Speaking, Pushing and Tug of War with Bootsy

This post is extracted from a comment left by AZDogermanStu on March 29, 2010 “How I Developed the Pushing Technique”

Here is the comment followed by the videos

Here are the videos I was feeling a little pressured by the camera and tried to keep them short. Thanks for taking a look! I tried to incorporate your advice with her normal behavior to show what she is like. They were one long video but I separated them into two smaller ones in the order we did them:

Pushing with Bootsy

Bite Toy with Bootsy

1st Tape: Hope you don’t mind my critique. Some very good pushing and a cool dog. You’re getting close.

So first Point: the dog has too much room; you need a very small amount of latitude available to the dog so that she can focus her energy. Every time she changes location, and then has to readjust relative to you, these present new and additional problems to the dog, all of which are now piled on top of the original problem (it is recasting the original problem in a new frame of reference). Now your approach is too strong and direct which throws her into avoidance and she looks down and then resorts to obedience behaviors to cope with this pressure. Also, you are closing the gap rather than her taking action to close the gap. You want to end up slightly out of range so that the dog has to strain and stretch the rope out to get to you; and this force of exertion “wills” you, draws you into range. And you don’t want to a make an overt move that the dog responds to as if commanded in an obedience context. Rather, be slightly out of range and gather yourself into a “poised” position, your food hand open to some degree so potential energy is in sight, your knees are slightly flexed, your body tight and ready to explode backwards, with the goal being that the dog takes the initiative rather than reacting to you by being signaled into action. It’s her taking action that makes you move, she’s pushing you around by expressing energy to you. So if you shorten the bungee rope to three feet, lower it to slightly above shoulder height so she doesn’t flip over when she really gets going, and then just work in a small zone directly in front of her muzzle so that she can learn steady focus, and when she’s making contact you don’t have to walk into the circle and have her follow you yet with turns. Just concentrate on her taking the initiative and then SUSTAINING her focus. Developing stamina is all that matters at this point. The instances when she “loses interest” is when she’s hit her overload capacity and is getting bogged down, and then the system has to boot up and you can see her waiting for the proper signal as invitation, so this is the heart of her learning process, this little part here with a tiny bit of area to deal with. She first has to learn that by exerting herself with all her might, she sucks you into range and then she fights to sustain the connection between you. This connection is the seed for all subsequent learning.

For now, don’t use barking with the pushing, your goal is to develop stamina and you could only feed her in this training so that if she wants to look for crumbs, she will quickly learn that she is wasting energy by diverting her attention to path of least resistance when path of highest resistance (you) brings her the highest rate of return.

Also, when you do the barking, don’t hold the food apart from you, keep it in tight to your upper chest, pat the hand clasping the food with the other hand, and with a smile encourage her to bark, no commanding. Good job – – Keep on pushing!

In Regards to the 2nd Tape with Bite Toy: You need to use the toy as if it is an appendage of your body, don’t jiggle it about wildly, or whirl it around helter-skelter giving the dog “vapid space” in its brain in those moments when it loses track and then zones out in order to catch it out of peripheral vision. The toy must work as an extension of your physical movements, animated as if part of your body mechanics, not out of context with it, thus the dog learns to average motion out, and arrives at a “null” value of center mass, which is your physical center-of-gravity, i.e. it connects the toy to you, as if it is a part of you. Making this connection is the distinction between prey instinct and prey drive. Also, when you get very forceful and she’s gripping, she’s learning to hold on by making herself a dead weight rather than being light on her feet and being prepared to drive into you. When she gets more active with pushing for food, she’ll get lighter on her feet and more driving into you with the toy in mouth, but it’s very good that she’s learning to jump up with bite toy in mouth. At this point don’t ask her to give it up, when she’s up, gently massage (tug slightly if necessary to maintain her grip) and then gently push her back as YOU BACKPEDAL and then help her drive back into you with toy still in mouth.

You can also see how the presence of the toy makes more energy available to the dog so she’s more active about initiating contact and has better stamina about sustaining contact with you. Also, have you ever corrected her with your knee for jumping up as a puppy?

To get the value of the toy, just fondle it as you face her, then place it down on ground out of reach, now introduce the barking and push for food. Then she pushes you with her bark to reach for the toy gathering it into your center mass and then she powers in for a bite and after a good tug, you invite her to hup, and massage and then gently push off and encourage her to make contact again.

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Published March 29, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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34 responses to “Speaking, Pushing and Tug of War with Bootsy”

  1. AZDogermanStu says:

    I am very grateful for the critique. I am looking forward to tweaking the exercises. And yes I did correct her a few times when I got her at 1 1/2 years old for jumping up with my knee.

  2. kbehan says:

    Yes, if you look at the beginning of the first tape, you can see that you still have this knee reflex and it’s part of why Bootsy avoids making contact. After you get everything else squared away, you can practice pushing her away with your leg and having her power in over that old habit. Finally, I meant to mention not to push her away so hard yet, the primary goal is for her to sustain contact with you.

  3. Christine says:

    Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! This is very helpful to have the videos PLUS Kevin’s comments. It’s akin to the step-by-step that I hoped for but is actually better because the handler has not perfected the technique yet. So these 2 videos with Kevin’s critiques are more helpful than a video of Kevin with an explanation.
    A great BIG thank you to AZDogermanStu for being willing to open himself up to a critique from “The Master” (lol)!

  4. christine randolph says:

    not just that, also you are not paying hundreds of dollars for hours and hours of dog training eitherr..
    i cannot believe Kevin would give all this advice for FREEEEE ! Kevin you are amazing !

  5. AZDogermanStu says:

    I never would have seen that. You mean how I slightly lift up my left knee and then put it down before she makes contact? Ok that makes sense to push softer until the connection is stronger. Should I wait to introduce the toy/bark part until her silent pushing is doing better? Thanks again!

  6. kbehan says:

    Right, it looks like an involuntary response on your part, so as you practice always going backwards that will soften. The point of the bark is to channel her intensity (fear) that’s going into the toy into you. For now though, just concentrate on the push for food with that tight little window of opportunity so that you and she master her being active and taking the initiative. When she’s driving into you, that’s Drive.

  7. AZDogermanStu says:

    Things have been progressing I think, even though it appears as though they have been regressing. The time she spends in avoidance during pushing/tie-out exercise has decreased but she is starting to shut down completely now: lays down and takes longer to boot up to be active. I have only been moving backwards and have been as stationary and silent as a tree until she acts on me. I haven’t been working with toy much and only as you suggested, but if it is in the vicinity she will feed actively even if moments before she was shut down. If I make her really hungry of course, she is more eager to eat. I think that environmental factors may be muddying the waters somewhat, I live with my parents and their two little dachshunds and I am gone a fair amount of time. If I isolated her more from the others dogs and people by crating her during the day and only interacting in training or relaxing situations would I be better able to help her resolve her core stress issues? I feel that if her day is stressful, when I do NDT when I see her, I can only resolve some deep stress because I am resolving daily accumulations of stress? Also she is able relieve some energy by tearing around the back-yard and by instinct responses around the other dogs which is energy that I can’t harness. Thanks a lot!

  8. kbehan says:

    Right, she is getting her drivey ya-yas out with the other dogs so there is less available for you to work with. BUT, hunger makes the world go round so hang in there to get that active/direct taking initiative energy that she invests in the other dogs. Humans displace more mass than dogs so it’s possible to recapture it over the long haul. On weekends you can pent her up more when you’re around and then after a long time of being cooped up take her out for a post session and then take her for a walk to relax with you. It sounds like you’re finally addressing the core issue with your dog. Keep On Pushing!

  9. AZDogermanStu says:

    Yes, and the core issues with my dog of course, revolved around my parents and their willingness to help me in what I think she needs (NDT), and my ability to stand firm. Its never about the dogs! Am I to understand that cooping her up when I am gone is not appropriate? My parents looked after her yesterday and took her out to go bathroom and drink water on leash every now and then. But they let her out an hour before I came home and she proceeded to wear a track around the perimeter of the yard in a zoom zoom explosion. This evening hopefully I will capture that energy as they agreed to crate until I get home. Thanks, I think things are at a turning point.

  10. Heather says:

    Thank you Kevin for the conference call last evening! The questions and answers were great. You also mentioned in response to one caller about a dog being a path of least resistance, which shed some light on my own situation where essentially I can see that put Happy in a situation he wasn’t ready to handle. It wasn’t my intention, but I think that is what happened.

    I have seen his self control just increase so much with me lately (he and I go for hikes and he swims a bit almost every day), and as a family we spent a couple of nice afternoons with another family and their young dog at the park, so I thought we were ready to combine my normal hikes with the family…not yet I guess if there is unstructured “static” time (ie, rest time for us!) in there. This static time is generally pretty disorganized with a lot of milling around and also the kids start to bicker –I’m hot, tired, you got more water than I did, I want that rock, no it’s mine I saw it first, he splashed me, she scratched me…ay yai yai not a kodak moment and of course I am having to manage kids and dog and husband is going into discipline mode with everyone, add more fuel to the fire. This, however, is just everyday life in a family, some days parents have a lot of purpose and direction, some days less…

    I think that what mislead me when we had such great times at the park was that there was another dog in that setting. The normal disorganization and milling around was still there, even moreso with more kids and animals in the vicinity, but there was not a problem because the other DOG became the path of least resistance, and Happy’s pent up energy/charge went there in static moments instead of being directed toward us. The dogs were the picture of calm contentment lying in the grass, we took them for a walk around the park once in a while and they wrestled or chewed or played keep-away/tug in down time.

    WIth me/family alone, toys in those static moments seem to add to the charge not release it, so that may be something I need to work on by myself with Happy, getting him to release energy in static moments away from home with just me and not other people or animals around. Right now if it’s just me, I tend to just do some pushing on the way home, and as we get closer to home I throw his toy out in front of him so he can grab it and carry it home. That and the playing we do at home is probably working to discharge the amount of charge he picks up when it’s just him and me, but when there are lots of other things going on it is probably not enough. Does that sound right?

  11. kbehan says:

    You’re welcome Heather and I think you’re seeing things very clearly. Also bear in mind that this deep charge in Happy will take time to resolve, in fact, it’s meant to take a good two years for the dog to be able to process it because it’s really about how the wolf cubs become “tuned” to that moose which is vulnerable moose and it takes a wolf 2 years old to be a functional contribution to the hunt so as to resolve their collective charge. In the meantime be minimalist as I hear you saying here, and also there will be a very good exercise that your husband can do later on so that his need to use discipline, and the dog’s need to bite, can intersect cooperatively. In the meantime one thing he could be doing is periodically getting Happy to bark on command, to look him in the eye, sit and speak from deep down. Often with strict authoritarians the dog might hold back and if so, this would be a good way for husband and dog to build a rapport and will come in handy in this subsequent exercise when Happy is old enough.
    Finally, beware of “EUPHOBIA” the irrational exuberance when seeing a sign of progress, which will inexorably be followed at some point by an intense phobic panic collapse when there’s a setback. So when you see something good, you’ll notice the shadow of a collapse tingling in your chest as well, and what you do now is reaffirm your faith in your own internal surety despite the tingling of this fear as well as not getting “invested” in the good sign. I always look for something good in what the dog, and something “bad” in what’s going on, and then track the ratio of good to “bad” as the dog heals to the point when there’s only good.
    The dog’s ability to successfully resolve the charge is a given that you can take for granted just as you do gravity. But, you first have to physically experience the ups and the downs (each down is more energy coming into the system through the old fault line) that lead to success. You will have to be experiencing the happy Happy at 3 years old, only then will your intellectual mind allow your “animal mind” to run the show so that the feeling of faith is stronger than any thoughts of hope and fear, which are in reality the basis of Euphobia. Keep On Pushing!

  12. Heather says:

    Wow Kevin, that is exactly on point. It’s not so much what’s happening, as the expectations I have. I like the term Euphobia – a very good word that also evokes a smile so it can be a good reminder when I sense my mood getting too serious.

    As a parent I also experienced this when my first child was an infant/toddler (with my second I saved all that euphobic energy and trusted that she would be out of bottles and diapers by the time she went to kindergarten).

    Poor kids and dogs, huh, they are just going along at their own perfect pace. Happy is the only dog I’ve raised, so he is paying a bit of a price for my inexperience.

  13. kbehan says:

    Don’t worry about Happy. That’s what he’s here for. Being a mirror is a dog’s job on planet earth.

  14. AZDogermanStu says:

    Euphobia! Nice term, wow I have I experienced that. Above your said that it takes a dog two years to come to emotional maturity, should I expect the same time for an older dog that has been raised improperly (by me and the people who had her until 1.25 years old) to be rehabilitated? I am planning on moving soon and am trying my best to distill my training without rushing anything, but just to capture as much energy as possible so she is calmer so we have a greater range of places to rent/stay.

  15. Christine says:

    I had the same thought,”…since it takes a dog two years to come to emotional maturity, should I expect the same time for an older dog that has been raised improperly to be rehabilitated?
    Looking forward to your response, Kevin!

  16. kbehan says:

    The more of the puppy that survives into adulthood, the quicker it can heal if it gets a kink. So in that case it doesn’t take the same amount of formatting time. However (and therefore), another way of saying this, is that when the kink is acquired early in life, then the longer it takes to heal. This is because only the puppy mind can heal a problem which means that if the puppy mind can be resuscitated (exhibited by a love to bite) then a new lesson can be composed at the root source of hunger intersecting with balance in the deepest recess of the emotional battery so that this new lesson has priority over the old code. The good news is that being social feels better than exploding or imploding and so I believe that any dog can be healed. But I have to say since dogs are our mirror, we will be tested.

  17. christine randolph says:

    guys, 2 days ago the last comment ? please write something, that I can find when i get up in the morning to make my day !

  18. Heather says:

    Happy has been back to his “normal” self this past week (or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I am back to normal) so not much doggy drama going on 🙂 Once he did drop his toy and go for my arm out in the open field, I screamed like a banshee, not sure where that came from, but he was so surprised he stopped and ran back to his toy.

    It doesn’t seem to be one technique or another in those moments, the important thing I am starting to understand is to expect the behavior (instead of hope it won’t happen and be disappointed when it does, ie Euphobia!) and move incrementally toward the goal of teaching him to bite what we want him to bite. He really is getting it, SLOWLY but surely. Somewhere on Kevin’s site or book I read a story about Monty, a dog with a personality like a bouncing ball, nothing dampened his good-natured enthusiasm, he would bounce back from being rebuffed by other dogs. That reminded me so much of Happy. I think that quality will really serve him well…unfortunately it also makes it hard to communicate displeasure. Happy is also physically insensitive, twice I have seen him gushing blood and be very interested in the blood but not notice that it was coming from him. So thick-skinned both emotionally and physically.

    I am also not mad at my husband anymore – last week he did jerk Happy’s collar and force Happy’s butt to the ground when Happy went to jump on him and bite his arm, and seeing him be so forceful with Happy upset me, my thought being that physically no one else is going to be able to do that, so it makes us vulnerable if Happy grows older and decides to “fight” anyone who might try it. I also thought that he had been doing it for quite a while, and it was undoing all of the hard work I have been doing. But we discussed it and as it turns out he had not been doing it (no need, he said for about 2 months Happy was only focused on the toy with him). And also my husband’s perspective is that it is more like grabbing and restraining someone about to get hurt, that it does no good at all for Happy in the long run if he is able to practice that overexcited jumping and biting behavior, and it certainly does no good for the person he is jumping on or biting. If it were possible to just ignore it, that would be the best solution…unfortunately if you turn your back on Happy when he is excited, he will jump you from behind.

    Happy gets plenty of tug and play time when he has calmed down, and he gets lots belly rubs while he softly gnaws on hands and arms, and really great bones and bully sticks throughout the day. He’s got it pretty good! I think he will outgrow this, but I’ve finally made peace with the fact that it probably won’t be until the ups and downs of adolescence are over.

  19. Christine says:

    Christine Randolph…have you checked out the new videos Kevin posted on Falls Area Community TV? The link is: http://www.fact8.com/community/e107_plugins/autogallery/autogallery.php?show=Quantum_Canine/Quantum_Canine_Ep13.flv

    There are 6 episodes to watch (or just listen to). There’s a lot of really valuable info there; you might want to check it out, I’m sure it would make your day!

  20. Heather says:

    So that’s what I had done last week – tried to ignore him. He just kept at it trying to get my attention, and I had that emotional collapse 🙂

  21. kbehan says:

    Hi Christine, working non stop these days (when not working dogs) to get book done and then I will have new posts. (Need to get it in pictures.) But thanks for calling attention to the videos.

  22. Christine says:

    Hey, this is something interesting for Christine Randolph: I was playing a piece from Randy George on the theramin (Claire de lune?) and it set the puppers to howling! Duncan first of course. The interesting thing was that Diva was actually doing a bona-fide wolf howl (first time ever that it was so clear and extended!); not only that, but she and Duncan were in parallel. It was almost like “parallel gaiting” and Bodie was facing in the same direction only behind them and he actually managed a short, but very real, howl. It was the neatest thing! Wish that I were quick-thinking enough to catch a video clip of it. You can check out Randy George at this link: http://randygeorgemusic.com/video-gallery.html or look him up on YouTube.

    Kevin-what would you say is going on with the puppers in this instance? I was quite excited and considered it a manifestation of their being in the group mind, or close to it.

  23. Christine says:

    Okay, just ONE more ‘make your day’ link! This one is just fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=pkPNa4DBFHI

    I hope it works; I tried it and it did for me!

  24. christine randolph says:

    wow you guys, thank you !!!!! i feel really good when i find something new on the BUZZZ in the morning !

    ok if he has to finish the book, then Kevin is excused from his own blog haha.

    Kevin, just in case you are reading this nonetheless, it is “Franz” not “Frank” Kafka as it says on that community tv. which you might know and the person who edited that video did not.

    the tv links are great ! thanks to the other Christine for posting the link.

    before that, i thought this was a local tv channel, so i assumed i could not get it.

    Happy is so cute ! it is great that he is unflappable.

    i think that is the quality which breeders used to breed into dogs, to make them perfect working and companion animals, before they began to produce way many sensitive, anxious dogs to meet things like westminster dog show criteria rather than the temperament

    the muzzle is among the most sensitive areas of the dog’s body. (another is the quick in the nails.)

    like us, dogs often do not feel cutting bleeding injuries very much at the very moment that they happen, but when they start to heal (or get infected, god forbid) the dog might feel it.

    i will try the link with the music, see if my dogs will also howl.

    maybe it is like flicker vertigo, every dog howls for a different frequency of sound (where flicker vertigo is a result of a frequency of strobing light) ?

    i am constantly amazed at the situations which will provoke a vocal expression from my 2 northern breed dogs.

    Like, I found out the other day, if I blow air onto the little one’s nose, she starts yodeling..

    the old border collie just barks whenever a booger bear might appear so she is kind of boring in that respect…

  25. Heather says:

    I would love to hear/see a clip of the dogs howling. This is not something I am familiar with!

    Christine, I guess I should’ve clarified re: Happy gushing blood! He was not seriously injured – once I quicked his nail (he continued to lick his kong and I actually had moved on to cut other nails before I noticed the pool of blood forming, so I don’t think he was in pain?), the other time he started bleeding after the vet gave him a shot. He was un-Happy about having his foot bandaged, he shuffled around on the bandage looking pitiful for a day or so.

  26. christine randolph says:

    it has happeneed to me, cut my dog’s nail, no whining, but bleeding yes..

    i discovered some cool bandages when my dog REALLY did a number on her foot, never found out where, she came back with the ball one day all cut up.

    what i had to do, put some antibiotic ointment on the wound, some gauze and then a layer of this plasticy bandage which sticks to itself. that keeps the dirt out of a wound and it does not feel like a bandage to the dog.
    had to change it every day for 3 weeks or so

    they come in all kinds of cool colours.

  27. Heather says:

    Thought I’d post some good stuff re: Happy – he is getting to be a polite dog greeter. If another owner is out socializing a dog, he sniffs politely now, vs. trying to jump on or paw at the other dog. I didn’t do anything to cause it, it is a behavior he just adopted on his own. I did teach him to wait for the OK before approaching others though…it is sometimes tough because people sometimes run up too quickly (this is something parents should teach kids – never approach a dog without asking!)

  28. christine randolph says:

    haha ! or maybe the other dogs taught him that this is a good way…
    people run up quickly ? my dogs run up quickly to greet another dog. i guess i should teach them to wait…

  29. Heather says:

    Yes, his dog buddies, especially the Brittany he plays with, definitely taught him some manners! He plays with a lab sometimes too, but the lab is just as body-slamming rough as he is, so neither of them find anything the other does to be even remotely objectionable.

    One other interesting thing – Happy won’t eat his meals until I push with him. If I am rushed for time and set the whole bowl down he ignores it – if I push even a few times he’ll eat. My friend came by to feed him one day when we were out, and she said he just looked at her when she gave him the food, so she put it away and I fed him very late that evening.

  30. Heather says:

    Christine, Do you know the name of the plactic-y bandages?

  31. christine randolph says:


    sticks to itself and nothing else- for wrapping up animal injuries. (also horses etc)


    this is what they sell on amazon –

    there are several brand names, Pet Wrap, Vet Wrap, Cohesive are some of them. your vet probably also sells them if you need them straight away.

    they are awesome !

  32. Heather says:

    Thanks Christine! I saw something similar being marketed as a disposable headband for girls. haha

  33. christine randolph says:

    i guess it is one of those things that are super useful everywhere like velcro-never leave home without it kind of a thing.

    after i had that first experience with it, i took it to several sled dog races in case the dogs might need booties because the booties fall off if they are not cinched up real good, this stuff you can cinch up fabulously without cutting into the dog’s skin.

    (did not need it, it was never that kind of cutting-ice-crystal weather, thank heavens)

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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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