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.