Zeke: The Mayor of Portland



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.


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Published August 17, 2016 by Kevin Behan
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14 responses to “Zeke: The Mayor of Portland”

  1. Ben says:

    It’s awesome to see a video. It really helps bring your words to life and helps give better understanding to the readers in my opinion.

  2. John Cassidy says:

    Why the down after the correction Kevin, could you substitute any behavior for the down , just thinking in practical terms here a lot easier to feed from hand instead of going all the way down or is it imperative that the dog feels grounded to absorb whatever external stimulus ,

    Great video by the way, never get tired of the practical element of it , nice

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks John. Now that Zeke is doing well with stressful situations, he’s at the point where he has to learn a stronger focus and not throw himself around in excitement. I use the down exercise to help with this and I was showing the folks how a correction should be associated with the desire to lay down, as opposed in the traditional sequence wherein the dog associates the correction with a state of not wanting to lay down. Therefore when Zeke doesn’t want to lay down, and I correct him, then he is reminded that he wants to lay down. Earlier I had Zeke on the box volunteering the down and then correcting him as he was going down so that the two were simultaneous. Then I can use the correction slightly before the food prompt so that this “shock” brings his focus into a sharpened state and a more precise way of moving. I also do this Pavlovian linkage with making contact and jumping up, the bite-and-carry and the sit and bark.

  4. John Cassidy says:

    I understand the 5 core exercise as fundumental to a dog social development but what’s the process ,

    If a dog arrives and needs work , he pushes for food from the start I take it then in a few days /weeks ? A tug item is introduced, at these time looking for barks and rub a dubs ??
    Or do you let the dog’s development decide the route

  5. Kevin Behan says:

    You can explore the range and get the dog doing what he’s good at, but in general Pushing is a good starting point. Then when the dog is put under pressure later on in the training, he will volunteer certain core behaviors, and that is when you have the opportunity for the dog to learn he is driving you, and then he will start to get better at the other core behaviors that he’s not yet able to perform. So for example, the capacity to bite and tug, is often preceded by a bark when pressured, or a belly flop. So this gives us the opening to allow the dog to see that he is driving us.

  6. Ben says:

    When you start introducing a “shock” on the leash to down, do you typically start on a flat collar or a choke chain and eventually move up to the prong? I could see the prong being the best as it could deliver the shapest and cleanest correction.

  7. Kevin Behan says:

    After the dog learns to drop on the box with the food prompt, I’ll usually start with the prong. If the dog is sensitive and might overreact, can work one’s way up however.

  8. John Cassidy says:

    Why would the bark be particularly good for the British bulldog , you mentioned in a comment Kevin , that it would be good to get the Bulldog to bark but why the bark over the rest of the core exercises , thanks John

  9. Kevin Behan says:

    The deep metered bark is a complete emotional cycle, output perfectly equated with input and thus the dog’s body/mind is configured around a single point (the midpoint which includes the dog and the object of attraction). This state allows the dog to focus on its breath as its metric of successful movement. And when this subliminal focus on the midpoint is strong enough, the dog can decouple physical motor muscle memories of movement from the breath and thus, not move, and paradoxically, become soft. The deep, metered bark is the essence of impulse control. The deep, metered bark is projecting energy as a force through the breath, however now without the physical force of propulsive muscle groups reflexively accompanying it despite a lifetime of physical memory. So the entire memory bank can shift, as if a vast mass is poised on a single point, and an emotional value built up over a lifetime can change in that instant.

  10. John Cassidy says:

    Ok I get you , , I have put a command to a lot of different canine actions to see how far I get take it ,
    I have put an action/ command to the feet sliding action a dog uses after it defecates , he will now do it on command but I have found that this action is very closely linked with the bark which will often follow if I don’t give him a signal to stop
    He digs on command and will search on command my take on NDT is that the more natural canine behaviors you can tune into a relationship the more the dog tunes in to its owner , there is very little canine behavior you can’t intercept and have the dog fully tuned in , thanks

  11. Kevin Behan says:

    That’s a very creative application. However my one cautionary note about pairing all basic canine actions with owner input is that I suspect it can make a dog overly attached/addicted to owner. A dog perceives all stimuli, either external or internal, as due to the action of a force. He then is committed to ascertaining source of force. So if he associates bodily functions with an owner, that could prove to be a much bigger charge than is normally the case when a dog takes care of these things in the normal course of events and the charge is naturally neutralized by being subsumed into the deeper emotional cycles.

  12. b... says:

    Kevin, thanks for that very useful explanation of the link between commands and owner addiction.

    I sensed an incongruency in the modern focus on vocal manipulation of the dog but didn’t know how to articulate the subsequent effects.

  13. John Cassidy says:

    When you say the most intense variable which he can move well are you referring to absorbing his predator energy in particular through the 5 core thanks

    I find touch to be a great regulator of static when energised and its ability to refocus the moment , a lot of the time the stiffness caused by static/ energised envelopes the movement preventing the dog turning into us when trying to regroup , with the standing dog I work his shoulders and neck gradually increasing until he softens and starts mouthing , then I have him back , it just makes the transition between the object of his attraction to me a lot easier

  14. Kevin Behan says:

    I’m referring to my degree of intensity being more than any other variable, thus I’ve activated his deepest physical memories, and since I’m a problem he’s solved, therefore he feels he can solve all other predatory aspects he perceives, the eyes and outreach of strangers, and even shiny glass and metal objects with their reflective surfaces. All these predatory aspects become subsumed into the wave form (five core exercises) that he and I compose together. And I agree that touch as an emotional ground is a powerful way to turn static into flow.

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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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