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Frequently Asked Questions

Why doesn’t a theory of domestication matter to natural dog training? Mar 20, 2010

While I’m happy to offer one, why doesn’t a theory of domestication matter to Natural Dog Training? Because NDT is a theory that is based on energy and so therefore it isn’t therefore conflating the questions of – HOW did a dog become the way it is, with: WHY does a dog-do-what-it-does? Rather NDT studies […]

What's the value in using a vague term such as energy? Mar 16, 2010

“But one wonders what the reason is to use a vague term like “energy” when you mean arousal or excitement or anxiety? For instance, there is a BIG difference between a dog barking out of arousal and one barking out of anxiety. Since you wouldn’t deal with both situations in the same way, why would […]

What's the difference between Natural Dog Training and Operant Conditioning? Mar 15, 2010

Natural Dog Training is fundamentally concerned with motive whereas Operant Conditioning is fundamentally concerned with reinforcements. All subsequent points of departure proceed from this distinction. Furthermore, this distinction reveals that two concepts integral to behavioral science 1) animals learn by reinforcement, and 2) the notion of “high value” rewards actually represent an inherent contradiction in […]

Isn't Encouraging Prey-making urges dangerous?

An excellent question from the web: “Since we don’t all “work” our dogs enough to let them fully express their natural prey instincts – we don’t all have access to sheep for herding, wild fowl for hunting, or decoys for biting), pet owners of dogs with high prey drives can really have a hard time […]

Set Your Moose Loose: “I am not a moose, my dog is not a wolf and he doesn’t think I am a moose.” Mar 13, 2010

True, my critic is right in one sense: a person is not a moose and a dog can never come to THINK of a person as a moose. However a dog doesn’t think its owner is a person either. In fact, a wolf doesn’t think a moose is a moose, or a wolf is a […]

Behan is too new-agey in his explanations to be taken seriously. He also dismisses large tracks of learning theory and psychology and ethology. He prefers undefined explanations like "emotional circuitry of dog and owner" Frankly I tend to dismiss and distrust anyone that talks about 'energy' or 'vibrations' to explain animal behavior. Mar 11, 2010

I don’t dismiss behavioral science and I value its many astute observations and precise descriptions; however it is missing the fundamental element of behavior, to wit: the animal’s nature which is an evolved function of energy. So what is energy? Science understands energy as an “action potential,” as a differential in concentration of “charged” particles […]

I was just told that Kevin Behan is into the old wolf pack theory etc…

Actually, I may be the first one to discredit the “old wolf pack theory.” Rather I am into the canine “group theory” and the first to posit the distinction between pack and group, and that there’s no such thing as Alpha-Leader-hood. In 1991 David Mech wrote in “The Way of the Wolf” p. 36: “Perhaps […]

training in drive is nothing new – schutzhund people have always been doing it for example. Herding dog handlers have been doing it for as long as there have been herding dogs.

True, but no one to date has discussed drive in terms of energy. Drive is focused energy. This then brings us to the question as to how energy acquires focus (the inverse relationship of emotion to stress). Drive theorists to date have not been able to articulate this process without resorting to instincts and thoughts, […]

I agree there is energy – everything does have energy – but there are also plain old basic learning principles that have been around for a long time.

Behavioral science is indeed being consistent by not using the term energy, and it’s also quite wise to avoid any use of the term because once we add energy into a discussion of behavior, then the paradigm shifts wholesale. On the other hand we can’t agree that there is energy, that everything has energy, and […]

From what I have read, young wolves DO need to be taught to hunt – what they already have are the ritualistic behaviors that make up the act of hunting, but they need to be taught how to apply them properly

In the seventies I was training a Bernese Mountain Dog and after weeks of training and the dog seeming to have mastered the obedience exercises, I decided to test my control by taking him into the pasture with my father’s herd of cows. Big mistake When the dog was but one millimeter beyond some invisible […]

I am always amused when folks argue against operant conditioning. "Operant conditioning" isn't a method. It's the way learning works. You're using it whether you intend to or not. Whether you acknowledge it or not. That's like saying, gravity isn't the only way to stay on the ground

Below are definitions from a site dedicated to Operant Conditioning. http://r-plusdogtraining.info/lexicon.htm Reinforcement = anything that strengthens a behavior Punishment = anything that suppresses a behavior Positive = something added to influence a behavior Negative = something taken away to influence a behavior These are comprehensive DESCRIPTIONS that do indeed encompass the phenomenon of learning so […]

In the past, when ever I've seen "natural dog training" it has seemed anything but natural to me

It’s true that anyone can claim to be natural and in one sense, everyone is being natural because in the final analysis, the dog responds to what the trainer does through a naturally evolved temperament and so it’s always the dog’s nature that’s being affected no matter how arbitrary the training approach. The term natural […]

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.