Get The Bite Out

I find myself constantly saying to owners of aggressive and fearful dogs, “You’ve got to get the bite out;” but I guess my exhortation is a little too cryptic because a few years ago while I was giving a seminar Trisha, our lovely assistant, finally asked me: “WHAT DO YOU MEAN: ‘Get the bite out?’”

I mean that if a dog doesn’t love to bite, then it needs to bite. If our dog loves to bite, then it will love to bite what we want it to bite because love works according to “a want.” What we want, our dog wants, this is the essence of their loving nature. (The opposite can unfortunately be true as well as when we project a need onto a dog. Then what we need our dog needs and this is one way of defining a “problem behavior.” For example, if an owner needs attention, their dog needs attention and to such an extent it will annoy the owner.) Whereas if our dog wants what we want, our dog knows how we feel and they can easily learn to do what we want them to do. Instinct on the other hand works according to a need and a need cannot be moderated because an instinct always travels the path of least resistance whereas it’s important to note that everything we want our dog to do in domesticated life is ALWAYS the path of highest resistance, “Don’t chase the cat.” “Stick around the yard.” “Don’t jump up on the counter.” Everything we want our dog to do stands in abject defiance of instincts or acquired habits. And this running to the path of least resistance is because the intensity of instinctual behavior is fueled by stored fear, (the rush of fear is due to the sudden, intense SENSATION of acceleration due to a collapse of a state of attraction) and so a dog cannot control the intensity of an instinct in the absence of a group trigger. (A group trigger converts fear back to its original desire before the state of collapse.) So we have to get the fear of a bite (which is simultaneously a fear of acceleration) out of the dog’s system in order for it to learn to love to bite. Thus, getting the bite out is getting the fear out. When fear is reconverted to desire, A WANT becomes available to serve as a group trigger and this feeling of purpose is the faculty within a dog that allows it to control an instinct. Only a feeling can travel the path of highest resistance and it is empowered by a “group trigger” (i.e. WHAT the group wants).

So if our dog will predictably manifest this love to bite in any and all settings, then our dog’s behavior will be sociably predictable in any and all settings. For example, on his first trip to the big city, “Hessian” my German shepherd was seven years old and he had only been off our farm four or five times in his life with most of these being trips to the vet. Several years ago I conducted a seminar in Manhattan and I brought Hessian in order to demonstrate my method. It was his first experience in a hotel, on an elevator, on sidewalks; negotiating honking and screeching traffic, a crowded store, in Central Park and so on. The first thing I did when I parked the car in the hotel’s underground garage and had the luggage loaded on the trolley cart was to take Hessian out of the car, produce the bite toy, have him push into me and then get the bite. I let him wrest it from my grip (fight to overcome resistance) and then carry it around for a few moments to savor all the praise I lavished on him. The valet couldn’t help but smile when he saw how happy the dog was. Then I tucked the toy in my jacket and we went about getting ourselves checked in. Now because Hessian bit the toy as hard as he does back on the farm and was willing to put his heart into fighting it free from my hand, I knew that the dog I left Vermont with was the same dog that had arrived with me in Manhattan. Because all Hessian’s energy was grounded into the thing I wanted him to bite, everything about Manhattan was going to fit into his emotional definition of normal and therefore nothing we would encounter (such as the dog in the park that jumped him trying to take his toy away (reflecting its owners need for competitiveness I’m sure) would be unmanageable for him.

Even though to our eyes it might appear that the big city meant everything was different from our quiet rural backwater homestead, this is a comparison that only the human intellect can make. For Hessian everything about the city fit into the parameters of everyday experience because I had grounded whatever intensity was being knocked loose by the city’s high rate of change into that which I wanted him to want. For Hessian it was just another day on the farm, “Oh boy, oh boy, is it time to feed the chickens?”
If a dog doesn’t love to bite in a moment of tension, then it will NEED to bite in order to relieve that tension and will become completely at the mercy of instincts and habits.

Published March 22, 2010 by Kevin Behan

133 responses to “Get The Bite Out”

  1. kbehan says:

    Colt expresses the emotion in the moment most straightforwardly, he can’t help but align with the flow of energy so he is more at the surface. Bea is the “perfect” dog and so she must act with the most personality to get what she wants, and needs the others as conduits. When she can’t “vibrate” because someone isn’t resonating with her personality, then the personality approach falls apart and the fear driving the personality becomes apparent. Getting the bite out allows her to turn her fear back into Drive. So by understanding that even aggression is a function of attraction, you are able to align with alignment, i.e. the flow of things without judgment. For example, when Colt or Bea acts aggressive, how did you feel, alienated, a rebel, a misfit, embarrassed, ashamed, betrayed? These are judgment values that prevent us from understanding the natural role of aggression. and then they go on to confuse us further so that we think a dog’s personality is its “being” rather than temperament and how Bea is the equal/opposite to Colt and how it’s all one big energy system. When you thought Bea was brave you didn’t see it as fear and paralysis, things have to be a certain way for her to feel safe, it’s harder for her to perceive change as potential for flow. Bea is the judgment how to manipulate yourself to get what you want, rather than Colt who is just going for what he wants. Sometimes we have to be aggressive to get what we want, but it’s incorrect to think that true rage ever causes any damage. It’s personality, fear and anger that causes problems.

  2. Heather says:

    Going back to the Zen teacher (Joko Beck) I mentioned, she says (I’m paraphrasing) that life doesn’t care about relationships or individuals, it only cares about maximizing the flow of energy as a whole. In the absolute, individuals aren’t separate from the whole, but the personality is the individual’s defense (ie, attempt to create separation) and thus the personality is always going to be under “attack”.

    You have probably explained it before, but why is it that one dog would express the emotion straightforwardly/align with the flow of energy directly, and another would develop a more elaborate personality? This is the circle of temperaments, right? Is it dependent on genetics, breed, experience, living with other dogs and not being able to occupy the “same” energetic space?

  3. kbehan says:

    There is order and there is flow, visualize order as a circle, and then visualize an arrow going through the center of the circle (a series of circles is a pipe) as symbolic of flow. This brings us to the great conundrum of human interpretation of nature. In general, schools of thought polarize toward fixating on either the order or the flow and don’t apprehend how they are both part of the same dynamic. For example, the dominance paradigm believes in order for the sake of order; whereas the positive paradigm believes in flow for the sake of flow. Each is right in a way, but more fundamentally they are both in error because the purpose of order is the flow, and there can’t be flow without order (this is why I don’t recommend dog sleeping on bed). So Bea is manifesting the sense of order whereas Colt is manifesting the sense of flow, thus Bea has a harder time adjusting to a shift in the order because her frame of reference is predicated on maintaining the stasis of the order she finds most comfortable, whereas Colt has an easier time seeing change as a heightening of flow since he’s not as concerned with maintaining order. In general, female energy is more concerned with order (defense of nest, young, principle, maintenance of stress) and male energy is more concerned with flow. (boys just want to have flow and tune out stress). Of course both have both capacities, but they will polarize in one direction most especially when female live with male and these minor variations will become more and more pronounced the longer they live together. If an individual gets stuck on order, they manifest electric style of being and fixate on targets, if an individual gets stuck on flow, they manifest magnetic/floppy style of being and are too easily deflected. The trick is to not get stuck and be able to flip from one to the other as situation warrants in order to maximize the propagation of energy.

  4. Heather says:

    So the dogs (people), have to feel the rage, it’s necessary to the flow. But people are stuck on the judgment against rage, because of a misunderstanding between feeling rage (does not cause damage), and actions based on anger, fear, personality, which do cause damage (being stuck in “order”.) Ironically it’s the rage/conflict that’s going to propel dogs and people to correct action, ie, that which maximizes the propagation of energy in service to the “network”/life.

    Most interesting (and an example of the irony) that a vast majority of “positive” trainers are women.

  5. Heather says:

    I think this is why given only the choice between the “dominance” paradigm and the “positive” paradigm (luckily no one has to make that choice), I could never really commit to the “positive” paradigm. With the guidance I have gotten from NDT, I can understand the genesis of that gut feeling that the “positive” paradigm is missing something fundamental. I could never have figured out what it was, though, and I find it completely amazing that this knowledge is out there and hasn’t been widely “discovered.” I think that *some* proponents of the dominance paradigm are understanding the truth of the matter, but are not using the correct language or model to articulate things, or maybe just go by feel and get it right. But one person with good feel explaining things in the wrong way doesn’t help get anyone else on the right path. Either way it doesn’t matter, I don’t have any doubt that Kevin has it right, it is just good to be able to get that clarity.

  6. Heather says:

    Alright, so I’ve been struggling with my discomfort over putting Happy into a feeling of conflict re: getting into the car (and more recently being blown dry with a new blow dryer). Lots of things have been getting stuck because of me being stuck in “order,” come to think of it. I think I have some good things to work on these next few weeks, thank you Crystal and Kevin for the new exchanges!

  7. Crystal says:

    Heather re: post 105, yes, to all of it.

  8. Crystal says:

    I am a little confused. I actually identify with this: “if an individual gets stuck on flow, they manifest magnetic/floppy style of being and are too easily deflected.” This happens to me on a regular basis.

    Life is ever changing. I enjoy that.

    I’ve never been good at the order thing. I think it would help me if I were. I think it would stop me from getting deflected so much.

    And yet I relate to Bea completely. Personally I love Bea and all her rough edges, brashness and drive, but she is not appreciated for these exact reasons by some.

    Though it is interesting to me to consider the personality as a defensive construct I think I have always thought of that as persona and at this time in my life as a female of a certain age I am very much in a struggle to shed the persona and live according to who I truly am.

    A good friend of mine says that we were born in an age where for the first part of our lives we are taught not be who we truly are and then spend the second half of our lives struggling to remedy this.

    I don’t understand this: “Bea is the “perfect” dog and so she must act with the most personality to get what she wants, and needs the others as conduits. When she can’t “vibrate” because someone isn’t resonating with her personality, then the personality approach falls apart and the fear driving the personality becomes apparent”

    You also said: “Bea is the judgment how to manipulate yourself to get what you want, rather than Colt who is just going for what he wants.”

    How is Bea that? And why do you think she has to have things a certain way in order to feel safe?

    Yes, to this: “Sometimes we have to be aggressive to get what we want, but it’s incorrect to think that true rage ever causes any damage. It’s personality, fear and anger that causes problems.”

  9. kbehan says:

    Usually the dog that is most into order is the one people think of as the “smartest,” and is managing things, all the stuff related to maintaining order and they think of this dog as “perfect.” These dogs seem the most responsive to owner inputs and they do amazing things in this regards. The owner becomes a conduit in that the dog becomes very sensitive to everything the owner does and self-regulates to stay in stasis, again as a basis for feeling safe within an order. The owner loses something and the dog is easily directed to find it. Then however when there’s a big shift in the order you see the sensitivity/fear underneath because without rage-of-heart; i.e. Drive, it’s hard to perceive these big shifts as a source of new energy. Therefore, if you identify with Bea, you may carry a judgment something to the effect that people who go directly for what they want have to be brash and rough around the edges, or angry, and this judgment could serve as the basis for a refined, pleasing personality that is easily deflected. So by working with Colt you’re learning to align with being direct without judgment and this work will soften Bea as well, although she may not end up being as “smart” as she once was.

  10. Heather says:

    Sorry for inserting myself again here, but I want to make sure I understand these points, they are very central to everyday life and also elusive sometimes because I am pretty blind to my own “concepts”:

    Crystal identifies with Bea’s rough edges and brashness, but that is actually because of an underlying “concept” that she has somewhere along the line accepted as true: that people who get what they want get it by being brash/angry. Yet there is simultaneously a judgment against that “aggression,” so an element of personality reflects that judgment by being nice/pleasing.

    Colt acts directly/in Drive, to get what he wants, but it is without anger or brashness, as he is acting just in accordance with the “flow” of energy based on emotion-as-attraction (vs responding to a collapse of emotion/attraction that results in fear, as with Bea). So working with him is a good way to become aware of when the judgment against such direct action (labeled aggression and assumed to be bad, but it is just energy flowing and doing work a dog is meant to do) pops up, ie, whenever there is a thought of something that Colt does being embarrassing, or upsetting, or confusing, that is the judgment. To see what he does as it is, his own experience of emotion-as-attraction that is neither good nor bad, is softening the judgment.

    Then Bea will perceive this shift, and soften to the same extent.

    an unconscious judgment against those things

  11. Christine says:

    Thank you, Heather, for regurgitating Kevin’s comments; nice job! fwiw, it makes sense to me!

  12. kbehan says:

    That is very well put, thank you. Final note is that there is indeed fear in Colt which is why he is aggressive in the problematic sense, but nonetheless he is acting from a more pure, heart response in that he is willing to fight for what he wants, (i.e. to make contact), and so his direct action is right at the surface. So by seeing his heart in action when he’s willing to fight for what he wants, we thereby lose the judgment and he softens and yes, then Bea’s definition of order softens and she can let more energy in without being so concerned about it upsetting the balance. Also it’s very important to find the words that perfectly articulate these judgments because once they are materially objectified and up and out into the open, our heart as a valve opens (one actually feels release) and our animal mind can process and be done with them. Good job. Sorry my words are so dense: Keep On Pushing!

  13. Christine says:

    ntw…it’s not so much that your words are dense, it’s more like your mental meanderings are in another stratosphere and not as confused as the rest of us mortals. In that sense your clarity of thought can be hard to grasp. Sorta like can’t see the forest for the trees! lol But it’s all good and well worth cogitatin’ on.

  14. Crystal says:

    Kevin said “Therefore, if you identify with Bea, you may carry a judgment something to the effect that people who go directly for what they want have to be brash and rough around the edges, or angry, and this judgment could serve as the basis for a refined, pleasing personality that is easily deflected.”

    Absolutely.

    Kevin said: “So by working with Colt you’re learning to align with being direct without judgment and this work will soften Bea as well, although she may not end up being as “smart” as she once was.”

    This would be great. You’re sure I can’t keep “smart”? Goodbye “smart”.

    Kevin said: “Also it’s very important to find the words that perfectly articulate these judgments because once they are materially objectified and up and out into the open, our heart as a valve opens (one actually feels release) and our animal mind can process and be done with them.”

    Working on it. This is the hard part.

    Who knew training my dog would be so……deep?

    Sang, Heather put down your hands now.

  15. Crystal says:

    Oh forgot to mention. On our walk this a.m. someone remarked about how quiet Bea was while playing. She was full out as usual, but no grrrrr.

  16. Heather says:

    haha. I am a bit overenthusiastic. It is because working with Happy has literally given me the courage to get my head out of the sand and start working “human” relationships again. It’s not something I expected when a couple of years ago I became driven to get a dog. I was more looking for yet another way to stay walled off, which is somewhere past fear and avoidance that I went after my first child was born and spent 3 months in the hospital. Before that I had gotten some understanding, but not enough “feeling” behind the understanding, so what I had learned was cold comfort–instead of propelling me to growth, I became overwhelmed and couldn’t stand to look at reality at all. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get back, there were certain beliefs I wasn’t ready to change, so I withdrew and stopped looking at all.

    Then, along comes Happy, this perfect dog that is undeterrable in fighting for what he wants. He might possibly be the most “stubborn” dog imaginable – stubborn in his absolute inability to do anything that isn’t from the heart. He and I clashed almost immediately with me being absolutely beyond stuck in “order.” So as I learned about NDT (which lead me right back to the place where I left off years ago in my spiritual understanding), and worked with him, I saw just a few things as they were, rather than what I believed them to be. Those tiniest openings have been a HUGE gift to me, to everyone around me–just as Kevin describes, it is like a valve is opened and it’s possible to simply let go of beliefs that aren’t serving the right purpose.

    Happy is definitely not the dog I wanted (at the time), but he is exactly the dog I needed. Now I can’t imagine a more perfect dog.

    This is all personal to me – my family and friends are somewhat bewildered by my sudden fascination with dogs. I think that’s OK, though, as long as I can continue to get unstuck it is good for everyone. But that’s also why I am sometimes blabbing a lot here.

  17. Christine says:

    You go girl, it works for me! lol And Sang, too. Your comments are tremendously helpful; at least to me.

  18. Crystal says:

    Heather, I don’t see you “blabbing” anywhere. Your posts have been very insightful.

    Fitting that the dog that has helped you heal is called Happy.

    Oh good god, my pup’s name is Bea…Be.

    Regardless of how crazy all this is sounding, what is happening inside myself and my pups in a very short time is quite remarkable.

    Christine, I suppose it is not a secret to anyone who has applied NDT.

  19. AZStu says:

    Great thread. Thanks everyone!

  20. christine randolph says:

    is this post 110 ?

    can we do an reset ?

    I am clicking and scrolling etc. to find comments.

    in fact my mouse had to be moved to my left side because my right arm is RSIed.

    i realize it is a mistake not to comment after reading new comments.

    because next go around I cannot find the recent comments on the buzz (i.e. if I make a comment I can look at the comments post MY last comment)

    OK so I may as well comment SOMETHING to the subject matter at hand.

    yes, to thine own self be true is good stuff.

    also needs to be honoured in a dog, even if his or her own self is not always what pleases the owner. it is an admirable quality in a dog, to be PURE DOG, tres “zen”

  21. AZStu says:

    I noticed that if I encourage “speak on command” while playing tug, that the dog’s motion begins to adopt a more linear forward and back tugging motion and she invests more energy in the toy. Would it be a worthwhile pursuit to work until she can tug very hard and bark around the toy in her mouth? Thanks!

  22. kbehan says:

    I’m not quite sure what you mean, but it’s true that when a dog barks they have to “let go” of their emotional center of gravity, which is why they invest more energy since they feel freer after that, they’re no longer just trying to “hold on.” On the other hand, when the dog is biting we don’t want any vibration, such as growling, barking, whining, etc, ultimately we want all the energy grounded into the grip. But if you’re finding a way to increase her investment of energy, then as a building exercise that’s great. Keep On Pushing!

  23. Lacey says:

    I love not-so-hidden meanings behind Happy and Bea (be). My husband flippantly named Lou after a Seinfeld character, Lou Fineman aka “the sidler” because Lou snuck up on us and walks around the house with cat-like quietness. The irony is how loud and aggressive he can be when he fights for what he wants. Oddly, or not so oddly, he arrived at a time when I was realizing that not only had I stopped fighting for what I want, I had stopped wanting at all. I am the sidler! I have a lot of respect for Lou because he “speaks up” – he let’s it rip. I need to do more letting it rip in my life (but it’s so scary). So for us, pushing and bite work is a double sided exercise.

  24. Heather says:

    I know what you mean Lacey. Beyond the dog training, I often assume the reactive/indirect polarity myself, which is great when it helps energy to flow. But it is a problem to be stuck re-acting out of fear of losing something ( vs. acting in accordance with what I want.) I’ve had a lot of personal challenges lately, and I often find myself sitting around passively, waiting for something or someone else to provide a “stroke of insight,” which is basically being scared to upset the applecart. But that doesn’t feel right anymore, so I do have to exit that passive mode (which doesn’t suit me anyway, at my core I am Driven), use my talents, and live my life according to my own principles. That’s the only way I will find out if nature conforms to the power of desire (maybe not but that’s life).

  25. Crystal says:

    I had posted a question under Questions and Kevin recommended I try a few different things to “get the bite out” completely with Bea. So I am updating here because it falls under this category.

    Even though Bea would grab the tug and pull pretty hard I knew I didn’t have half of what she could give. Kevin suggested I not look her in the eye and that I put the toy on a line. I started with not looking at her. I also looked for an opportune time when she was charged about something. That was all it took. She really went for the bite toy (an old thick supple plastic steering wheel cover I cut in half.)

    So since that day, a couple of weeks ago, I can play tug and get her full on. She will hup and I can push her around. Still have a big buzzy grrr at times, but not much and not often.

    The coolest thing is there have been side effects. Bea has gotten much softer. She has always looked for cuddles and rubs, but her body remained somewhat alert. If I walked past Bea while she was sleeping and I gave her a little stroke if she lifted an eye she would be alert. Not anymore. She will lie there and soften even more and go right back to sleep even if I continue to stroke her. She also jumps up into my lap to snuggle with me if I am reading or sitting chatting. Will even stay there and sleep. Unheard of. She’s a small border collie, around thirty pounds so I don’t mind at all.

    The other thing is that she is sooooo playful with other dogs soooo much more. She has always liked to play, but only if asked repetitively and only after her, Colt and I have played a lot of stick fetch in the woods on the first half of our trail walks. Now she will initiate with practically any dog that shows any interest in her even if we have just entered the trail. She is bowing left right and centre and teasing with sticks. I just love it.

    So thank you again Kevin. Now that I have a real bite with her I will move on to pushing around cars. She hasn’t taken any notice lately that I can see, but she has only chased seemingly out of the blue in the past.

  26. Christine says:

    That’s great news, Crystal! Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to hear of NDTers successes and not just the problems or concerns all the time. I have noted similar results in Duncan and Bodie in that they are more playful and relaxed. When I am able to resume the physical training and target some of the less than desirable behaviors I should see some pretty dramatic results in all The Puppers.

  27. christine randolph says:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beatific

    bea = blissful joy, even better than Happy

  28. Crystal says:

    Hey thx you two.

    Bea = blissful joy! I love that. She is that, often.

  29. Hi,

    Could you please point me to a post/video where it explains HOW to get a dog to bite? I looked but have not come across one.
    I recently started caring for 2 dogs (3 y old terrier and 9 y old aussie, deaf), both with some issues, and neither of them will have anything to do with any toys. One of them though there is some concern he’ll bite someone one of these days. He is much better than he used to be with visitors, but there is no tug of war ever, fetch or fetch tug. He loves food, but is already getting overweight. Started pushing last week with him, the other won’t push yet.

    Help much appreciated

    c.

  30. john says:

    Going by this post which reads perfectly logically, that if a dog doesn’t bite then he should bite,something,
    would the same thing read for owners of gun dogs and such like who expect their dogs to retrieve game in some sort of intact fashion and not crunched into a bloody mess,
    Would the use of tug items let the dog release its jaw power and might in a suitable fashion away from the hunting field, thus letting the dog discriminate between the two events, in a way that keeps him soft mouthed at other times, in the same context of a fighter who has learnt to spar easy because he knows how to hit the heavy bag hard,

  31. kbehan says:

    Yes, I believe that knowing when to bite hard, helps develop the faculty of discrimination which enables knowing when to bite soft. Bird dog trainers have rightly challenged me on this point and they certainly have success in the field so their perspective has to be taken into account. However we must not forget that good bird dogs are bred to be paralyzed toward a small prey (hence the point and a soft mouth) so this is a skewed “demographic” so to speak. But I have known bird dogs with a soft mouth in the field and yet they were cat killers/dog fighters on the home front so they still need to get the hard bite out in a socially acceptable way. I trained my GSD to bite the tug toy hard in the chicken pen to channel chicken energy to me, and then the next phase was to have him search for an egg I’ve hidden in their pen with chickens and feathers flying as he searches, and then after locating it, carry it without breaking to a rock outside the yard where he can eat it. If I were training a bird dog that didn’t have a soft mouth, I would do something similar. Give him a hard bite object, and then a soft one to carry gently. By getting all the energy channeled into an appropriate bite object, this opens a channel to communicate to the dog how to grip softly.

  32. Skip Skipper says:

    Would love to hear some detail about how you trained your GSD to search among the chickens for the egg and then carrying it without breaking.

  33. kbehan says:

    First to push for food outside and then inside the chicken pen. Then bite and carry the toy in the chicken pen. Then down/stay and recall to me for push in the chicken pen. Then come to me through the chickens from a down/stay in the pen. Then drop food on ground and dog and chickens feeding freely next to each other, beak to muzzle. Then throw toy toward chickens and puts them to flight as dog runs to toy, picks it up and comes back to me for push-of-war. Then put box in pen and give dog egg to carry to box. On box gets to eat egg. Then carry egg out of pen onto box. Then hide egg in the pen with chickens doing their thing, release dog to search, chickens flying about and dog finds egg, carries outside to the rock where he gets to eat it.

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