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. Milo says:

    Christine – I also love the image – sorry fat fingers!!

  2. christine randolph says:

    haha everyone wants the perfect lead dog…
    i am mostly happy with whatever my dogs give me and put up with it.

    if you want a super substantial Prime lead Dog training session, keep the dog in stimulation and food deprivation for a bit..prior to the session. I am not very demanding on my dogs so I usually do not feel the need.

    this might sound a bit Keeleresc but if my dogs have to learn something substantially new and different, i.e. pull a new piece of mushing equipment or learn to swim or learn a new obstacle in agility, just before dinner and after a few hours in the crate is a good time..

    there is a photo with the article about Jeff King’s dogs pulling a boat, I saw it some years ago, I cannot find it now. each dog had a buoy. you could put a swim west on a dog so if they stop paddling they will not sink. i have used swim vests when i taught my dogs to swim proficiently. they are not crazy about putting them on but they gain confidence in the water so much more quickly !

  3. Phyllis says:

    I have checked the NDT site and can’t find any reference to this but if I missed it I apologize. I wonder how other owners manage and what is recommended.
    My question concerns kenneling my GSD at a commercial boarding kennel while I attend family illness in another part of the country. He will likely need to be there two or three weeks or maybe longer. My concern is that all the time, and effort put into his training with NDT methods may be undone by poor management by the kennel staff. He was a rescue I got at 8months. He was fear aggressive to dogs and people especially men. As a result of my taking him to dominance training he became worse and could barely be managed as we walked by dog or person. After his Vermont ‘vacation’, he is a joy in a wild-thing sort of way. He is still a pup and we have spent the past six months just letting him be a dog. Now he only shows fear when strangers come to the house or near him when he is crated. Out in public he is fine and has no problem with strangers approaching to talk or to pet him.
    What do I look for in the boarding kennel to prevent a set back?

  4. kbehan says:

    Benign neglect. Basically, the less they do the better. In the first few days a dog that has a fear foundation usually goes into shock of a sort and this stuff comes up to the surface. Some people without dog sense may take it personally. So ideally the kennel is an indoor/outdoor set up with a drop gate so the dog can get acclimated without human handling. After that it’s up to the skill of the handler so that when the dog is ready for contact and begins to initiate they would cautiously and gradually accept it. But for the most part what I suggest you do is tell them benign neglect. No special exercise packages, ignore, no attention and hopefully they won’t try any dramatic interventionist stuff. I wouldn’t even let him socialize in dog yard because you never know. The less cooks in the kitchen during a rehab process the better. Good luck.

  5. Christine says:

    Interesting post Phyllis. I am fortunate to have an excellent kennel for my puppers to go to. He was a police dog trainer after his army career so he has a good handle on dogs, behaviors and how to manage them. I think he’s a minimalist (similar to Kevin’s recommendations). He was the one who reassured me that Duncan was not aggressive or bad tempered. He also noted that I needed a 4th dog. He is a very calm and patient man, nothing seems to rattle him (even though Diva is so very skittish and soiled everything in her kennel). He also has the kennel set-up that Kevin recommends. He’s reasonably priced as well. Although, with 3 dogs I only kennel when absolutely necessary. I’d like to be able to get them out there a few times a year…ya know, just for grins n giggles…it would be a bit of a vacation for me! My 3 LOVE going there and are so excited to get inside with him (probably more the dogs/smells that they look forward to but hey, I’ll give the credit to the owner because he’s such a good guy; plus it’s probably a relief for them to get some alone time as well! lol)

  6. Milo says:

    As you know I have Siberian Huskies which, due to their high prey drive instinct, do not go off lead in open areas, and when not in harness they are walked as a pack on leads. Fortunately I have not had first hand experience of this, although I have possibly been close to it on occasions, but some people I know have had their dogs attacked by off lead dogs, in particular Staffordshire Bull Terrier types. I know that a lot of these people always walk their sibes on lead and that in many cases their dog/s will be in front of the owner, as sibes love to pull and they have not discovered the NDT way. But why do dogs in general on the lead provoke a charge from some off lead dogs? Rather than the normal steady approach that you see with dogs meeting off lead. Is there a correct way to deflect the charging dog before it has reached your dog? I know that some of these situations will spiral quickly if either owner starts shouting etc as this adds energy to the mix.

  7. kbehan says:

    You’re speaking to an accurate phenomenon for reasons I’ll discuss, but it also works both ways. Some dogs are more threatened by dogs off/lead as risk of something spontaneous developing happens to be such a dog’s trigger, and, a dog running freely is putting out more prey-like energy and so a dog can be more aroused by this. But in general, being on lead is more charged because output-doesn’t-equal-input and the dog’s forequarters are full of tension. So when dogs look at other dogs, they can feel the tension in the forequarters (I call it upward thrust, it’s how hard the dog will fight to maintain its upright stature) and this is the degree of resistance they will have to overcome in order to bring their attraction to that dog “to ground.” Also, if the intensity inherent in that degree of “upward thrust” triggers a physical memory of fighting/pain/fear, then there will be sparks. However when dogs are free to interact, they can dissipate that upward thrust into actual action and so the degree of resistance between them and other dogs lowers substantially, that upward thrust is deflected into a circular angle of approach and they can more easily be induced to “flip polarity” and want to rub the top of their back on the ground. So the upward thrust in one dog which is polarizing it one way, can match with the dog rolling on the ground or that had deflected its attention and this is how the work things out. They don’t “figure it out” they go by feel and become each others’ complementary emotional polarity. What one can do to protect their dog from on rushers is carry a walking stick and call the approaching dog’s attention to the stick by stomping it on the ground and having it serve as a barrier between the oncoming dog and one’s own dogs (who should be sitting calmly as this dog approaches so as to not give off any more energy). By calling the dog’s attention to the stick, you’re taking its perception off of the dog’s body tension which is “charging” it, and deflecting it onto the stick. You may see the other dog becoming circumspective and then lift its leg, at which point you can let your dog go to that spot and smell and then reciprocate. And if you take a few minutes doing this, at some point the stick can become relaxed and the dogs can smell each other directly. But otherwise, you don’t threaten the dog with the staff, just call its attention to it to change the problem. You become the problem to be solved, not your dogs.

  8. Ben says:

    Just wanted to note something interesting that happened today. I was in the backyard with Nelly, and was manually tilling the garden in prep for spring. A neighbor’s dog was making a ruckus across the street, and Nelly started to become panicked. I didn’t have a toy in reach, so I asked her to “speak” to at least get her focused back on her gut, and she gave me a few mediocre barks. But she then did something odd. She ran over to where I was digging in the garden and then “play-bowed” in the freshly turned soil and almost seemed to nuzzle it. She clawed at it a little, but then took off and was no longer panicky.

    Previously I had been lamenting that my strawberry plants hadn’t faired too well over our very cold winter, and was regretting having to dig up some of the dead and dying plants.

    It seems like she picked up the “charge” I’d been placing on that location, and along with the freshly turned soil, it was probably a good place to ground (in this case, literally into the ground) the charge she felt from the other dog. Am I seeing that right?

  9. Christine says:

    I’ve always carried an air horn with me for just such occasions. There are some dogs that it just doesn’t work on, though and the downside is that it’s hard on my dogs, especially Duncan. I like the NDT way better; gonna have to give it a whirl this summer when The Puppers and I are out n’ about.

  10. kbehan says:

    Actually, the bottom line is that their behavior is the physical manifestation of the emotional charge in their owners, i.e. a guilt/fear to exert will over their dog. You often find that these folks actually get mad at the dogs and owners that their dogs disturbed, or equal/opposite, are extremely apologetic but then go right back to doing things the way that ends up leading to carnage.

  11. kbehan says:

    That’s exactly right. And the reason she play bowed was because she was feeling as if that place was a part of your being, and hence connecting with you and with that dog via that feeling. And because this was literally and emotionally grounding, she felt good and resolved that trigger of anxiety.

  12. Christine says:

    btw…am enjoying Your Mirror immensely; it’s not at all what I had expected. It’s so much more than “just another book about dogs”!

  13. sylvia spain says:

    Regarding the incoming onrushing loose dog whilst walking your own dog on leash. I find that if I just keep me and my dog moving forward that often times the other dog will realign and fall in behind or alongside us and as everyone walks/jogs along, the tension is diffused and eventually the other dog will mark a spot and then the sniffing socializing can begin.

    Some years ago {long before NDT} I was walking my then 1 year old rotti-mix along a dirt road when 2 mastiffs burst out of the woods ahead of us and charged. My dog put herself ahead of me and bristled up. I instinctively realized I needed to put myself in front of her and break up the staring between dogs. I walked into her shoulder (like I do when round penning horses) to displace her sideways and cause her to break eye contact and also to refocus on me, at the same time pushing my hand out and commanding the other dogs to GO HOME! By sending my energy forward I could deflect the mastiff’s charge. Hey, it works with 1,000 pound free running horses, so it was not such a big surprise that it worked with 300 pounds worth of dog. In many ways the energies and attraction and balance are the same with dogs and horses.

  14. kbehan says:

    Right, if you can finesse them onto a common line of travel, then the opportunity for smell and the little-brain-in-gut can kick in and things will invariably be alright. I’m more specifically considering the head-on collisions when the advancing dog needs to be broken from its fixation on your dog because it’s just going to plow in, and any movement is more stimulation to its on rushing. It may not necessarily be in an attack mode at first, but it is approaching and will connect with such force that the average dog will have to defend itself and then that little bit of resistance on its part triggers a full blown fight. With the staff both options remain open to you and if you need to use the staff, I don’t raise it but use it from underneath to bop the advancing dogs toes, this knocks it off balance and changes its focus if it hasn’t noticed the staff being stomped on ground as it rushes forward.

  15. christine randolph says:

    @ Milo, if you let all your sled dogs run loose (starting this in a safe place, maybe a fenced soccer field or some such thing) at the same time they might stick together and not run very far. You can sort of “teach” them the come command or their name and a lot of times they will actually obey, but it is no where near 90% or anything close to a border collie or the likes. Their “perimeter” seems to extend further than other breeds too so checking the perimeter, especially in a new place where there might be life stock or something else interesting to examine and sniff out, takes on a whole new multi square mile meaning…
    so it is not a great idea to allow them to experience freedom near cars etc. but most of them DO come back. especially if you had owned a dog a long time, he or she will have lots of bonding with owner and the other dogs. in mine there is a HUGE desire not just to run off but upon their return, to play keep away and just jump out of reach when I stretch my hand out to grab the collar. even trying to get them to jump in the car elicits nothing but standing by the car door and looking undecided…chasing them around the car sometimes makes them want to jump in..
    lately i have been giving the twirl command and somehow a lot of twirl and reward leads to them allowing me to step on the leash or even grab the collar. somehow a twirl and tossed reward relaxes them to the point that they will come.jump in the car. i am constantly trying new tricks to make it more interesting for them to get with the program.

    (it can be a real pain in the butt when I am totally needing to go somewhere Right Now and one of the northern breeds slips out of the house accidentally as I am leaving and wants to play catch me if you can…)
    btw got the dog / mirror book today and taking it on vacation on wed ! thanks for writing a new book, i am sure it took a lot of hours. 300 densely printed pages ! a nice looking book too. congratulations.

  16. Milo says:

    @Christine, unfortunately I live in the South of England where there are too many people and roads to really have a truly off lead in open spaces experience. However I my boy can go off when I am way out on the middle of the common, but I have to be really aware of other people and their dogs. The other thing I do on occasions hook my oldest girl to my GSP as the GSP will always come back and let them have a run together!

    @ Kevin, I used to always walk with a staff and will do so again so thanks for the answer.

    Do dogs really “live in the moment” or can they, if the trauma is great enough, be come locked into a particular mental state?
    I ask as I know someone with an ex-puppy farm breeding bitch who had her first litter in her first season and then had 3 more straight off back to back, the last of which was still born. She was then dumped in welfare. This was 5 years ago and since then the only time she comes alive is for cuddles, the rest of the time she appears depressed and looking for something, possibly her last litter. Is there anything that I could suggest to her owner that may help her move on?
    I know some of this may be her owner hanging on to the dogs past, and she may be reading more into her look than is really there, but the primary reason for an animal to exist is to reproduce and therefore ensure the survival of the species, isn’t it?


  17. Lacey says:

    I recently bought a treadmill for Rudy’s exercise – dog stuff was suddenly taking up 4+ hours a day which was working against me putting the pups on my emotional backburner. Normally, I don’t put Lou on it but he loves to run on the treadmill. I’ll look around the house for him and find him standing on it waiting for me to turn it on. He loves to run, so that’s no surprise. What is unusual is that when he is on it he wants my pant leg or socked foot in his mouth and if I take the sock off he’ll run with the sock in his mouth. He isn’t interested in a tug toy though. It’s not an aggression thing – his body language is relaxed, tail neutral, and he’s not making any noises. He really perks up if I try to pull the sock from him – he wants to play tug on the treadmill as he runs. He’s much more into tug on the treadmill than posted up in the yard. What is up with that???

  18. kbehan says:

    I think I remember you used to jog with him a lot so he must feel more conductive about you when he’s running, thus triggering the physical memory of that connection. Whatever works works for me.

  19. Lacey says:

    You have a good memory! Yes, I started running with him his very first morning at my house and still take him on a training run (run/tug/speak/down/push) a few days a week. That’s good news for Lou because he sure thinks it’s fun!

  20. Alwynne says:

    I love the story about the dog who likes to run on the treadmill with owner’s sock in its mouth. Two quirky things that my dog has done recently that I wonder what to make of. I’ve been working on speaking on command (and making very slow progress) and pushing (much better progress) with Cholula because she is intermittently aggressive to other dogs, especially on the leash. When I got her from the shelter last September, she was extremely quiet and subdued in the house–and basically anorexic. The least amount of stress would cause her to refuse to eat and for a while I took to stroking and praising her when her food bowl was down to get her to eat. While she now eats regularly–while I’m training her, when we see another dog on a walk and I get her to push for food, and from her bowl–she’s never grabbed food before, but tonight while we were upstairs she jumped up onto the dining room table and stole a large piece of leftover salmon. Shocking!

    the other thing that has happened is that when I first started training her I tried to get her interested in all sorts of toys hoping to do bite training or tug training with her, but I could not get her interested in anything and eventually gave up. But my kids got 2 ju-ju pets–these fuzzy electronic gerbilly things that make clicks and squeals when you squeeze them and roll around on wheels, and Cholula has adopted one. I know it is possible that she could get injured by ingesting a part, but the thing is, she is extremely gentle with her pet — she carries it either by its tail or gently in her mouth from one resting place in the house to another. She’s had it for a couple of months now without ripping it up at all. While I tried walking her outside with it, she still dropped it at the first sign of another dog. But I’ve taken to snatching it out of her mouth indoors and running with her chasing me from the kitchen to the living room, or vice versa, and backing up against the door, where she will jump up on me with good hard energy and gently take the toy from my hand, which I rest on my chest. Kevin, I know you recommend playing inside, but with three little kids this is an easy way to get in a little chase and bite work with her and is the first bite work other than food that I’ve been able to interest her in. So… can I take these as mild signs of progress or are they just quirky distractions? Fortunately my kids could care less about the ju ju pets so they are all hers…

  21. Milo says:

    Kevin, you may have missed this I posted earlier so I am repeating it


    Do dogs really “live in the moment” or can they, if the trauma is great enough, be come locked into a particular mental state?

    I ask as I know someone with an ex-puppy farm breeding bitch who had her first litter in her first season and then had 3 more straight off back to back, the last of which was still born. She was then dumped in welfare. This was 5 years ago and since then the only time she comes alive is for cuddles, the rest of the time she appears depressed and looking for something, possibly her last litter. Is there anything that I could suggest to her owner that may help her move on?

    I know some of this may be her owner hanging on to the dogs past, and she may be reading more into her look than is really there, but the primary reason for an animal to exist is to reproduce and therefore ensure the survival of the species, isn’t it?


  22. kbehan says:

    Yes, this question is the crux of the matter. The answer is that a dog doesn’t see, hear, taste or feel the world directly. First, the world triggers its body/mind as an emotional battery, AND THEN the dog sees, hears, tastes and feels its surroundings based on these physical memories, which unlike mental memory, it otherwise doesn’t have access to. So the dog is constantly reliving the past in the present which is why a dog can stay locked into a pattern and not be able to figure out that the object of its affection/attraction isn’t actually there. It’s precisely because it is in the moment that it is unable to see the past in relief against the present and see how it’s deluded. Unresolved emotion runs the animal mind and therefore the dog is constantly reliving the past and thereby being reinforced in the present just as if the object of a past attraction is still there, especially in regards to physical memories that are deeply implanted. Now on the other hand, if the dog is using physical memory as a lump sum quantitative emotional ballast so as to become an emotional counterbalance to a new object of attraction, and thereby experiencing new energy as a result of this emotional bond, then they don’t stay stuck in the past and move along in their life having new joyful experiences. (BTW, the sense of smell and its quantum aspect (See Lee Kelley’s twitter or “Emperor of Scent”) is not fooled by this emotional battery impasse and gives an accurate reading of the moment. But when a dog goes with its higher faculties of mind, then it’s completely a prisoner of the past.) And finally since our particular dog comes through time and space to be in our lives because we are concordant emotionally on many levels, you could ask the owner of this dog in question whether they are holding onto the past and not moving along in some way. For example, that person may not have gotten enough “cuddle time” as a child and so the dog is tuning into their emotional battery and staying locked in the pattern without being able to experience joy with that person as the deepest basis of their new relationship. So if the owner would learn how to play with that dog rather than stay focused on its depressed state, this would be healing for the owner as well as the dog. This helps the owner release that old energy to make “new energy” in a way that would be beneficial in their life.

  23. Milo says:

    Would the World be a better place if we humans were all mute?

    I ask this because, in recent times I have come to realise, in part due to NDT, that we seem to be the only species who is, in general, so dependent on speech as our first and main form of communication. As a result, we then expect the animals in our lives to respond to the spoken word and wonder why they appear not to listen. We seem to have, in the most part, forgotten how to really communicate with them. We always seem to try to “translate” what the sounds they are making into phrases or sentences, and therefore give them a human meaning, when in most cases, the voice is only used to “locate” or “warn” fellows of the same species and that most communication there after is through body language and energy. This is most often observed when two dogs meet and engage in a fight and our first reaction is to shout and scream and raise our voices. We have not been observant enough (seen the silent communcation between the two dogs, their body language) to actually forecast the outcome (the fight) before it happens, probably because we are to busy talking!

    Why do we want to humanize everything? Shouldn’t we actually learn to animalize?

    We have learnt many languages as a species, but we seem to have forgotten or at least become rusty in the one we were born with – natural instinct. Perhaps if we talked less we would “hear” more?!

    Just asking!


  24. kbehan says:

    Indeed, the less we say, the more we can communicate.

  25. Christine says:

    I think I am hard-wired naturally to listen but it’s been distorted over much of my adult life by others who are convinced that how they think is paramount. I’m working on “shaking off” and off-loading all that extraneous misinformation so that I can find my own way back to my real true self. Thank dog I have my furry family to help me navigate the road successfully!♥

  26. Milo says:

    What is a dog responding to when it does something correctly as in sitting on command? Is it the thought of a reward? The touch of the hand from the owner? Or is it simply looking for connection to the owner?

    I ask as when you start teaching a dog the sit, lie down etc. you always give a treat as a reward, but gradually you remove the reward and just give a pat or word of praise and eventually just the command seems enough, …….. or is this old school thinking?


  27. kbehan says:

    The dog is feeling connected to the owner by way of the food. In other words, the food helps him feel his owner in terms of a want (at the root of every feeling is a want), and when a want is held in common, then the dog can easily flip polarity (his butt becomes the “ground” because he can feel the energy of the food reaching his deep gut via Pavlovian conditioning) and by virtue of this differentiation around a common want, he can feel his place on the emotional seesaw, owner UP, dog DOWN. So what we’re seeing is a feeling made physically manifest by the two parties forming one emotional circuit by way of the common want. And by each occupying a specific pole, prey/predator, (dog projects his physical c-o-g into owner and owner absorbs it by way of holding food and making prey-like sounds) they are comprising a group mind. IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A FEELING (this is why physical memory is so critical to the animal mind so that it projects past memories of other living beings into the moment even when they’re not actually there) So a feeling is a wave centered in the heart and that arises from a place of vulnerability (hunger circuitry importing the essence of things into the deep void of the body/mind). Thoughts and instincts and sensations (concepts, balance/falling, guilt, anger) collapse this wave and can destroy it. This is why we can lose a feeling when we change location. But two equal emotional counterbalances in the one emotional body can sustain and amplify the wave. There’s no thinking going on whatsoever and the term “associates” is merely descriptive and other than that, completely meaningless. To sum all of the above up:

  28. Milo says:

    Kevin, why do some dogs have a problem living in a pack? I have friend who has 9 dogs who all get on with each other normally, but one of them, a neutered male, carries out sudden unprovoked attacks on certain pack members. Do some dogs just find the pack dynamic is not for them or is it another underlying issue which needs resolving?


  29. kbehan says:

    It’s always an underlying issue as I believe dogs are social by nature and that the nature of emotion is attraction so that when emotion is working freely within the group there is always harmony. So what’s going on is that this dog’s emotional battery (the energy in which the dog doesn’t have access to or control over) is triggered by the intensity of certain situations and that therefore affords the dog to vent what’s vexing it and which all the rest of the time it has to hold back. So the attack isn’t unprovoked per se from the dog’s point of view, it’s reliving something that its Central Nervous System construes the current situation to be the same as from its past, and which we of course will interpret logically as unprovoked since we project thoughts into animal behavior.

  30. Christine says:

    Is this why, in a wolf pack (especially in captivity), one will appear ‘alpha’ as if it’s controlling the pack, keeping everyone inline? Just curious…

  31. kbehan says:

    When things are static, (as in fenced in wolves) the paramount issue will typically become the matter of maintaining balance and so we see all kinds of tension and tension abatement behaviors. The individual at direct/active polarity will become emotionally paralyzed at that predatory aspect and so we interpret that as dominance. But notice that it is as stressed as the so-called followers, and in fact, the “submissive” ones will actively solicit its attention (which we misinterpret as gestures of appeasement or respect) and so are “in charge” of the so-called leader. The prey controls the predator, what we call submissive is actually vibrating from the preyful polarity and this is what puts the omega type (reactive/indirect or active/indirect) “in charge” of that particular interaction. On the other hand, when things are flowing, then there is no real leader, but rather the refraction of the group into the polarities that encompass and encircle whatever the prey is doing. And if the prey isn’t ready to go, then it lives to fight another day. The prey controls the predator.

  32. Milo says:

    The owner says that this all started when he was neutered. He is now 5 years old and was done at 18 months. He has no issues with either the oldest dog or the to full males. From what they have said and with your explanation of a charge in his emotional battery, I think he must have had one of the pack members showing more interest in him just after he was neutered than he could take and so he reacted the only way he could to get across his discomfort and that was to attack. Now every time he feels hemmed in by the others and reaches that same battery level intensity he has to carry out the same explosion, release the pressure, and this is what worked last time. So what is the best way to help a dog dissipate this energy? Should she start by changing the way that all the dogs are kept together by dividing the run so that he and may be one or two dogs go together who never fight? This would presumably lower the chance to adding charge to the battery.

    At present she separates him from the others and gives him ten minutes cooler time, which obviously gives him the space he is looking for but does not help discharge the emotional battery. Would teaching her how to push with him help to give him an outlet for this charge be effective? As she could introduce it as part of his daily routine to help him learn to come to her and seek out the pushing when he is feeling this charge getting to high.

    She interestingly notes that she can tell when it is likely to happen, because the rest of the pack look tense which is presumably adding to the charge and this increased tension eventually reaches the right frequency in him and the switch is flicked on.

  33. kbehan says:

    Like is attracted to like, but only opposites can connect. So the ones that he is fighting with, are the ones most like him in terms of temperament and charge. Wahen he was neutered, his capacity to differentiate himself (by virtue of flipping polarity—this is a sensual/sexual capacity) was muted and so now he is unable to become the opposite to what he is most attracted to, and thus they fight. This is not competition for anything per se, it’s the emotional heat from the intense force of attraction not being able to differentiate into equal/opposite polarities prey/predator–>female/male–>active/reactive/direct/indirect so that it can evolve into sociability. The owner has to teach the dog how to flip polarity at higher and higher levels of intensity and so pushing/barking/biting toy, no sleeping on bed, living for the hunt outdoors instead of owner attention etc., etc. And the owner has to learn how to become a social emollient (emotional ground) rather than just a source of “heat.”

  34. Milo says:

    Thank you for the previous replies.

    Why would a dog who has been quite happy running in harness with another dog suddenly refuse to run in a particular place?

    The scene is this. A friend’s other half took their 2 dogs up on to a bridle path to run, hitched to a scooter (the type used in husky racing) and one dog, Harry was all set to go but the other dog Luna just froze. She would not move in any direction and in fact when Jon tried to pull her forward she went backwards and slipped her harness, but she did not bolt. She just stayed on the spot and Jon re caught her and took her home. He then went back and ran just Harry who was fine. Sam then took Luna up to the same spot on a lead and she was able to walk her no problem. Sam then took her and Harry and ran them later on a different track and they went no problems.
    Sam then took both dogs to the same spot the next day and the same thing happened Luna refused to move.

    What is she feeling at that moment and on that spot that is locking her to the spot? And what would be the best way to get her to release so that they can start using the same path to run on again?


  35. kbehan says:

    That’s an interesting scenario. I want to emphasize that I’m not a pet psychic, I’m just using the logic of an energy/emotion model to deconstruct the situation. So I would suggest that due to the special intensity of the situation (being coupled to the other dog which amps up the energy, and then something about the place is resonant with something in her emotional battery) Luna feels as if she is the object-of-attention and her CNS is therefore construing the variables of the environment to represent the presence of a predator, and so she freezes. It would be fruitful to review her history and recall if she used to balk in other situations as a young dog, (introduction to a leash, or even a glitch in the harness training, perhaps she was fouled up in harness while dogs jostled or fought, getting her toes stubbed by a heavy door, perhaps she had a fight or was bullied by a dog similar to that one; that kind of thing). At any rate, barring something really weird about the place which I think we can discount because of her ability to go smoothly when on lead in later outing, she’s reliving something from her past due to the special intensity of those circumstances. Just the novelty of the place with the sight of a transition upcoming (change in terrain, fields to woods, footbridge ahead, a looming solitary signpost that stands out from the background, etc.) can be instinctual parameters to construe the presence of a predator. In other words, she’s hit an overload limit in her emotional battery due to pressure she’s absorbing elsewhere, and then the particulars of that situation offers the opportunity for her CNS to invent a predator and this is adaptive in the natural scheme of things because it gives her a focus for all that unresolved energy. She finally “knows” where the predator is.
    What to do? After a few positive solo outings in that place, the solution is to make her the object-of-attention there, (i.e. the owner becomes the predator) but then she overcomes that resistance by pushing/barking/biting, however a foundation of this work should first be cultivated on grounds that Luna considers terra firma. So if she will express Drive to overcome resistance in that place, the intensity of the place becomes converted into stimulation of Drive rather than predator-in-hiding. The equal/opposite of balking/freezing is Driving.

  36. Christine says:

    So very interesting and illuminating. Now I understand why Bodie, when I first adopted him at 6 months, would freeze when seeing a large orange construction road sign out on walks. I crossed the street and walked him over to it; after that he was no longer bothered by it. I get it now, that he froze because he was apprehending it as a possible predator. Up close he was able to apprehend it in a new frame of reference. Kewl!

  37. Milo says:

    Thank you Kevin, it transpires that the event which sparked this freeze episode happened 2 weeks earlier. The dogs were running in harness when the brush-bow came loose off the front of the scooter and which meant the dogs got loose and were trying to get away from it. The noise it was making along with John chasing the dogs, to catch them, must have made Luna believe that the noise and John were both one entity, a really powerful predator. So the next time they went up to the track and John hitched them up, she heard the noise of the jangling from the brush-bow and sensed/saw John and put these 2 elements, along with other things like location and second dog, and froze.
    She is already, through tug and some walking in harness up and down the track, getting better and Sam is going to pad the brush-bow to deaden the noise a bit.

    Next question. There is a discussion on a forum at present regarding bitches in season. Which got me wondering because, as the owners all have Siberian huskies and some have many dogs, including in one case 20 bitches, why do so many bitches come into season at one time (with in a month of each other) even if they were born at different times of the year and in different years? Are they becoming synchronized? And does this bring the whole Alpha male/female pack members thinking in to doubt when discussing dogs? I always thought that only the dominant pair in a wolf pack became “breeding ready” and the rest of the bitches didn’t come into season. After all, don’t certain people say we should be the “alpha” in our “pack” which, if we are, would mean that no dog should come into season or perhaps we are not good pack leaders! Or of course it could simply be that we are just ….. not dogs!


  38. kbehan says:

    Emotion is a medium for synchronization involving the deepest neurological/physiological systems of the organism. So when a dog imports via the senses the essence of another dog’s emotional/biochemical signature, then its body becomes emotionally ionized and over a period of time they come into emotional/physical/behavioral synchronization, which means equal and opposites in all things (the little wants) while simultaneously aligned around the #1 Big-Want. (This is the deepest reason why dogs smell each others’ eliminations so assiduously). So this would be why the females come into season in sync with each other. In regards to the pack dynamic which is predicated on stasis, if the field research is accurate, the “dominant” female actively represses the omega females emotionally and the effect is that they don’t come into estrus. (This is also concordant with epigenetics where the effects of stress prevent the expression of certain genes, the biochemicals of stress actively block a gene from producing a protein). Nevertheless this repressive pattern is a form of synchronization on a larger multi-generational time scale, which is the way it must be for a pack of wild wolves living in a static environment, it’s just that on the emotional level of an optimal relationship it won’t work out for the individual in the short term which is why we don’t want to duplicate the pack mechanics in our home. The bonding for the wolves happens through the group dynamic of play and hunting, a full blown Drive expression which puts the feeling of flow into their hearts. (I also suspect that the intense stress of pack life as well as the stress from the rigors of life in the wild, calibrates the organism so that it will come into season in sync with the earth’s seasons so that the young are born in the spring. I suspect this because of what I know of deer and the rut.)

  39. Christine says:

    I’m not making the connection on this one:
    Emotion is a medium for synchronization involving the deepest neurological/physiological systems of the organism. So when a dog imports via the senses the essence of another dog’s emotional/biochemical signature, then its body becomes emotionally ionized and over a period of time they come into emotional/physical/behavioral synchronization, which means equal and opposites in all things (the little wants) while simultaneously aligned around the #1 Big-Want. (This is the deepest reason why dogs smell each others’ eliminations so assiduously).

    They smell each other’s eliminations to align with the object of their attraction? This then is how they how how the other one feels? If that’s the case, then this explains why The Puppers will set to howling/barking in unison. What one wants they all want, which is me in the kitchen when they are relegated to the rest of the house. Kewl!! So how do I recognize the opposite in this equal? Just curious…

  40. kbehan says:

    The deepest circuitry is hunger/balance, release from this constitutional state of tension = emotion. Now if two dogs are attracted to each other, one goes toward the other (out of hunger and urge to ingest as an emotional ground via smell, taste or touch) and this forward movement displaces the others’ sense of balance and so now it needs to ground via hunger this energy of displacement into the source of the disruption, and so it reverts to hunger and goes forward and this then displaces the first dog. If one dog is in hunger, the other must be in balance, they both can’t be in the same modality at the same time. And this going from balance to hunger to balance to hunger constantly oscillates like that until eventually they sync up as one of the dog “flips polarity” (feeling potential for flow in its heart) and becomes the prey to the other as predator. So now the internal process of emotional ionization has become externally manifested as one occupying the prey polarity while the other the predator. And when they are synchronized on this external level they are then able to play which is flipping the prey/predator roles back and forth, thereby mirroring externally what’s going on internally. Over a long enough period of time, all their personality traits and individual predilections of likes and dislikes become complementary as well, a manifestation of the internal process of emotional ionization over the long term passage of time. An infinitely recurring fractal pattern.

  41. kbehan says:

    To follow through on the purpose of smell: by ingesting the essence of another being, this “prey energy” completes the brain-to-gut connection and so within the subsequent feeling of being “grounded” the dog can now experience the flipping from the balance to the hunger modality as one integrated and continuous experience of its whole body and therefore the oscillation from hunger to balance to hunger to balance is perceived of as emotional movement that is centered in the heart and from which a feeling of integration with the other as an emotional counterbalance can emerge. In this state, both individuals can feel grounded even as they flip polarities because their subliminal focal reference is their heart. However, if at some point in the interaction or due to circumstances, this internal feeling of grounded achieved by smell becomes interrupted, then a hardwired instinct or a conditioned habit of mind takes over and the dog loses its emotional capacity to feel what its counterpart is feeling. Whereas if the feeling can continue to evolve no matter how intense the situation becomes, then this is new information i.e. a deeper emotional bond and a more complex elaboration of a social order.

  42. christine randolph says:

    as the handler, can i tune into this oscillation and cater to it in some way shape form. to keep the dog grounded and not disrupt the equilibrium…then move forward and do whatever exercise within the parameters of the equilibrium, releasing the dog upon completion when…the equilibrium can collapse momentarily to give the dog a break from all this oscillating ????

  43. kbehan says:

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking, but in order that your dog performs every exercise flawlessly, he must be fully grounded, this is because emotion runs to the preyful aspect. So every exercise should be but an inflection of the drive to bite the toy. The question then is will the dog bite the toy at the start, at any point in between, and at the end. Eventually each jump or obstacle becomes merely a point on that continuum. The dog sees the toy at the start, and every obstacle is part of the feeling of getting to the toy. It is impossible for the dog to be distracted if he is 100% channeled in this way and he can never forget the particular to any component to the exercise because it’s indelibly imprinted in the way his mind works. Everything is a function of attraction, so if the bite toy (the prey making sequence = 100% of grounded emotion) is the ultimate object of attraction, the negative that grants access to it being the handler, then the dog can readily take direction while 100% energized.

  44. christine randolph says:

    this seems to align with my new trick :
    i recently started to leave a heap of the best liked food (raw pork chops, for instance) in the dog’s crate where they know they will return after the run/exercise.

    so after a few repeats she figured out that the end of the run would be permission to eat this food. so she became super fast and the focus was stronger than before I had started this.

    in fact this worked so well that the odd bystander has started to copy this to motivate their dogs to the same degree as Betsy was motivated. with this new motivational regime she did run a course under 28 seconds which is superbly fast, most other competitors are unable to do this with their dogs.

    what i am asking is, is my assumption correct that the equilibrium/groundedness is not possible to be maintained in a dog for very long periods of time ? and as the handler is there a specific way that you use, to indicate to the dog that you too are grounded and focussed on the task in hand so that they can maintain their own focus better by leveraging off of the handler’s focus ?

  45. Milo says:

    Kevin, let me relay a story I heard recently.

    “Kais ‘best friend’ dog (apart from his brother!) was a Golden Lab called Belle who lived directly accross from our house, who he had played with and walked with from when he was 8 weeks old. We can see her house from our living room window as her house is opposite ours. Kai and Belle were very close and unfortunately a few months ago Belle deteriorated very quickly, within half a day, and had to be put to sleep. Now i know that all dogs like to stare out the window, especially huskies, but Kai seems to actually be heartbroken from missing Belle and stares at her front door….. At first i thought he was just staring at cats/birds or the usual like his brother does, but we have noticed recently that actually he is completely fixated on Belles house/front door and has been since she had to be PTS (the angle he is staring isnt at anything else). He keeps going from bedroom window upstairs to living room window downstairs and just stares at Belles door for litterally hours and hours. He would also do this before when she would leave the house for a walk and we would know she was going out without looking at her house as the tail would start wagging. I’m worried hes getting a bit obsessive about her door. Nobody has mentioned Belles name or anything since she was PTS, when we did before the ears were perked up and he got so excited to see her. Perhaps we made too big a deal out of…. ‘Out a walk to see Belle, Kai?!’ when she was here and now he is fixated…. Even if i shut the blinds so he cant see out he will shuv them open with his nose or if he cant, stare at me for hours with the petted lip wanting them opened again! I’ve no idea what to do, thought i would ask as its been going on for a while now and i hate to see him looking so miserable. Any help would be appreciated.”

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts and any suggestions to help Kai get past this. It has been suggested that they ask Belle’s owners if Kai can come over to the house and have sniff around, so that he can perhaps smell for himself that Belle is no longer there.

    I have noticed that every time we have had a dog put to sleep that our dogs take a few days to adjust, but as they live in the same house they can adjust more readily as the information is available to them, where as Kai can’t make the same connection as he lives else where.

    The last dog that we sadly lost, died in my arms at home and the dogs were all around, in fact they all sniffed her shortly before she passed away, as if to say goodbye and they moved on really quickly as they were around at the end.


  46. john cassidy says:

    Where i fall down on the expression of behavior in my dog is, when he’s expressing something eg barking at the ponies, is it, my fear (your dog is your mirror) is he doing it because the other dog doesn’t (flipping polarities)other dog is fine with them,or is it an expression of drive (natural dog training), or how can any behavior be pinned down ,without taking the others into account, or how he acts with another dog, is it his experience, my experience, his drive, his socialisation,how the other dog acts, my head is rattled trying to put behavior in certain boxes without taking other aspects into account,,regards john ,,thanks

  47. kbehan says:

    That’s a sad but beautiful story. Kai is trying to Will Bella into view by wanting her over and over, he’s focusing his energy on where he feels her inside himself. Then, the discrepancy between what he feels and what he sees, is a potential energy that he associates with her, and thus feels reaffirmed that she’s present. So I think you’re right that he could go there and this energy might run to completion by whatever means an animal comes to terms with this. Meanwhile, you might also find a complementary reflection in your own life and “release” it so Kai can move along.

  48. kbehan says:

    I can appreciate the confusion because no one aspect of behavior stands in isolation from another and at first it’s very hard to hold it all in mind at the same time. It’s taken me decades of studying dogs and animals in terms of the immediate moment without allowing myself the luxury of a thought as an expedient to be able to see the same thing from other angles. Our intellect collapses what we’re seeing into a thought because this is how it processes information, the intellect puts things into familiar boxes as soon as it can. I do hope to shorten the learning curve for those who are interested.
    At any rate, it’s all one mirror, or group mind. and this is the overarching theme of both “NDT” and “Your Mirror.”
    Here’s a rough outline of it working together: (a) the dog has drive to connect with horse via a force of attraction (b) that attraction is blocked and therefore the dog barks to relieve tension (c) meanwhile the other dog of the household does not bark because it doesn’t feel blocked (or attracted to such a degree) to the horse because in the emotional group mind it occupies the equal/opposite polarity in all things (d) how the owner feels and thinks when the dog barks at horse has an equal/opposite component somewhere else in their own life so on this deeper level the dog is acting as a mirror to how the owner deals with emotion internally. In other words, the horse makes the owner feel some specific way, and there is a block in there, and this is revealed by how the owner thinks about the dog barking at the horse.

  49. Joanne says:

    I have a specific question about mixing training for a lab retriver puppy that I want to train as a gundog. He is 9 months old and we attended out first group session yesterday for beginners. I have done a little heel work – 2-3 mins at a time, quiet areas, no distractions – so not very strong. His recall is needing a bit more work as he getting more independent. At the group session he was required to walk to heel – we can work on this among other dogs – an he was also required to sit quietly while watching dummies getting launched and chased by other dogs. He found this very difficult and was very vociferous, trying to go very many of them and barking. The trainer told me I had to put a stop to this in what ever way I felt comfrotable i was not proud of my approach – yanking him on the lead, telling him, no, or walking him away to distract him. I can see he needs to have more focsus on me in this environment. The trainer advised keeping him on lead for the next week, reducing his freedom and working on lead work before coming back next Sunday. All around me I can hear people yanking their dogs and shouting ‘no’ as they start to whine. It feels at odds with what I am learning about NDT. Have you any recommendations about the approach in that environment from an NDT point of view – I would like to persevere with the training but I want to have the skills to address without resorting to the more traditional (yank) methods. Or if you can point me to reference material that would help? I am working my way through your training book so may come to it soon

    many thanks


  50. kbehan says:

    What these trainers are telling you to do is 180 degrees going in the wrong direction. Yes, the dogs will ultimately get channeled if their love for the prey is strong enough, but at a cost. So, what you want your dog to learn is that you are the “access channel” to everything, even a dummy thrown by someone else. To do this a dog must FEEL A PULL to you when stimulated by the throw of this other dummy. Thus rather than telling your dog not to have energy when millions of years of instinct and generations of highly specialized breeding is screaming the dog into a state of high energy, the dog must first learn to give you his energy, i.e. the pushing for food exercise. When the dog learns to Give You His Energy, he can quickly learn heel and sit as more precisely focused expressions of that and this now brings him almost all the way to learning to Give Up to You His Energy via the Down by way of Box training. After this your dog will be able to lay down quietly while the other dogs work because he can nevertheless feel movement by way of a pull to you. (Note that when you’re driving long distance to a desired vacation spot, on the deepest level of the body/mind you feel calmed as if you are just about to get there, because you can feel movement even though you may be 500 miles away from your destination.) So you’re going to train him to push for food, and then push for the dummy, then heel, sit, down, stay for food and dummy. But don’t begin at your designated spot in the middle of everything, first go off on your own to the side and play fetch with your own dummy. A dog doesn’t care what happens, he only cares what he feels when what happens happens. So if a stranger throwing a dummy is worth 200,000 volts of input to his emotional system, then being with you has to feel like 200,000 volts of emotional grounding, i.e. push for food, push for dummy, so that you are the one that returns him to neutral. Then you get the credit and it is easy for him to listen to you because he can FEEL you. Just by being near you the dog feels movement. Whereas if being with you isn’t worth 200,000 volts of grounding when there is all that input of the other dogs, he can’t feel you and therefore can’t hear you. You’re just some crazy person jerking on his lead and being jerked on the lead must be what eventually getting to the dummy in his mouth (grounding) has to feel like. The highest expression of training would be for him to walk around the grounds calmly with dummy in his mouth, not to lay down out of obedience. The latter follows naturally from the former when the dog can feel movement no-matter-what.
    I’m going to write more about Drive later, but I went into this depth so as to show how this principle is fundamentally different from learning theory or a dominance paradigm. A reinforcement is of no value if it can’t ground out the emotional force stimulated by external stimuli. And a dog can never learn calm self-control if another being is trying to take his energy away from him.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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