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Introducing the Natural Heeler™

Kevin Behan grew up on his parent’s farm in rural Connecticut immersed in a landscape of natural beauty and surrounded by dogs. Kevin’s father, John Behan, founded Canine College, trained dogs in the Canine Corps in WWII and was the first in America to train protection dogs for hospitals, police units, and even retail stores such as Macy’s. Kevin worked in his father’s kennel where he encountered every possible type of dog exhibiting every type of behavior. Consequently, Kevin grew up without judgment about dog behavior, even aggression, as everything dogs did was taken as a matter of course.

 

Kevin trained his first dog, a poodle named Onyx, at age ten. As Kevin matured, so did his ideas about his experiences and the behaviors he witnessed. By carefully watching the workings of nature, Kevin began to see that what made the modern dog adaptable and trainable was not the dominance hierarchy, as taught to him by his father, but the dog’s ability to work as a cooperative group member in the hunt. Influenced by European police dog trainers and a German shepherding sage named Mannel, Kevin’s theories and techniques came together in the 1980’s as Natural Dog Training. Kevin then started his own kennel, Canine Arts, in Brookfield, Connecticut and published his first book, Natural Dog Training in 1992. Using techniques totally unique, Kevin has trained hundreds of police, protection, and border control dogs, as well as thousands of America’s pets. He became the nation’s foremost expert on the rehabilitation of aggressive and problem dogs, which is where he concentrated most of his work. A seasoned lecturer and seminar host, Kevin’s presentations went well beyond the training of dogs and into the very core of canine behavior. He pioneered the Natural Dog Training movement with his articles and theories on energy, the linkage between dogs and emotion, prey vs. predator model, as well as instrumental training techniques like pushing and eye contact.

Kevin’s second book, Your Dog is Your Mirror: The Emotional Capacity of Our Dogs and Ourselves was published in 2011, and further dives in to his model for understanding canine behavior: how a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion.

In January of 2020, Kevin passed away at his home in Vermont, surrounded by his family. But his teachings, theories, and impact on so many will always continue. The community lives on in the Natural Dog Training Online Study Group, and the trainers and friends who have devoted so much to the method. The NDT community encourages those looking to learn more to join the study group, and visit the NDT West site for more on how to connect with like-minded owners.

Order Kevin Behan’s book, Your Dog is Your Mirror.

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.