If you've read everything that I've written up until now, you should have a pretty good understanding of what Natural Dog Training is and how Natural Dog Training elicits obedience behaviors and solves problems for our dogs. However, after the 2nd edition of the "all about dog training" blog carnival (and a few questions that I received), I decided to look back through the articles, and I realized that what was missing was a succinct summary of Natural Dog Training. The following summary of Natural Dog Training should give you a very clear picture of how Natural Dog Training uses a dog's emotional interaction with the world, in particular their prey drive, to truly make them the happiest dog on the block.
First, let me ask you a few questions (then I will give you my answers):
- What is the point of training your dog?
- What does it mean to have the "happiest dog on the block"?
- What does a truly harmonious relationship with your dog look like?
Take a moment to think about your own answers to those questions, and then keep reading.
- What is the point of training your dog? For me, the point of training a dog is not to have a command/control relationship with my dog, and not to teach my dog a repertoire of tricks for my next vaudeville act. In my book, a "trained" dog is a dog whose world naturally revolves around me, who will come when I call no matter WHAT the distraction is (another dog, a car, a moose), who is emotionally healthy in their interaction with other beings (i.e. not aggressive, not hyper, just relaxed), and who otherwise stays out of trouble, while feeling free to have fun and interact with the world.
- What does it mean to have the "happiest dog on the block"? In my estimation, the happiest dog on the block has ways to productively deal with the stress that life in "human world" creates in their life. The happiest dog on the block is fully engaged in play when it's time to play, and is fully committed to resting when it's time to rest. Otherwise, the happiest dog on the block is friendly to other people, dogs, cats, etc. In general, the happiest dog on the block ends each day feeling like their deepest needs (as a DOG) have been satisfied.
- What does a truly harmonious relationship with your dog look like? When you have a truly harmonious relationship with your dog, most of the time that you spend with your dog honors the way that your dog truly sees the world, and you put the world into a context that your dog can understand. Rather than causing stress, your relationship will help your dog release the stress that day-to-day life sends their way. During downtime, your dog is free to rest, while you are free to live your human-centered life on your own...in other words, you each have alone time as well as together time.
In the Natural Dog Training philosophy, our dogs are all hunters at their core. The thing that they find most satisfying in life is to "make prey" - in other words, to satisfy their prey drive. Dogs also see the world through a filter - figuring out what attracts them (prey) and what repels them (predators). The more energized a dog is, the more that dog will be attracted to things that are "prey-like" and repelled by things that are predator-like. Since humans are, in general, more predator-like in a dog's eyes, that means that our dogs will naturally resist contact with us the more energized that they get.
In devising Natural Dog Training, Kevin Behan has created techniques that specifically tap into a dogs prey drive so that we, as dog owners, become more prey-like in a dog's eyes. We can tap into their primal circuit, so that the more stimulation the world throws at a dog the more attracted to us they will be. As they will associate us with the resolution of their internalized stress and energized state, whenever they are energized they will look to us to answer the question "What do I do with my energy?"
Additionally, hunting mode is inherently SOCIAL. What that means is that as we work with our dogs' prey drive, we are plugging into their natural ability to negotiate contact with other beings effectively. A dog whose prey drive is engaged will have a much easier time getting along with other dogs, humans, etc.
Let's start with obedience: How does Natural Dog Training "elicit" obedience behavior from our dogs? At the core of all obedience behaviors ("heel", "sit", "down", "stay") are actions that a dog will perform, automatically, while hunting. Imagine a dog running alongside a moose through a field, waiting for the perfect opportunity to leap - that dog is actually "heeling" next to the moose! So goal #1 in Natural Dog Training is NOT to be the alpha dog or the pack leader, the goal, instead, is to "be the moose" in your dog's life: the most attractive thing in your dog's universe. When you implement the techniques of Natural Dog Training, your dog's behavior will naturally orient around you, and obedience is a product of the dynamic between the two of you. Additionally, in Natural Dog Training our goal is to work with a dog in a relaxed-yet-energized state, which means that not only will they still listen to you the more their environment energizes them, they will be MORE attentive and attracted to you than when they were in a low energy state.
Natural Dog Training techniques also teach your dog how to relax at higher and higher levels of stimulation. Most problem behaviors in dogs have two root causes:
- A dog has too much stored stress and no way of venting (resolving) that stress productively.
- A dog has trouble relaxing when they're energized, and their physical tension causes them to have an 'overload' response to being energized (aggression, submissive urination, etc.) instead of being in the flow of the situation (which would allow them to handle the energy of the moment without overloading).
The beauty of Natural Dog Training is that we get to focus on the prey instinct (which is Nature's way of allowing dogs to resolve the stress stored within them) AND relaxation at higher and higher levels of stimulation at the SAME TIME. Instead of trying to shut down our dog's emotional responses to the world, we learn how to work with their emotional response, channeling it into desired behavior. Ultimately our dogs are able to handle whatever the world throws their way - maintaining their connection with us and channeling their energy into what we want them to do. Of course "what we want them to do" takes their nature, their desire to make prey, into account!
Natural Dog Training allows you and your dog to remain relaxed and connected in the high energy moments when that connection really matters: guests arriving, crossing paths with another dog on a walk, walking without a leash down a path in the woods. Rather than struggling to contain your dog's natural impulses, you learn how to work with them, and ultimately you will be able to channel them into obedience behavior. If your dog experiences "problem behaviors", your work with Natural Dog Training will allow you to resolve the stress and tension causing the issue. You'll have a harmonious relationship with your "well-trained" dog, who also happens to be the happiest dog on the block.
For more details, I suggest the following articles:
For mostly theory and some practice:
- How to be the moose in your dog's life.
- How your dog feels the world.
- What is dog aggression and how do I stop it?
For mostly practice and some theory:
- How to relax your dog.
- How to play tug of war with your dog and have the happiest dog on the block.
- How to relax and attract your dog using pushing.
- How pushing teaches your dog what do do with their energy.
- How to introduce your dog to another dog in 10 easy steps.
- How to redirect an excited or aggressive dog on a walk.
- How to introduce your dog to another person.
Or just click on the sitemap and browse away!
Thanks for visiting, and if you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave them in the comments, or e-mail me:
neil at naturaldogblog dot com
I'd also love to hear your answers to the 3 questions near the beginning of this article.
1. What is the point of training your dog? -- Training your dog fulfills them physically, emotionally, and mentally. Since they're not out living and hunting in the wild, they need a similar level of stimulation and experience that will take the place. Training also strengthens the bond in the relationship with your dog. Once you and your dog(s) have a natural understanding of one another, everything falls into place.
2. What does it mean to have the “happiest dog on the block”? -- A dog that is a free spirit, fully in touch with his instincts and nature. A dog that gets to run, jump, tumble, tug, play, walk, etc. and enjoy every moment of it. A dog that's laying down in a yard panting and beaming with satisfaction, happiness, and pride.
3. What does a truly harmonious relationship with your dog look like? -- These dogs are easy to spot. The dogs that have what looks to be an extremely natural connection and focus on their owner. They carry themselves differently, they look at their owners differently, and don't go from situation to situation carrying stress on their back. They seem to flow with their owner, and they establish a matched rhythm in whatever they're doing. Something I'm striving for 🙂
Another truly excellent article, thanks Neil 🙂
Great responses, Ben - well-articulated.
Do you offer any one on one time with people who want to learn not just how to be harmonious with their own dog but with other dogs as well? In my profession I deal with a lot of aggressive dogs and have been asked to teach the massage I do but not until I have a better technique with controlling dogs, especially in groups. DId that make sense?
Thank you for all that you do.
Sounds like an interesting training method. I'm looking forward to reading more about it!