater can perceive a preyful aspect in a human being despite an overwhelming predatory aspect. Were we then able to see the link between neotony and sexuality (sexuality is hunger for form, in other words, the resistance value of an objet arouses the hunger circuitry, the brain-to-gut connection, the oral urge reconstituted in the animal’s mind) we can see how gameness in dogs (as well as sociability) evolved from these natural antecedents. (Traits are not free standing, they are derivatives of the “network” aspects of the dynamic by which its flow is improved. Thus man did not create the dog or shape a trait into existence, the dog is the core dynamic made materially manifest and typified in the various breeds.) A lab is at one end of the neotony spectrum, active/indirect, i.e. seeing the preyful aspect in anything (but lacking the capacity to penetrate to the core under intensity, but it doesn’t collapse, it just becomes more active at being indirect), and pit bulls are at the other end of the continuum, active/direct (all intensity fixated on penetrating to the core) and thus resist being deflected when under intensity. But even while pit bulls seem temperamentally to be the strongest given their capacity to fight and they are physically best adapted to combat than any other breed, nevertheless their threshold in regards to collapsing into a point of fixation is much lower than a well bred German Shepherd tending dog, who can hold the whole herd as the (+) and the herder as the (-) in one frame of reference so that all intensity can continually elaborate over an incredibly long period of time (the working life span of the dog) without collapsing into a point of fixation. Sexuality in my view evolved to accommodate the Constructal law (which I recognize in NDT as the principle of emotional conductivity) so as to import objects of resistance into the configuration as an improvement of its currents, more than it did to facilitate reproduction. The latter is a subsidiary rather than a fundamental function. Thus, there is the neotony phenomenon wherein organisms can be selected along the Heart continuum as a circle, Direct/Active (N) —–Direct/Reactive (W) —- Indirect/Reactive (S) ——— Indirect/Active (E). This is the template around which the configuration is able to improve. We mistakenly break these components down as separate and distinct from each other, and label them incorrectly so that we fail to see the overarching template. Individuals are said to vary randomly from each other and then are selected for by random environmental forces. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Neotony is the capacity to manifest the entire template so as to flip from one polarity to the other so that the relationship between two beings can elaborate into a stronger wave function (which we otherwise recognize as sociability). This template since it is the bedrock of evolution is thus amenable to manipulation by genetic selective forces, the implementation-of-human-desires-in-regards-to-the-hunt as has transpired in the case of the dog. In other words, neotony is the capacity to recapitulate the oral urge in a complex situation of high intensity, i.e. the capacity to perceive a simple emotional ground (the brain-to-gut connection) despite many moving and changing variables.

  18. Please pardon my ignorance, but what is meant by “gameness?”


  19. kbehan says:

    The capacity of a dog to fight despite all odds, or as I prefer, to persevere along the path of highest resistance.

  20. b... says:

    Dog barks at owner when owner is talking to someone (seemingly seeking attention).

    Good idea to lean back + move away?
    Does it give dog feeling that being direct controls the predator?
    Or does it imprint a pattern of barking begets attention?

  21. kbehan says:

    Yes it begets a pattern of attention solicitation. Such a dog doesn’t feel connected to its owner so always monitoring where owner’s attention is focused. Box training therapeutic in short term, but performing core exercises allows it to feel connected and gets at root cause of the syndrome.

  22. Helena says:

    My new trail hound is 4 years old, she is very food obsessed but this is not a great problem and is expected with the breed. She is not interested in any games or playing around, even when food is concealed in toys. She is only interested in attention when for food; but she is definitely not nervous. Is this just in her nature or is there anything I can do?

  23. Kevin Behan says:

    Hounds are hard to train because their prey instinct is very attuned to the natural ways of actual prey, shaking a rag and throwing things don’t tend to excite them as with other breeds because they need a specific frequency of a stimulus in order to emotionally project into it. However the pushing and the bark will help with getting her willing to bite and tug so that the degree of resistance she perceives in humans doesn’t dampen her willingness to project into a prey object of our contrivance.

  24. Larry says:

    Sorry Kevin I didn’t see the “notify” button below. I wrote on 1/17 or 18 about my pointer/hound mix changing from a timid non verbal 2 year old, to a now more aggressive reactive 3 year old.

  25. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes, fear wants to come out as aggression because this externalizing conducts more energy than what your dog had previously been limited to in its emotional expressiveness. Very important to teach the core exercises, in particular, the bark. The good news is that the core exercises, the bark-bite/carry-collect-rub-a-dub-push; conduct more energy than the aggressive overloads. Only feed by hand for these core exercises and he will gain in confidence and you will be able to channel aggressive/fear into calm Drive. Good luck.

  26. Larry says:

    I’ve written recently about my 3 year old pointer/hound rescue that came to me last year rather timid and non verbal. Since then she has become more aggressive and vocal. Both Kevin and Sang ask about getting her to speak. I’m a little fuzzy on HOW and WHEN to do that. She barks wildly at other dogs/squirrels/skateboarders etc. and sometimes at casual passersby. She also exhibits a soft high pitched squeak or squeal sometimes when we’re riding in the car on the way to the park. I’ve been trying to push at least once a day for several months now, but she rarely seems to want to tug. I think mostly because of her breed and personality, she is VERY energetic and I’m afraid doesn’t get the amount of exercise she wants and needs. When she does bark at passing dogs or squirrels, should I praise her when that happens? I’ve used the “eyes” exercise to some success when she spots a dog walking along the street and I can see her start to focus and get ready to go “a little crazy”. Luckily she is very food driven, so I can sometimes distract her with treats,….but not always. Many days I feel like it’s one step forward two steps back. But I’m determined to keep at it. Thanks

  27. Kevin Behan says:

    The problem has nothing to do with exercise. If she’s not giving you her energy, exercise simply reinforces that tendency. She has to learn to give you her bark. The bark she’s exhibiting is incoherent and she’s projecting it from her head without a strong meter. Yes you can begin by creating a circuit as in praise for the incoherent in the car and get her into taking a treat, but that’s just a beginning, it’s vital to channel this into coherent, bark from the gut that is metered. Then her mind returns to her body and she is able to learn, to discriminate between that which is to be barked at and how, and that which is not to be barked at, such as squirrels and stuff going by in the car. (I use the down to teach quiet. I don’t teach quiet with quiet, but with down as this is the most composed position of the body/mind) It is my position that training eye contact will inhibit the bark when the dog is stuck. The dog is fixating on a point in eye contact whereas the bark is a wave. It’s exactly like the dual nature of light, both a particle and a wave. You have the particle thing down (point of fixation) but the coherent wave function of emotion is escaping you. The wave function is how a dog knows that you can absorb its energy, this is why she is compelled to dogs and squirrels on the horizon because her pattern is that these can absorb her energy. You build a wave with the bark and then the bite and carry will follow.

  28. b... says:

    Seeking some clarification on prey threshold and emotional capacity.

    If a GSD, LGD, and pitbull all have a high prey threshold (aroused by and less inhibited by larger prey), then higher emotional capacity (more open emotional pipeline?) accounts for the GSD’s ability to process greater resistance via drive without suffering collapse relative to the other two, right? And the ability to herd would be a function of emotional capacity as well, or does a different factor account for the ability to remain conductive in that more complex frame of reference?

    What about a dog that has become very phobic, with severe separation-anxiety/owner-addiction, incoherent bark, will bite a stranger under enough pressure, and left to its own devices will take down a deer significantly larger than itself in size. It seems that a high prey threshold is still intact, but has the dog’s emotional capacity been lowered overall, or is it human-specific in that the dog has been charged such that it perceives an exaggerated predatory aspect and insufficient preyful aspect in humans?

    I’m not sure I’m asking the right question.

  29. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes, the tending style of GSD herding, in my opinion, requires the highest emotional capacity because there is a constant back and forth process of elaboration encompassing the entire flock plus the herder and without there being a constantly rising sense of tension that eventually requires a collapse into an instinct. The dog has to stay in the flow longer, virtually indefinitely, he will always be elaborating with very few intermittent peaks of climax that collapse into the bite. So there is the high prey threshold that allows the dog to perceive the preyful aspect despite the intensity of the predatory aspect, and therefore remain grounded in its body, and this allows for a process of elaboration, a back and forth exchange of emotional momentum. But then we have to note that inherent in the back and forth is a rhythm that trends toward a rising intensity which makes sense because it has to reach a point of climax. Note the cheetah chasing the gazelle with their syncopated movements in the chase establishing a beat of move, countermove; within which the cheetah starts to shave off some time and the beat intensifies until finally contact is made and the process of elaboration collapses into a bite. Therefore a high emotional capacity can establish a state of resonance, a feeling, that can hold off that rising state of intensity so that it doesn’t reach a climax state and collapse into an instinct. This is where the GSD tending style is different from the high prey threshold of the pit bull. The latter wasn’t bred to sustain the process of elaboration to a state of resonance as was the tending GSD since it is actively trying to bite and hold the large prey animal (bull for example).
    The phobic dog that gains success with the deer, may have a high prey threshold but it has been damaged by humans and so it goes the path of least resistance and can establish optimal locomotive rhythm with the deer, but can’t establish a state of resonance with humans and collapses into the bite for the same reason it feels compelled to chase deer. Such a dog could have a high prey threshold (especially if we’re talking about taking on a moose) but then have a low emotional capacity to humans given the way it was treated. (And yes it would be focused on the predatory aspect of the human and not enough on the preyful aspect which would paradoxically as it might at first seem, allow it to feel grounded and therefore be able to engage in the process of elaboration and achieve resonance.)

  30. b... says:

    Thanks, that’s very helpful.

    And a breed’s innate hunting style or disposition towards prey (chase, bite, fight, kill) – is that a function of prey threshold as well? I think I remember it being mentioned in a discussion about temperament, but don’t have the details.

  31. Kevin Behan says:

    The high prey threshold enables a process of elaboration, i.e. hunger is greater than balance and so the collapse of attraction to prey can be held off. But for the process of elaboration to go on long enough to get to the most refined expressions of hunting brings us to the notion of emotional capacity so that the attraction to the prey becomes displaced upon a “midpoint,” a common object around which prey and predator alike revolve. I call this a “group trigger.” This allowed man to step into this opening so that the midpoint between them became the prey animal. This process could continue to elaborate until it’s no longer on the prey itself, but on the midpoint of the flock and so we have herding dogs. If the human has to kill the prey because it’s flight capacity is too adept, such as a bird that can take flight, then you have the gun-dog breeds. Hence the herding breeds brought us the service dogs, and the field breeds became the prototypical companion dog (at least before the show world ruined them all). These two types of dogs are the easiest to deflect onto a group trigger. To forestall a collapse of attraction they deflect their attention onto the human, the path of highest resistance and are hence open to direction and give the human credit for preventing the collapse. This induces a powerful state of resonance that is more rewarding than the actual kill. (This formulation is consistent with the deepest impulse in nature being to improve the flow by importing objects of resistance into the configuration.) Terriers and hounds on the other hand maintain a fixation of the prey animal itself, they prove harder to deflect onto a group trigger because it’s not necessary in order to unearth a varmint or tree a raccoon or mountain lion. Of course all dogs have the innate capacity to deflect, just as every type of wolf has the capacity to deflect around a group trigger (large dangerous prey animal) but it’s not been maximized through selective breeding as it has with field and herding breeds. So the two capacities aren’t separate from each other, one telescopes out of the other, the more complex expression of hunger greater than balance by deflecting onto a group trigger, is an elaboration upon the base, hunger greater than balance in order to take on a large dangerous prey animal.

  32. b... says:

    So then the ability to deflect attraction onto a midpoint of higher resistance (group trigger), and thus sustain the “good feeling”, is a function of emotional capacity. So even though a gun-dog has a lower prey threshold, it has the emotional capacity for elaboration of the hunt via human, right?

    So emotional capacity = ability to delay climax/collapse = capacity for impulse control = ability to perceive potential energy (latent momentum?) by way of a midpoint = ability to incorporate multiple factors (negatives?) into the hunt, i.e., complex access-to-positive/prey = cooperation? And as such would be the prerequisite for all complex behaviors?

    This seems a lot like what we would call “maturity” in humans – the difference between an impatient child (and some adults) seeking immediate gratification rather than deflecting their attraction onto a longer-term more substantial reward.

  33. b... says:

    Would it be accurate to say that a pitbull (bred to fight prey) is similar to a terrier (bred to kill prey) in lower emotional capacity (over-accelerating into collapse?), but higher in prey threshold (bull vs. mouse)?

    I’m trying to get a handle on what accounts for the differences in what a dog does with prey (soft-mouth of retriever vs. unrelenting grip of pitbull vs. “kill-bite”/shake of terrier).

  34. Kevin Behan says:

    I believe it’s a thermodynamic tradeoff. Yes, the pit bull has a high prey threshold so can perceive preyful aspect despite intense predatory aspect, but it’s capacity to emotionally cycle to a state of resonance around a midpoint is less than that of the field dog because it was bred to bring the prey to ground. So it can’t hold off a rate of intensity. Meanwhile the field dog has a soft mouth, state of resonance, because its perception of preyful aspect is so low, but it can hunt birds all day no matter how many are brought to ground. Both breeds have same emotional momentum, but the cycles are much difference as in capacity to resonate relative to the intensity of the “pitch.” I believe it’s akin to how all animals have same number of heart beats in a life, it’s just that the smaller ones beat much faster than the big ones, hence different longevities. Excellent questions.

  35. b... says:

    I’m guessing that GSD and Malinois aren’t traditionally bred for innate bite grip like a pitbull because this would be counterproductive in a herding setting. But when bite-no-matter-what is trained or selected for in breeding for protection/police work, are we making them more pitbull-like, i.e., lowering their emotional capacity? Or are we just re-orienting the resonance of herding into a higher-intensity shorter-duration hunting outlet via the bite and hold?

    And when we talk about the terrier-ization of working dogs, are we really talking about lowering their emotional capacity, rather than their prey threshold, since, in the case of Mals, they don’t become more easily deflected by predator aspect i.e., less able to perceive preyful aspect in higher-resistance prey?

    Or maybe it’s more intricate? They do become more easily aroused, so does it make sense to delineate further and say prey threshold is a measure of ease of arousal by prey aspect, and that a separate Predator threshold is a measure of ease of deflection/inhibition by predatory aspect? So we could end up with a trigger-finger Mal-“terrier” that has a lowered prey threshold (easily aroused) but still a higher Predator threshold (not easily inhibited), and lowered emotional capacity (prone to over-acceleration + collapse)?

  36. b... says:

    I was thinking of this in terms of a car, where low prey threshold (pt) is like a loose gas pedal, and low Predator threshold (Pt) is like a loose brake pedal.

  37. b... says:

    How does the NDT model account for the LGD that will protect livestock and handler from predators, animal or human, yet accept the handler slaughtering livestock? Trying to wrap my head around what kind of looks like a hierarchical imprinting process.

  38. b... says:

    Giving credit in the animal mind…

    If a “food aggressive” (sensitive vs. sensual) dog is given food as another dog approaches its snout (via the “counter-conditioning” protocol):
    – Does the dog credit the fear that it feels for the food delivery? (i.e., gives credit to a feeling for what’s happening in the environment; fear/panic is successful)
    – Does it give credit to the approaching dog for the fear that it feels? (i.e., credits the negative for what it’s feeling)
    – Or both? (gives credit to the approaching dog for the fear and credits the fear for the ingestion/intensity of the food)

  39. Kevin Behan says:

    If the dog takes the food and eats it, then yes it gives the internal fear state, and in addition the source of compression, (-), i.e. the other dog’s predatory aspect or eyes, credit for how the food arrived in its mouth. But some degree of the sensitivity was softened by the sensual aspect of ingesting and consuming the food. The food as a preyful aspect did connect the dog’s front end to hind end, to some degree, and therefore to some degree, recapitulated its earliest flow memories, so there has been some degree of softening. Theoretically, the softening can begin to overtake the sensitivity since the former is more efficient and feels better than being sensitive. “The Charge” however works against this softening given that food sensitivity/aggressive issue gives the dog a chance to vent what it otherwise holds back so on a more powerful level, it’s giving the other dog credit for allowing it to release its deepest held fear. On the one hand this overloading compression is overwhelming and debilitating since the fear is so intense, however, it is also exhilarating and thereby addictive because of the relief it feels after venting its deepest fear reserves.

  40. John Cassidy says:

    ive recently come across a hunter over here who works his dogs on small prey and such, from having a good retrieve the dogs retrieve has turned into a run off and bury its prey item , would the pushing exercise help with this problem ? The dog also buries its food bowl after eating,
    It’s funny I’ve been mulling over this problem and understand that the dog is just grounding energy which happens to be in the form of prey , which then lead me to release that all food , prey etc is just all energy to the dog and the reason I was pushing with my own dog was not for the reason I believed,
    Food causes energy same as a tug item but the energy from a tug item can be grounded unlike food where the energy just can’t go away , thus energy can turn into fear and that’s why food can cause real energetic outbursts,
    joining the dots bit by bit, thanks

  41. Kevin Behan says:

    Right, it’s all just energy. The tug toy offers far more resistance than the food, the resistance triggers deeper stress than the food, thus the tug is more satisfying. Pushing would be very good for that dog, and push of war with a bite toy would be even better. Dog is feeling vulnerable when in his prey-making mode and needs to “hide” that which makes him feel exposed. So push of war will help the dog feel secure with handler about having human close to prey object.

  42. John Cassidy says:

    If the dog is feeling vulnerable with a prey item , how can’ it fathom the process of hiding from another s point of view, I thought it was just grounding the energy ,
    I know there must be an element of removing themselves and their item from the predatory aspect of another the eyes but once out of sight would that not be enough to just drop it, to actively hide it then shows more cognitive ability ?? Thanks

  43. Kevin Behan says:

    Very good question. The dog isn’t thinking that another might see it and therefore he should hide it. To want something is simultaneously an act of vulnerability, so when one wants something they become very sensitive to possible interruptions.Imagine for example playing a game where it goes round robin around the table and one might have their answer in advance of several players yet to make their offering. One has the distinct feeling that they will snatch it right out of our minds if one focuses on it too much. We try to distract ourselves from our answer, this is akin to caching something, to hide it because holding it in mind makes us feel exposed. The human mind thinks of objects as objects, but in the animal mind, everything is a function of its own consciousness and therefore if it is attached to something, then this is an animate “entity” so to speak and this sense of energy needs to be attached to a negative polarity. This is why some dogs are able to self-play with objects, they are projecting predator energy into the object. So there are objects-of-attraction, which are pure extensions of the self, and then there are objects-of-contention, which represent blocks to the self and which harbor unresolved emotion toward other beings to which the individual is affiliated and the dog associates this blocked want with other intense predatory aspects. So he wants to bury it not to hide it from others per se, but because wanting it makes him feel exposed to the DIS energy that limits/blocks him to others. We can see this same feeling of repulsion/vulnerability when a dog eliminates and then feels vulnerable as he inspects his own doings. Due to this we are thus able to house train dogs so that they remove themselves from trafficked areas. I’ve known many dogs that will consume their own waste because it makes them feel exposed when they do it in a trafficked area.

  44. b... says:

    In light of Daniel Wolpert’s theory on the real purpose of the brain as access to more complex movement, and Constructal Law, what, in your view, would be the evolutionary basis for human consciousness, sense of self separate from environment, cognition, and language?

    I ask because I’m wondering if the stumbling block to understanding the fundamental difference in the nature of the dog relative to humans in terms of intention is that most people are trying to understand the dog by way of a regression from their human experience and noting similarities in behavior and thus projecting higher brain function onto them – a sort of reverse engineering. So I wonder if it would be easier to delineate between the species by moving up the ladder, so to speak, and identifying a fundamental shift (other than the most obvious one of speech, which some would argue is available in limited form to the dog as well) that follows evolution according to CL and explains the purpose of higher cognitive ability or self-awareness as a uniquely human trait.

    I don’t know if you have a theory on this but would be interested in hearing it if so. Thanks.

  45. Kevin Behan says:

    In my way of looking at behavior, the fundamental distinction between human and animal cognition involves the way the mind constructs a sense of a Self. The human mind has the capacity to see the Self as separate from its surroundings. I don’t believe animals do. They see their Self reflected in their surroundings. Seeing their reflection (via emotional projection) is how they have a sense of Self. This is the logical extension of living in the immediate moment. (BTW, having a memory does not contradict the phenomenon of living in the moment because in the animal mind memories are relived in the moment, rather than reflected upon in a remembrance.) As one can see in any discussion about the science of dogs the researchers and participants all assume that the animal constructs a sense of Self exactly the same way that the human mind does, as a separate entity in relief against its surroundings. They take this for granted and so there’s no way to interface NDT with whatever mental concepts they are projecting into the animal’s minds. They would first have to uncover this assumption in order to be able to examine it. And before I can cultivate the ground for the seed of this realization to germinate, the thread is closed to protect the egos of those involved. The consensus theories and manner of investigation are “homuncular” in that they depend on a little man in the head watching a screen and pulling the levers of behavior. This assumption hides the systems logic and so the universal dynamic of the Self (projection of the p-cog to an e-cog to generate a Mid-Point around which the system can self-organize) is missed.
    My definition of the Self is as a function of motion, emotion is energy in motion, motive-to-move being the fundamental and universal motivation to all animal behavior, moving well being the metric of well-being and the animals’ means of constructing a view of reality. These linkages are the only way a model for the mind can be consistent with the research findings and the laws of motion and thermodynamics and at the same time avoid the little-man-in-the-head trap.
    So in the overall, in order to move coherently in conformance with thermodynamics so that the organism will evolve to persist, first and foremost there has to be an action potential, a sense of a gap between the organism and some element of its surroundings that is coherent to its capacity to persist. Hence projection of the p-cog to create an emotional deficit that then needs to be filled. And because this involves the dog’s balance/motor systems, he is simultaneously informed how to learn how-to-move well in order to fill this void. So in my view, human thought is but an elaboration of this deep seated function of consciousness so that a human can project their p-cog to the far horizon, and so humans can conceptualize action potentials in instances when animals can’t. (I wonder what life on mars would be like?) In short, we conceptualize this action potential as a sense of Time. Time provides a horizon, and it also provides a boundary within which pressure can build up so as to generate a motive to move. {Consciousness requires a “bounded mind” brackets to frame experience so that it can reflect back on its Self. Time is the ultimate boundary and this is why I say; Thinking IS the Box.} Interestingly the human conception of Time arises from motor neurons.
    Meanwhile, it’s not that animals aren’t aware of extraordinary action potentials beyond the immediate senses, their capacity in this regard we recognize as a “sixth sense.” But again, they immediately integrate this information into their sense of Self, as a function of it, as a continuum of the same energies they contend with day to day. Thus the dogs of Indonesia aren’t wondering how they knew a Tsunami was coming. (Doesn’t everybody?) Humans on the other hand must invent a homunculus to account for what is out of the ordinary. (Physics avoids this trap by asking HOW rather than WHY.) So the real story of the evolution of consciousness is the replication of action potentials, not genes. As Terrence Deacon writes in “Incomplete Nature” modern Behaviorism moves the little man off center stage, but it doesn’t give him “his walking papers.” He’s Back……, now under the guise of gene-centric models seeking to replicate, the laws of nature being moved off center stage in any and all discussions of behavior; an animal’s sense of its Self as separate and distinct from its surroundings.

  46. b... says:

    Humans have always been preoccupied with the WHY of things. Perhaps this is an inevitable consequence of the capacity for intent – once you’re aware of it you see it everywhere. But maybe the key is to understand the WHY by way of the HOW, as I think you may be explaining here.

    How does self-awareness serve the “motive-to-move”?
    If animals are also aware of “extraordinary action potentials beyond the immediate senses” without the benefit of discrete self-awareness, then what is the unique benefit it conveys to humans in terms of improved movement?

    Is it that by mentally traveling in time we can perceive greater action potentials beyond even the extraordinary potential in the current moment? Is this what gives us the unique capacity to build things and thus turn energy back into information with novel complexities?

    By the way, there is neurological evidence for the link between flow states and not feeling separate from one’s surroundings. In Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler talks about “’transient hypofrontality’— the temporary deactivation of the prefrontal cortex” (which is thought to be responsible for our sense of separate self).

  47. Kevin Behan says:

    (Thanks for the reference to Kotler.) Yes I think you’re right. The advantage to Time is that it allows the human mind to project into frames of reference that are unavailable to the animal mind. One is able to think, how would the view look from that hill top over there, and then move to the top of the hill for no other reason but to sample the view. This then leads to a fuller understanding of how various landscapes are interconnected. We also want to know what Mars looks like and so it’s inevitable that we go and rocks from Mars will at some point be flowing to earth. This capacity to project one’s Self almost arbitrarily, is the best way to control nature and hence, oil from the ground is now part of the flow of consciousness on the internet, so masses and energies are getting more thoroughly mixed and ideas are traveling farther and faster than before.

  48. John Cassidy says:

    Could the physical act of balance be incorporated in treating dog aggression, I am interested in the interplay between the sight of another dog and an delicate balance situation on an aggesssive dog

    It is the fact that the p cog has to be centred on its predicament that neutrlizes the aggression and thus can’t project into the subject ,
    I just wondered why it isn’t used more

  49. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes, it’s essential in NDT rehab. What makes a stimulus stimulating and what makes an object emotionally relevant, is that it impinges on an animal’s perception of balance, thus accelerating it into motion. A stimulus should therefore more accurately be called an accelerant. A stimulus accelerates an animal into motion and the first question therefore is one of balance because when in motion the body must constantly reconfigure itself about its c-o-g in order to remain upright and sustain forward motion. So aggression isn’t about dominance, possessiveness, territoriality and so on. It’s a balance problem. For an aggressive dog normal social stimuli are intense accelerants that profoundly knock the dog off balance and induce a need for full physical motion that in its mind the stimulus is not able to absorb and conduct. Therefore in remediation one should give the dog a balance problem it can solve through its most primal processes, i.e. fighting to sustain balance. (Fight drive is the drive that conducts the most force and is the only drive that can bring a charged dog back to neutral.) So I have dogs struggle to get up on a raised platform when they are knocked off balance by a stimulus. The harder they work to get up on the box, the more of their fight drive they are satisfying and therefore they are discharging the charge of acceleration and end up on the box feeling self-satisfied. They are then in a position to give the upsetting stimulus credit for having eventually gotten to a state of emotional neutrality and feeling good. (In other words, give the dog a balance problem it CAN SOLVE because it invokes the most primordial system in its body/mind whereas a balance problem on the social level is insurmountable for many dogs.) I don’t talk about box challenges too much because the current dog marketplace of ideas is INSANE with the notion of positive stimulation. Don’t get me wrong I believe in a positive foundation, my expression being it takes a million yeses to get to the first NO, but the current craze on ball chasing, high motivation obedience work, electric collar stimulation, mental stimulation games,is rendering a generation of crazy dogs. In my view a “positive” foundation means a Drive foundation and when a dog is fully grounded into his owner, then it becomes harder to stimulate him by outside incidental accelerants (prey animals, dog on horizon, kids having tantrums etc.). The outside world doesn’t knock him off balance. This is why I do bite and carry instead of ball/stick throwing. The latter is lowering the dog’s threshold for being knocked off balance. It makes a dog “tippy” (as does neutering). Additionally, the way people use attention and hyper talking to connect with their dogs is also lowering their dog’s balance threshold. They want their dog to display a lot of personality, but these displays are a dog coping with being knocked off balance and not being able to discharge the force through a Drive expression. For many dogs the only way they can discharge the emotional overload that builds up, is either through aggressive outbursts or, if they are of softer temperaments, separation anxiety and noise phobias.
    In the animal mind the feat of emotional projection (feeling the c-o-g of another–e-cog–as one’s own p-cog) is inseparable from the focal gaze, so projection is always happening, the question is does that knock one off balance, or does it induce the perception of “potential energy.” If the latter, then the dog is able to move in a way that takes the balance threshold of the stimulus into account and we see a peaceful interaction, or, the dog leaves the tippy dog alone and goes on about his way because he has no need to stick his wet nose into another’s hot socket.

  50. Ben says:

    Why do you think that the current state of dogdom seems to have swung so intensely to the “positive” side?

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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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