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.

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Published March 22, 2010 by Kevin Behan

138 responses to “Get The Bite Out”

  1. christine randolph says:

    wow so cool !

    my dogs get around a lot because we take them to hotels and stuff ALL THE TIME.

    however – there are hotels and THEN HOTELS !

    at the clicker expo i brought my fearful dog (as well as my small dog) because my husband at the last minute did not want him at home because the dog is afraid of him.

    the elevator at the hotel was on the outside of the building and Completely Glassed up (at least the floor was not see- through but other than that is was a Fear of Flying kind of an elevator) so almost all the dogs were FREAKED seeing the ground move away beneath them and the horizon shift as they moved up or down. it was so fast that people’s heads were spinning from riding in it..

    i was amazed that I was able to move my dogs into and out of the elevator day after day for almost every toilet break etc. i could tell the elevator ride was not something they were looking forward to (this went on for 4 days). at some point I felt them getting more and more afraid, then, suddenly, the process was reversed, they became less afraid and were eating in the elevator, a sign that their fear is subsiding to a tolerable level

    I saw many dogs at that show that were WAY
    more fearful than mine in the elevator so I felt they were champions.

    this was before i made them push for food so i did not try that in the elevator.
    I think they would have done it. it would have been C-O-O-L !

  2. AZdogerman says:

    Thanks for clarifying the expression and the response to my questions on the “why we push” entry. I found them helpful.

  3. kbehan says:

    There you go, the hunger circuitry turning fear back into desire.

  4. Helen says:

    Kevin, I totally agree with you. But the trouble I have is how do you get the bite out? My fearful german shepherd mix Millie will now bite a toy in the house and tug which we now do very little of to encourage calmness at home, but outside on the streets it is a whole different matter. She’ll push outside to the point where she almost bowls me over but getting her to tug or bite on a toy no matter how “prey like” I try and be and even with no distractions is proving very challenging!
    Any tips for getting the bite out outside?

  5. kbehan says:

    Okay, I’ll put out a series of posts to specifically address this issue, good question.

  6. Christine says:

    Now I have a REALLY BIG PROBLEM with Duncan. He jumped out of the window (through a broken screen) and bit a girl that was roller blading up and down our street.

    I was out in the kitchen doing dishes and heard Duncan barking, which is typical as he barks at everything outside our house. Squirrels, cats, other dogs, people, etc. I ignored his barking until I heard shouting from outside to the effect of “……come get your f* dog!” I ran to see what was going on and Duncan was not in the house. Needless to say it caused an uproar. I apologized profusely, put Duncan in the house and went over to look at the bite wound. It was a single puncture. I reassured them that he was up-to-date on all his shots and later went over with the paperwork. Fortunately my neighbors supported me in insisting he was a good dog and had never done any thing like this before. Unfortunately (but understandably) they took her to the hospital and of course they have to report dog bites so I had a visit from the local PD.
    Anyway, I know Duncan has a high prey drive but what do I do to prevent a repeat of this horrifying experience? We’d had a really good week-end, very relaxing with walks in the woods and swimming and I wasn’t aware of any particular anxiety in any of us.

  7. Heather says:

    Oh, Christine, I’m so sorry.

    I know it isn’t the same level of stress as when a stranger’s kids are involved, but Happy has hurt the kids a couple of times (and visiting kids have actually gone outside, unlatched his run gate, and come in through his dog door, being knocked over as he barreled out – I did not foresee anyone doing that). I know it is a very emotional and scary situation, it is good that you had the presence of mind to follow up and talk to the other family, I’m sure they appreciate it.

  8. Christine says:

    Thank you Heather for your kind words of support. I can only assume that it’s Duncan’s high prey drive combined with the girl he bit being new to our street. Perhaps it was all to unnerving for him. Besides, I wasn’t paying attention to his distressed barking (that’ll teach me!). Fortunately the people in question were only assisting in a move (that’s what I’m assuming as the father said they’d be gone tomorrow). I feel so bad for the young girl (in her teens) as she will most likely be afraid of dogs as a result. Ah well, life has hard lessons to learn!

  9. kbehan says:

    Hi Christine, you can relax as the problem is solvable. First you have to do an “energy audit.” In other words, wherever you see the most intense expression of energy is Duncan’s definition of what is his moose. So when he’s getting all charged up at the window and barking at stuff, that’s a loading mechanism and then that energy has to run to ground, as it sounds as if the special vibration of the roller blades (with pumping of hands and legs as pure prey rhythm) fit the bill as releaser of instinct. The behavior isn’t the result of that days’ relaxation because the battery can only be drained by critical moments of conflict, not pleasure. For example, if one goes camping in the middle of the most serene beauty, one can still has energy deep down tuned to that which is out of place. The big question is will Duncan bark, hup, push, down, when things are going by the window. Then will he bite tug toy in yard when squirrels are dashing around and so on. He also must be more intense about the bite object in yard when kids are going by and that kind of thing. What is important to understand about an energy audit is that the dog’s perception of its reality coalesces around that most intense expression, by which I mean that if you pat his head, rub his tummy, put down his food bowl, he gets growled at by a dog, is corrected or praised, in other words all stimulation energizes the battery (INPUT) and it is then tuned to that frequency (OUTPUT). Finally, the problem isn’t that he has too much prey drive, he is being driven by prey instinct. If he had enough prey drive, he would push in for bite toy when kids are playing soccer on the street and in short order he could lose to charge to that definition of a moose.

  10. Bummer Christine! I know that can lead down a very nasty trail, because if Duncan bites again it can go from bad to much worse so quickly. The fastest solution is always a management solution, so that is the first thing I would do! Look at Duncan’s set up! Build him a kennel that does not look out on the world, with stockade fence, a sturdy kennel he cannot possibly get out of. You can’t let that sort of escape ever happen again. Building the dog a proper habitat is first, and then you can start working with his reactivity to moving objects and zingy noises. Good luck! So sorry that happened to you, it can happen to anyone. The key to me is, once is an understandable mistake. But twice? Don’t let it happen twice.

  11. Christine says:

    Yep, I get all that Jenny and thank you for the input. Just to be clear though, he was inside the house and exited through a broken screen. They do have an outside kennel and they are pretty well snugged-in. I blame myself entirely for the incident as I know better than to leave that window up when I’m not paying attention and I should have been listening/paying attention to Duncan’s barking instead of ignoring it.

    Kevin, I understand completely what you’re saying. I’ve been giving this some back-burner thought today and pretty much reached the same conclusions as your comments. I understand (mostly) my misuse of the term ‘prey-drive’. The puppers are in serious need of some one-on-one time, starting with Duncan. The thing is, I’ve always known that he is a lovey-dovey boy and there is no mean intent to anything he’s done. Same with Diva, that’s why they are with me. That’s my summer project and hopefully I’ll have the energy and physical stamina to follow-through. I’d ought to since my mom worked as a CNA until she was 83! And, as the saying goes, the apple (nut? lol) doesn’t fall far from the tree!

    At any rate, thank you all so much for your concern, advice, etc. As they say, we learn best/quickest from our mistakes **sigh**. But mostly, thank you to Kevin for all your insights and advice; I am so grateful that I stumbled-upon your website! It’s exactly where/how I want to be with my dogs but never was able to divine it clearly in my mind; now I’m can.

  12. AZDogermanStu says:

    I’m sorry this has happened to you Christine! I have also had some scary incidents with my dog before. I don’t mean to be a stickler for semantics but when you say “The thing is, I’ve always known that he is a lovey-dovey boy and there is no mean intent to anything he’s done.” If I am to understand NDT foundations there has never been any intent to anything he has done, ever. He simply reacts to stimulus in his environment as a function of attraction. I know it is hard to get away from this language, in one of my comments I put “dog thinks” and kevin responded “dog FEELS”, but if it is casually entering your comments it might be conditioning your general view of dogs, which might be an obstacle. Just my two cents, I hope that everything works out.

  13. Christine says:

    Thank You Stu for your 2 cents! I understand perfectly what you are saying. And yes, it’s a hard habit to break; in NDT terms it should have read something like, “…I’ve always known he is a social boy and that he just doesn’t know what to do with his energy yet or what the danger is…” MY BAD! lol
    For me, emotionally, what I really mean is that Duncan goes from 0-60 in 1 second and there is no intent (i.e. a wolf has no ‘intent’ to kill a moose and has no ‘intent’ to eat the moose in order to stay alive; they operate according to energy) to do harm. In other words, he did not ‘intend’ to bite that girl; he was just excited with 200,000 volts of electricity and I wasn’t paying attention!

  14. Christine says:

    The other thing I wanted to add is: the family in question was moving out not in so I don’t need to worry about that particular girl being an issue. The problem now is reassuring the neighborhood that Duncan is not aggressive and that it was an unfortunate incident for which I alone am responsible. People don’t really make the connection that it’s a ‘handler’ issue not a ‘dog’ issue. Neither did I until I happened upon NDT, for which I will be eternally grateful!

  15. kbehan says:

    Once the dust settles and you’re ready to address what to do, the most important thing to understand is that you are being presented with a choice. You could say you have a problem, or you could say you have an opportunity. You could choose to focus on what the neighbor’s think, or you could choose to see it as an opportunity to heal what’s between you and the neighbors. Duncan makes you feel exposed and guilty. These are programming devices that run us. The opportunity is to shed the programming by learning how to attract the energy that Duncan has never given you and has been masking with a “lovey-dovey” personality. Your Heart isn’t fooled by lovey-dovey but your intellect is. The intellectual/egotistical judgment in favor of lovey-dovey is simultaneously a judgment against heart and so learning to deal with Duncan’s rage presents the opportunity to regain trust in feeling. The opportunity is to turn Duncan’s “thrust” into trust. So when I work with “problem” dogs, I now realize it’s not about fixing the dog, it represents an opportunity to become more conscious, for me and for the dog’s owner. That choice is up to us.

  16. Christine says:

    Yikes! That’s a TALL order; and here I thought I was on the way to understanding… *sigh*

  17. Heather says:

    Kevin, I sometimes get confused about what it means to “attract the energy” in a given situation. It would seem logical that the thing that would bring a very charged dog to ground, would be something that expends a lot of physical and emotional energy (e.g., biting/tug, pushing).

    But ironically, when Happy’s instincts would cause him to unload charge by jumping at me, I have discovered that the thing that most often gets us on the same page again is when I catch the moment of uncertainty he has about what to do with himself, and encourage him to lean into me for a good rub-down. Sometimes he then will go for the bite toy and play with me just a little (not intense), but more often he just wants to wind down and relax.

    So I have been thinking that the issue might be the opposite of what I assumed – rather than being stuck with too much charge/energy and not knowing what to do with that, he may be having trouble decelerating. Specifically, sudden deceleration (too much energy taken away and/or diverted in a different direction within a given time frame) triggers an instinct (jumping/biting at me) that would add energy to sustain his feeling of connection. This may be why he isn’t too keen on tugging or pushing in those moments (if he is not needing to release energy), and he is very satisfied with touch (the new energy I am adding slows the deceleration to a comfortable rate while also maintaining our connection).

    Does this make sense?

  18. Heather says:

    But I would still assume that the underlying issue is that I have not attracted enough of his energy in all different situations (and/or that he is not emotionally mature yet) for him to trust that the emotional pipe/connection is still there even when physically things are changing in a way that results in that feeling of sudden deceleration.

  19. kbehan says:

    Okay, rather than jump the philosophical gun, the first question would be, is there anything about Duncan and his behavior that confuses you?

  20. kbehan says:

    I think I understand your question. Historically, deacceleration has meant to Happy owner confrontation, interruption, and hence the jumping at and nipping up stuff. So by becoming so supple you’re able to absorb his charge and ground him out so that you’re not perceived by him as confrontational, his energy can still flow. By attracting his energy I’m talking about 200,000 volts going toward something else, which you then ground out through acting dynamically and giving him 200,000 volts of resistance to overcome. Then what we find over the long run is that the dog gets tuned and you can ground out 200,000 volts just with a touch and a word and don’t have to be dynamic and through a strict emotional accounting in that particular moment. This is when the emotional battery is working to make life easy. After a while, if anything good ever happens, Happy feels as if all the interruptions were necessary preludes to that good thing happening. So I think you’re understanding it pretty well.

  21. Heather says:

    I do think that not being confrontational, being supple, in a situation where I have historically been confrontational or interrupted the flow of energy helps to ground him out.

    Also I could be way off, but the things I see that I think might be destabilizing to Happy seem to be the things that trigger an instinct to herd, or keep members of a group together. On the socially positive side of that, he is a great on family hikes – he naturally cycles through checking on everyone, waiting for anyone who is behind. But when we’re not walking (eg at home in the yard) and his group (even if it’s just me) is dispersing or doesn’t seem to have a purpose, he is likely to go into a jumping nipping mode. He needs a defined job to do or place to be, if he has that, he’s good.

    It is probably mostly my problem, because a very good solution would be to set aside a few minutes as we all go outside – have a specific goal/scenario in mind and get everyone in the family to participate in the scenario, then give Happy his bone and put him on the deck or in his pen after he’s been successful in that one scenario. Instead when I have problems it is because I am being lazy, I just want to go outside to get some fresh air but have no real purpose for the dog in mind.

  22. kbehan says:

    You don’t have to include the dog when you feel lazy and just aren’t in the mood to do dog development or training. Put yourself first and take a walk to enjoy yourself and company of friends and family. Happy is a lucky dog and you don’t have to doubt his good fortune. But when you do take him for a walk, spend ten minutes playing hide ‘n seek with another family member first, and then go for the walk with the charge now out of the system and not waiting for the opportunity to come out when circumstances allow.

  23. Christine says:

    Kevin,I think I should probably give you a call re:Duncan and all that’s going on there; voice-to-voice will be much more effective. Not as good as face-to-face but close enough! That will have to wait…

  24. Lacey says:

    Christine, oh please keep writing about Duncan. I have an opportunity dog who has bitten and, given the freedom, would chase and bite the next kid who walked/crawled/ran/biked/skated by. I have learned so much from this dialogue. Thank you so much for writing about it.

  25. Christine says:

    Okey dokey, I’ll keep you all posted. But I’m still gonna call Kevin! lol

  26. Christine says:

    All right, Kevin, regarding Duncan. I’m not sure if I’m ready/able to tackle this one….There’s nothing between the neighbors and I that I know of. Any interchanges I’ve ever had with any of them have only been amiable. If I’m out in the yard we’ll chat it up a bit and they all admire my puppers. The neighbor boy (8-years old) likes to come over and play in the yard with them; that’s how it’s always been. When I had just Bodie, the neighborhood kids would come over and ask if Bodie could come out and play and they’d go for walks with us and down to the river to swim.
    I don’t understand why Duncan behaves so erratically. It didn’t start until he was around a year/year and a half. The first episode that I recall was him charging at a young man walking past our house. It was winter and he stopped at the edge of the yard but it startled the boy. It was someone that had played with Duncan and Bodie down at the river. It’s only gotten since then with him barking/lunging at workmen in my house and nipping at them. I thought it was mostly men at first but that hasn’t been constant either. He actually lunged at a friend of mine (someone he’d never met) that had come over to visit; not once but twice. I put him in the crate and after he was more settled let him out and he immediately tore after her and nipped her. That was just a month or so ago and caught me totally by surprise as he’s never reacted like that to women/girls in my home before that. He’s usually overly-friendly and climbs up on them, trying to lick their face. He’s always been hyper-friendly with a tendency to jump up on people and get in their face. I thought his behaviors were on the way to being resolved.
    At any rate, since I can’t take him anywhere right now, I decided to re-start pushing and tug-of-war and we had a good session last night. I even got down on all 4s and wrestled with him. He seemed to enjoy it and engaged with me, even rolling over at one point and showing his teeth. I haven’t done any pushing or tug-of-war with any of them this winter; I just haven’t been able to physically, maybe that has contributed to Duncan’s recent behavior. I had some things worked out in my head during that session but I’ve lost it all now…**sigh**
    So where do I go from here? I agree that it’s better to consider it an opportunity as opposed to a problem but I’m having difficulty with seeing that right now.
    Duncan chases bikes, rollerbladers, skateboarders, motorcycles, etc., etc., etc. (Although when I get on someones bike his demeanor changes.) He was at the point last summer where he would immediately look at me for a treat when motorcycles went by; don’t know how he’ll be this summer!

  27. Christine says:

    On a positive note, I enjoy tremendously your Quantum Canine episodes. I listen to them through my headphones at work. There are so many points that I pick-up as I listen…but do ya think they stay with me long enough to make practical application?! NADA! *heavy sigh*
    I did have a thought that a textbook of your theory/model/paradigm would be a great tool and then the QC episodes as a follow-up; kind of a ‘tell and show’ formula. The textbook would lay the foundation by familiarizing students with the technical aspects and language and the QC episodes are the visual demonstration that make it real.
    You and Trish make a pretty good team; it’s a hard job to regurgitate your mental meanderings but she rises to the challenge admirably! lol

  28. kbehan says:

    The point in working with our dog is to get our Will back, by which I mean to learn to trust our feelings over an external source of authority. This is why I believe a “problem” behavior is actually an opportunity. So the main thing with the neighbors is in terms of; “what will the neighbors think?” as opposed to there being any specific issue, although bear in mind that we invariably have some issue to some degree with just about anyone we’re in contact with since friction and resistance is a pretty consistent and persistent fact of life on planet earth. As evidence that we are losing Will, is the extent to which we see our dog as its own self-contained intelligence, a person. For example, as if it’s up to Duncan how he is going to respond to things this summer. You may or may not have the time to do the work, or know how to do the work, but that’s the only variable, not whether or not Duncan is going to figure things out, or be willing to go along with the plan. If you feel exasperated or bewildered with Duncan that’s the friction between you and Duncan that’s costing you Will, and this can only be from instinctively seeing Duncan as a “person.” You want to get that Will back. Also bear in mind that when you have more than one dog, so the explosion of Duncan is counterbalanced by the implosion of another, or the imposition of another, and this collapse is the key to getting Will back. In a way, Duncan is the healthier expression, he’s willing to fight back, we just don’t want him tilting at windmills and being an expression of a self-defeating logic loop, like an immune system turning on its self.
    The philosophical question in play here is what is your relationship and thinking on rage? because this is the judgment Duncan is acting out.

  29. Heather says:

    “For example, as if it’s up to Duncan how he is going to respond to things this summer”

    Wow, that gave me a real lightbulb moment of understanding — this is EXACTLY the error in my thinking when I am feeling angry or confused. I can see that me believing that the dog is acting as a self-contained intelligence (even when intellectually I know he’s not, I don’t *feel* it all the time), it truly leaves the dog stuck. Happy is going to keep going by instinct to the path of least resistance, because “he” (and he just sees me, his owner, as himself, right?) has no other choice – when the dog is confused and the owner doesn’t have the answer the dog has no choice but to use his instincts.

    I have to work on this a lot – that irrational thought that the dog is going to figure things out, along with the thought that he “knows” what to do, but is refusing to do it 🙂 If you ask me if I believe those thoughts, the answer is absolutely not, but the problem is that they sneak in unnoticed and start to run the show!

    (a quick aside – per your suggestion I have started to play hide and seek with Happy and the kids for a few minutes when we first go outside – then get Happy’s toy and hold him while the kids have the toy then they throw it for him, he brings it back, and they hold onto it while he pulls them around a bit. I then take Happy for a loop around the yard playing tug, push, and fetch with the toy. Finally I take the toy and put him in a down-stay with a marrow bone, and let the kids do what they want. He is good there for about 30 minutes, the kids walk by and pat him, and also the kids feel safe and more affection for their dog. Getting them interacting nicely just for a few minutes, instead of hoping Happy will figure out how to behave with no direction from me (!) has been a huge help).

  30. Heather says:

    So theoretically, is it enough to be your “authentic self” with the dog, and have a purpose for the dog that fulfills his hunting nature? Will the dog then feel relaxed and trust that things are as they should be? (even though the dog still may perceive and act out different judgments of ours we may not be aware of?)

  31. kbehan says:

    Right, all you have to do is know what a dog wants, to work in alignment to overcome objects of resistance, and this is as close to actual hunting that a dog has to get to be satisfied. Then its mind organizes around this group purpose. Bear in mind that its mind is already organizing around where the owner’s ANIMAL MIND is focused on, it’s just that we don’t know what we’re feeling because we don’t know what a feeling is. What we think we are angry at, or guilty about, we are actually attracted to, and the dog goes by this feeling, not by what we say, think or do. When a dog is in the flow toward a group purpose, then he is IN trust, it’s not that he actually has trust or trusts as if he has a mind independent and distinct from his surroundings. The energy of flow in alignment with others toward purpose and so that all get what they want, is trust, it’s an energy that the dog experiences and this energy calms him. His battery gets saturated with trust and reformatted by trust like a bar of steel placed next to a powerful magnet. So perhaps you can see how futile it is trying to do things for the dog, be nice to the dog, negotiate with the dog and try to explain things and fill up its brain with lessons, skill sets, concepts of discipline and fairness. Trust is energy, we have to hook the dog up to group purpose and he experiences flow and this fills the body/mind with that kind of energy. The information is in the energy, the flow of energy is the dog’s mind. The mind is an energy circuit that is either connected to group purpose through a state of alignment or it isn’t.

  32. christine randolph says:

    it is not so easy for most dogs i think NOT to be aligned with group purpose, after maybe short (or not so short) periods of lonely roaming.
    this is why it is always worth it to stick around a long time (a hour or more) if you lose your dog in the woods, and make sure they can hear you if they are within earshot.

    it also seems easier for dogs to align when there is more than one dog, because they seem to like to keep tabs on each other, in case one of them finds something huntable, the others will come running to get a piece of the action. so they orbit around me and around each other, so it seems they see more motivation to stick together when there is a bunch of them
    it is certainly nice to know one’s dogs for a few years and be able to predict better what they will do in certain situations, i.e. what motivates them, how hungry do they have to be to overcome fear etc dogs are all motivated by slightly different things…and i see that differential in my friends’ dogs too.. so there is variety, preferences, individuality..which to me makes the dogs more loveable as individuals, not just a species or a breed.. and challenging..

    i know Kevin likes to have ONE dog at a time, but i prefer at least 2.

    i have a husband AND dogs, so the dog should also have someone of their own species in the household.. personal opinion only…

  33. Christine says:

    I share a similar ‘personal opinion’ in that I gravitate towards 3 dogs as opposed to 1 and I feel it’s better for a dog to have another dog around, just as I feel it’s better for a cat to have another cat around.
    I also believe that it is possible to have a group of dogs and for all to be able to align. An orchestra conductor would be a good example because the players are all in alignment with the conductor (once they are familiar with the music). So a human handler can align with more than one dog once they are all familiar with the music/purpose.
    Another analogy would be ‘parallel gaiting’, a term used in the world of wolf biologists, which is indicative of alignment.
    A bigger challenge to be sure but well worth the effort!

  34. Sang says:

    I don’t believe that having more dogs is necessarily a problem in so far as getting them to be able to get into alignment. But I believe what starts to happen is that each dog, in order to finds its place and role within the group, so that the group can align, can only expand his emotional capability and flexibility so far. Each dog starts to become more and more of a “specialist” within the group. And the more dogs you have, the more specialized each dog becomes, and the less breadth of emotional flexibility each one is capable of achieving. Which is fine since that’s how nature works it out so that all members of the group can align. But it does mean that one is going be “stronger”, another more shy or reserved, another that is maybe more anxious, and so on down the line since they all can’t occupy the same polarity.

    Hopefully I’m explaining that in a way that makes sense.

  35. Clare says:

    Hi Kevin and everyone,
    I’m very new to NDT having found out about Kevin’s book only last week on Amazon, and am still awaiting its delivery (I live in Australia).
    I want to thank Kevin for such an informative website and everybody for your comments. I’ve learned so much in the last week, NDT makes so much sense to me and it’s changed all my views on dog-training.

    I have a problem that I would like to get some advice on, following on the recent comments on having a second (or over one) dog.
    I used to have 2 dogs, a Golden Retriever and a Beagle. My beautiful Golden Toby died last February from liver cancer at age 12 and the beagle, Rambo, then 2, grieved his loss for many months. My neighbor said he whimpered a lot while I was at work. I didn’t want to get another dog to replace Toby because firstly I was grieving (dog mirroring me), and secondly I was planning on moving from the country town where I had been living for the past 22 years, to Sydney, the big smoke.

    After I sold my house and moved to my friend’s place with Rambo for the weekend before driving up to Sydney, Rambo escaped from her backyard while I went out to get gas for the car. He was spotted along the highway a day later and when they tried to grab him he escaped into the nearby paddocks. I searched high and low for him and was worried sick because of the kangaroos in the paddock. They are very good at killing dogs or drowning them. After 3 days of extreme heat he made it back to our old house unharmed and fatter ( probably killed a rabbit or two???) but since then he suffered terrible separation anxiety.

    After we moved into this rented house in Sydney—I grabbed whatever I could that said “pet-friendly”— Rambo got very agitated when left alone and either dug up the yard which is only 100sq feet in size( I used to have a huge yard) or attacked the back door or barked non-stop. My neighbors complained, understandably, so I was house-bound when not at work and on my work days I was paying $40 /day for doggie day care. After 4 weeks I was depressed, anxious, resentful and in overwhelm….none of that was helping the situation. I got a trainer who used choke chains (and shock collars which I didn’t try and is illegal in Sydney anyway) and the alpha dog theory, and also I tried to build up the time away gradually–from 2 mins to about 20. My vet even put him on human anti-depressants (which was probably what I needed). Thinking back I feel so guilty about what I put him through.

    I was making very little progress and after changing my mind a dozen times, eventually got talked into putting him up for adoption on the beagle website. Luckily a sweet beagle breeder called me and offered to board him with her dogs until I can find a place to buy that is more comfortable for both of us. She is charging me only $100 per month just for food, God bless her! The first night he was there, he barked 14 hours straight but since then he’s been no problem and has settled perfectly into his new temporary home…and loving watching the rabbits over the fence. She reckons he is definitely not missing me and that he will be fine if I get him a canine friend.

    I miss him badly and every time I go for a walk and see other dogs I just break down and sob. It’s been 3 months and hardly a day has gone by that I haven’t cried. I am focused on getting settled myself and then getting him back but I’m so worried I can’t afford a big enough place in the city for him and that he will not settle anyway.

    I know this problem is just a reflection of my consciousness—feeling uprooted, fear, pining for my old life, feeling overwhelmed, etc. Besides working on myself and using NDT to discharge Rambo’s energy when I get him back, is there anything else you can suggest?
    Do you think getting another dog is a good idea, even if it’s not straightaway? I was told that beagles need to be with other dogs, although he never had separation anxiety back in my old house even after Toby passed away.

    Thanks for listening to my story and I appreciate any help and insights so I can have a happy and settled Rambo in my life again.
    Thanks very much.

    Best regards,

  36. Christine says:

    Sang, thank you for your comments; and yes, they make good sense. A favorite site of mine to go to is Viewing the Ambassador Pack, watching them on YouTube, reading the logs and listening to the podcasts is really enlightening. I can see clearly what you are saying about differentiating personalities as it is observable in the wolf pack. The same thing happens in a close circle of friends when a new person enters the group; things shift and the group dynamic changes. Not a bad thing in and of itself; it all depends on how willing everyone is to shift and realign to accommodate the ‘new’ personality.

  37. christine randolph says:

    hey Clare,

    i used to live in Australia, Melbourne, now Canada.

    it is cool that people can find this website no matter where they are.

    i did not know that about kangaroos, that they would drown a dog. i knew they have killer back legs and know how to use them…

    some of the kangaroos are only about the same size as dogs….

    about your problem.

    i went through a similar time of depression when i had moved to Canada and my cat, Godzilla, whom i had adopted in australia and who was fine in the US where I had lived for 2 years, got killed up here one morning, maybe by a racoon.

    I was very upset, could not stop crying at night, until i got a new cat (we did not have dogs then). I only waited 3 weeks to do this..i was done suffering !!!!

    i was also sleep deprived as a result of moving house and probably my adrenal glands and my whole body were depleted. From making many changes to my life, in a very short period, like yourself.

    it is very difficult to stay strong in such a situation. you have a very good grip on this !!

    you are trying different things until you find something that works.

    when i lived in melbourne i was working full time, and i got talked into buying a little dog, a mixed breed yorkshire terrier named Bashi.

    my neighbor who was retired and helped me out around the house, took bashi for walks for free, every day, because she loved him so much.

    maybe you could find a situation like that which would help Rambo during the day, and it would not deplete your resources.

    I am sure it is very expensive to live in Sydney.

    another option is to leave Rambo where he is for as long as possible, until you feel a bit less stressed and maybe even find a place where you are pretty sure that you will stay for a few years, and get a cat.

    i am not sure if it will help, but it might be worth a try.

    You have already tried so many things.
    I get the idea you will keep trying until you find a solution that works..

    I think you will enjoy Sydney in the end, it is a beautiful place.

    My cousin lives there (like me she was born in Germany) and she would not want to leave, she loves it so much !

    good luck…hang in there !

  38. christine randolph says:

    about having a lot of dogs and not achieving their full potential…maybe that is true, but even if a person only owns one dog, they usually do not get put in a position to live to their full potential.

    Kevin, I think he could justify having that approach because he knows endlessly more about dogs than I do. so he could realize the immense potential a dog might have, and understandably, he wants to give the dog the best shot which is easier if you have only one.

    he also has tons of dogs around all the time with the kennel, so unlike me, he does not have to make a big effort to find play mates and a place for all of them to play with his single dog.

    If I only had one dog, it would be more accomplished, yes, but it also would have less fun.

    i personally do not want to live my life at the edge of my full potential all the time, it is not relaxing…

    (life it too important to be taken seriously, Oscar Wilde)

  39. kbehan says:

    Very well said Sang, thanks.

  40. Clare says:

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks for your support and advice. I’ll hang in there and the most obvious course of action will unfold. The lady who’s got my beagle offered to give me one of her bitches (aged 8) as she and Rambo get along very well and she no longer breeds with her.

    She sent me a Happy Mother’s Day greeting from Rambo and that was very sweet.

  41. Lacey says:

    I have two dogs. The older one is a withdrawn “from out of nowhere” biter. The young one is a stray who adopted me last fall. He’s my fighter. He’ll chase down and bite pretty much anything that moves or makes a noise. He’s also a barker.

    Your philosophy explains perfectly my dogs erratic looking behaviors. What I haven’t read here yet (and excuse me if you have already written about this somewhere) is why sometimes they don’t follow through on the bite? If a good bite relieves stress then why sometimes do they just threaten by snapping? I know it’s not because they missed or were too slow. Why do they not clamp down hard when they bite sometimes?

    They both seem to know how hard they can bite without hurting the object. Yet sometimes they bite hard enough to hurt and sometimes they don’t. I’d love to know why.

  42. kbehan says:

    An excellent question. You are exactly right that their bites are perfectly calibrated, indeed there’s no such thing as an accident. They bite with a precise and discrete exertion of force. So therefore what is limiting them if the object of behavior is to resolve stress and biting is a means of downloading stress? It’s an interesting paradox. Let me put it this way. If they were capable of biting with full force, then they wouldn’t have the need to. So what limits them from completing the act, is that they are projecting fear onto the object of attraction, and this is also what makes them nippy. Consider that when a dog is on the real prey and is 100% energized, then it is projecting its emotional center-of-gravity onto the prey and because it acts like prey, the dog can bite it with full force. The prey is acting in such a conductive manner that any fear the dog is carrying is being absorbed by the motion of the prey rather than being returned to it. On the other hand, when the dog projects its e-cog onto a more complex object of resistance, then its fear rebounds back to it, and this is what limits it. If on the other hand, it projected its e-cog onto an object of resistance (for example, such as another dog or a human) and it is not limited by its fear (hunger stronger than balance so that the dog can feel potential energy, and this is what then neutralizes its fear charge) then this pure urge to make-prey deflects it onto an object, or onto the track that puts it into alignment with what that person or dog is focused on (sensual/sexual response) and this would neutralize any aggression. So by seeing the preyful aspect in the other dog or person as stronger than its predatory aspect, then the dog is able to modulate its response in harmony with the object of its attraction and it is fully grounded by sensual contact and has no need to bite.

  43. Crystal says:

    I am five days into tugging and two days into pushing with my two pups.

    Colt barks at strangers on the trails and will chase bikers and fast joggers.

    I think we had a break through today. We played tug for about five minutes before entering the trail. Three minutes in, a family of bikers came around a corner. I forgot holiday weekend!! Not usually bikes there. Colt was VERY ENERGIZED. Bark and lunge. I deked into a trail and ran dangling the tug rope. He followed and grabbed the tug. He pulled like I have never seen him pull before. He will tug but it is just a little more than a weak handshake. Not this time. He was full on. I managed to keep Bea, my other pup out of it, with my body so that I only had Colt on the line. Bea was kind of holding back anyway which she never does, she is a full on gal, but she felt something different too. Anyway, Colt was jumping on me and I was pushing him and he was tugging away and BITING HARD. I let him win and when the rope hit the ground Bea went for it as usual and Colt said NO WAY! He got in her face then he grabbed that tug and pranced away with it. Bea just looked at me like WTH?

    Colt is 19 mos. old and Bea is 7 mos. They share everything but bones. He will not share a bone with her until he is finished with it. They get a long great.

    So, Colt was very up most of the walk, BUT and this is different, he also listened to me. I had control always. I was exhausted after the walk, but in a good way. I think we are onto something.

  44. kbehan says:

    Right, what’s happening is that he’s channeling his fear into the bite toy which is why the bite is so intense, and also it’s the fear that makes him so intensely charged to strangers so you are redressing both issues in the one stroke. Also, when his deepest energies are channeled into you, then he becomes open to you which is the first step to listening to you. Finally, output has to equal input and the active form of the prey-making and the pushing for food and/or toy, balances the energy checkbook so that intensity of stranger is completely grounded into channel of attraction to you. Don’t neglect the foundation work however of pushing for food, that helps to build the “Heart” muscle so that he can continue to soften at higher and higher intensities. Eventually, he will perceive stranger as potential energy rather than as interruption of flow and therefore trigger of electrical, “charged” physical memories. Keep On Pushing!

  45. Crystal says:

    Oh man, he is such a good good dog. If that is how much fear he has had, the poor fellow, he has been sitting on a lot for me or trying to. All I could feel was a stuckness in him and I have been told repeatedly in the horse and human counseling world that I have good instincts and feel. I did say to you Kevin in an email that I have always had trouble getting a feel of Colt. Any thoughts?

    Couple of questions. Obviously this is going to effect Bea. He also told her to back off a tug toy they use to play tug with each other at home this afternoon. It’s not nasty. It’s short and quick and she backs right off and takes no offence, like the bone back off. Still what am I unleashing? And will this change her? She is just perfect now!! (I really am the only one in my family that would say that). Bea can get very chargey, but the lines are always open for communication with me. (I’ve actually noticed she is less charged the past couple of days when folks come to the door. Even when I come home from going out somewhere I am only getting a few tail wags from each of them, a quick lick/buss on the nose from Colt, a nibble from Bea, and they settle down again.)

    Colt is still not pushing into me for food. We’ve had four sessions now. Some energy coming toward me but as soon as I resist in the slightest he stops. I have read so many different articles about the pushing on your site and Lee’s and Neil’s but for whatever reason I don’t get it. How it will soften him?

    And will this softening help him to “not be charged” on the walks after some time? I am so grateful to have his ear while he is energized, and I look forward to the day when he can go up and come down the way that Bea does quite naturally.

  46. Crystal says:

    OKIE DOKIE we have push Houston. Quite a day.

    Went out to push supper and he threw himself at me. HAH! Who knew?

    When I resisted he just kept pushing for food.

    Of course my questions still apply. Just had to let you know. I am excited.

  47. kbehan says:

    Excellent, you have opened the Heart valve and your dog is now learning to work with you to overcome resistance. Your dog is learning to fight for what he wants, to fight with you, rather than against you (as in if you’re not the answer you’re part of the problem) and rather than being afraid.
    Now the first thing that’s going to come up in your intellectual mind is an archetypal fear-of-energy which I believe is embedded in the genes of modern humans and this is what prompts questions as to how this energy might negatively affect your other dog. (“What have I unleashed?”) In the beginning indeed there may be glitches, but just by becoming very attentive it’s easy to head these off but your intellect will be searching for signs that energy is dangerous. However, once Colt is clear about what he wants, Bea will sense this and they will be able to communicate perfectly and achieve a new relationship that won’t be predicated on his fear. Meanwhile you want to identify the equal/opposite flaws in her (because we’re dealing with a group mind rather than separate individual minds) so that you can be working on these as well independent of Colt.
    Your next phase is to only feed him in the presence of strangers assuming that you meet them on your daily walks, so that he can push into you with the force that he would like to exert directly to the stranger. Remember, everything is a function of attraction. Colt is attracted to strangers with more energy than he can currently handle. And he doesn’t have to make contact with stranger in order to FEEL that he has made contact with stranger if making contact with you FEELS like moving all of his energy. This is why the push for food softens the dog because as far as the dog is concerned, he has just connected with the stranger with all of his might because he FEELS like he did. Therefore, because he grounded out all his energy, Colt feels good and therefore, Colt gives the stranger (and most especially you) the credit for feeling good. Once he’s channeling all the charge to you, you can then integrate friends into role playing and coming upon you in the woods and he gets to make contact with them. This will trip a whole new learning phase and Colt will love to see strangers coming at him. It’s emotional alchemy. Keep On Pushing!

  48. Christine says:

    Okay Kevin, so I’ve been cogitatin’ (in a back-burner kind of way) on your comments regarding Duncan.
    Firstly, regarding your comment: “Duncan is the healthier expression, he’s willing to fight back, we just don’t want him tilting at windmills and being an expression of a self-defeating logic loop, like an immune system turning on its self.”
    I have been struggling with an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder for quite some time now so it’s of interest to me that you “just happened” to make a reference to that. BTW, I am on a healing path, so NDT fits in nicely with my direction!(big smile)
    Secondly, regarding your comment: “The intellectual/egotistical judgment in favor of lovey-dovey is simultaneously a judgment against heart and so learning to deal with Duncan’s rage presents the opportunity to regain trust in feeling.”
    Intellectually and instinctively, I know that emotions are not wrong in and of themselves; they are what they are. It’s what you do with them or how you express them that’s wrong. So I’ve had some difficulty in finding the ‘touchstone’ for Duncan’s rage or my reaction to it. I did have an “aha” moment in that, remembering my childhood, there was a lot of rage and anger in my environment and someone inevitably was hurt (physically and emotionally) as a result. So that must be the real source of my judgement against rage (i.e. the damage it does when unleashed and/or not properly controlled).
    At any rate, on a more positive note, when the local PD and ACO did a follow-up on the bite incident with Duncan, I didn’t get any negative feedback that Duncan is now considered a “problem dog”. Quite the contrary in fact. I do have a reputation around town; people recognize me as the ‘running girl with all the dogs’ because I cani-cross around town with them. Also, I’ve been down to the canoe portage a few times this spring, with all the puppers off-lead and all interactions (dogs/people, etc.) have been nothing but good! **heavy sigh of relief and deep satisfaction**!! Also, I haven’t gotten any negative feedback from my neighbors, either. Zechariah still comes over to play and when the neighbors do ask if it was my dog in the bite incident, they understand the explanation readily so there is no judgement against Duncan. And the older lady (she’s 92/93) who lives across the street admired the puppers recently without even mentioning the bite incident. So all’s good! (I’m still gonna call, just have to get everything set-up right in my head first)

  49. Crystal says:

    Yep. You’re so right about the fear coming up for me. I personally love his coming forward with his energy, but yes, I immediately worried about Bea and then other people. What if I do this all wrong? What if I only get him half way and he is left as a dog that gets more electrified and still doesn’t come down? Oh I could go on.

    Doesn’t help that I now have family staying from away and Bea is barking whenever the man moves. She is flip flopping between barking assertively and appeasement postures with him. She has always been chargey when people enter the house, but settles in after about five minutes or so. I take her into the kitchen out of traffic and slowly introduce her. This is different. They are staying here for a week. I didn’t expect this of her.

    Colt is definitely different with Bea. He still plays tons and snuggles with her, but when he didn’t want to play tonight after a long walk he told her no. She kept trying and he said no bigger and she stopped. Now I don’t feel there is a danger of a fight here at all. In fact I really like Colt sticking up for himself. I just know she might feel unsettled and now with the house guests she is stressed. Me too.

    Colt pushed even harder for his food tonight. Bea is grrrrrring less during tug. She grrrrrrs a lot when she plays. A lot.

  50. kbehan says:

    When two dogs live together they become equals and opposites in all things, save one. So they polarize relative to each other and a lot of Colt’s charge has been put there by Bea. When someone then stays in the house, this displaces the dog from its familiar “resting” place and so we can see a charge (One question is whether they sleep on bed or get up on furniture?) come out that one might not have expected. This is ungrounded energy and you want to be working Bea with the pushing exercise as well. Given the group mind dynamic, she is more a part of the problem then you have understood. And, if your house guests are receptive and willing, you might ask them to invite the dogs to jump up and make contact for a food treat, (first start outdoors). This gets the dog to give up its balance in deference to a new frame of reference. Then if they are willing to do it indoors they will soon become less charged to being displaced by their movements in the house. Finally, both dogs should be made to down/stay on their beds (I like to make a raised surface) and everyone moves around and this doesn’t have to concern the dogs, there’s no need to be unbalanced. Keep On Pushing!

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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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