What language is spoken on Planet Dog? We sent Zeke to Portland Maine to find out.
In the mind of a dog there’s only one question: What do I do with my energy? And there’s only one answer: Move well. Every object comes to mind as a function of resistance-to-moving well. Sensory input coalesces into a mental image, it assumes a specific shape with discrete features, as a function of resistance to movement. This is how the animal mind makes sense of a stimulus. So if dogs could talk, they would tell us when confronting novel or difficult situations, such as Zeke walking into a busy retail dog store, is how do I move well relative to all this intense stimuli? My job as handler is to be that answer so that Zeke can move well relative to me. And if I can be the most intense variable around which he can move well (rather than the most gentle, loving person), then he can move well to everything else because these “intensities” have been minimized. When a dog learns how to move well, then he become more sensual. When he is sensual, he develops a faculty of discrimination so that he can tune his movements to elicit pleasurable movements in others. Concurrently a sensual dog learns to leave alone (rather than react to) what he can’t yet connect with. In other words, the sensual dog becomes more social.
What does moving well look like? Pushing, collecting, barking, bite-and-carry and the super-sized pleasure circuit, rub-a-dub. Amazingly, Zeke gave me the best soft mouth he’s ever performed, and then bit and carried the radiator hose around the room. That’s because what normally knocks him off balance (sensitizing him to the predator) was being channeled into emotional grounding (sensualizing him to the preyful aspect). He switched from a visual to a nasal orientation, i.e. the social sense. His nose was always working. So there’s no such thing as bad energy, there’s only un-channeled versus channeled energy. The core exercises turn un-channeled into channeled energy. Later that evening Zeke and I enjoyed a cigar (I did the smoking) on Portland’s busy waterfront and we took in the warm late evening while folks strolled by, many having something to say about what a pretty dog Zeke is. A couple of dogs rushed up to us in the dark and Zeke easily absorbed their energy and was soon to be wiggling and wagging until both had their full measure of schnookery and the dog dashed back to his owner nearby.
Many trainers talk about keeping a dog under threshold. But dogs like Zeke are always “over-threshold.” NDT concentrates on raising a dog’s threshold. For example, a race car driver doesn’t learn to be relaxed at 200 mph by always staying under threshold. So when a dog can feel how to move well, then his threshold capacity is raised and this is what changes a dog’s mind because what used to represent an interruption to smooth movement, now fits into a smooth locomotive rhythm. The five core exercises turn intense stimulatory spikes (such as a stranger jumping at him) into sensual waves (such as a stranger giving him a belly rub).
Big rub-a-dubs to the d0g friendly people of Planet Dog for giving Zeke a good time and thanks to Leah for getting Zeke in front of an appreciative audience.