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Emotions In The Human-Dog Connection

We talk with a top dog trainer on the role of emotion in the human-dog connection and ask the question: Do our dogs feel the same things that we feel?



Know thy dog, know thyself might be the motto of my guest this hour.

Kevin Behan is a top dog trainer and near dog philosopher. A second-generation trainer who has worked with thousands of dogs.

Look into their eyes, he says, and you will ultimately see yourself. An emotional mirror, looking back at you, animal to animal. Never mind dominance or the bag of treats, he says. Ultimately, he says, our dog’s behavior is driven by our emotion. And then he goes deeper still.

This hour On Point: know thy dog, know thyself.

- Tom Ashbrook

Kevin Behan, veteran police-dog trainer and author of “Your Dog Is Your Mirror: The Emotional Capacity of Our Dogs and Ourselves” and “Natural Dog Training.”  He is one of the nation’s foremost experts in the rehabilitation of aggressive and problem dogs and runs Natural Dog Training, a clinic for dogs in Vermont.

Marc Bekoff, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and fellow of the Animal Behavior Society.  He is the author of several books, including, “The Animal Manifesto” and “The Emotional Lives of Animals”, and has written articles on animal behavior for Time Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times.

Your Dog is Your Mirror: The Emotional Capacity of Our Dogs and Ourselves
by Kevin Behan

In “The Botany of Desire,” author Michael Pollan observes that there are tens of millions of dogs in North America and only ten thousand wolves. He asks, “So what does the dog know about getting along in this world that its wild ancestor doesn’t?” (And I would add, every other animal as well.) Since I’m proposing nothing short of a new paradigm in addressing how dog and human, and especially a dog and its owner, connect, I will sum up my premise right at the outset:

Dog and owner form a group mind.

The best explanation for everything canine, from the evolution of the wolf to the domestication of the dog — to the incredible emotional relationship that has emerged between the modern pet and its owner — is that dogs feel what we feel. This is how a dog “knows” its place and what it must do to get along, a process that has been crudely approximated (and grossly misinterpreted) as a dominance hierarchy and a learning-by-reinforcement theory.

Why isn’t something so fundamental self-evident? Because the human intellect is a relativity machine. It compares one thing relative to another thing, one moment relative to another moment. We end up fixating on the forms of things and situations and see them as connected in a linear, rational sense. This isn’t necessarily incorrect. As Carl Jung put it: “Form gives energy its quality.” However, Carl Jung, on a visit to the American Southwest in the fifties, had a transformative conversation with a Hopi native. The elder told him the white man was restless and “mad” because white people think with their heads, whereas the Hopi think with their hearts. This conversation profoundly influenced Jung’s philosophy of life. It helps us see that there can be a form of intelligence that has nothing to do with thinking, and this is being expressed by the intelligent ways that dogs adapt to human civilization.

If we don’t apprehend the energetic essence that all things have in common, our mind will perceive the inside as being distinct from the outside, the mind separate from the body; time segmented into a past, present, and future; nature disconnected from humans; and our dog as a separate conscious being apart from ourselves. We will not see that dog and owner are connected by emotion and going by feel.

Dogs, on the other hand, don’t see the world in terms of one thing or one moment relative to another. A dog’s mind is an energy circuit. What it feels is indistinguishable from where it is, its consciousness a function of its surroundings, whoever or whatever it finds therein and whether or not it feels connected to all of this. This is why dogs are compelled to smell; they’re importing the essences of things, the energy within the form, directly into their gut so it can be digested. Sensory inputs become integrated with viscera so that a dog becomes physically rather than mentally connected to its world. A dog doesn’t apprehend its “self” as separate or distinct from whatever or whomever it is attracted to.

Our current scientific models intellectualize nature and personify dogs in ways that prevent an owner from being able to see the dog’s true nature. Everything a dog does and even its personality is a one-to-one translation of what its owner is feeling. A dog and owner evolve to form one “group mind,” each the emotional counterbalance to the other and yet both aligned around a common want, the pursuit and resolution of which is the main subject of this book.

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  • Jeri

    Kevin Behan, saved my dog and also our relationship.  He was my 5th trainer.  Thankfully I didn’t give up and my realtor told me about him. I can’t say enough good things about this man and his work.
    With deep respect,
    Jeri La Shay and Pranie the German Shepherd

  • Pingback: Kevin Behan on NPR’s On Point Tomorrow, June 2nd « The Official Natural Dog Training Website: News, Discussions, Advice, Training Tips and Techniques from Kevin Behan

  • Ellen Dibble

    What is the IQ of a dog?  About that of a 2-year-old child?  Not that a 2-year-old has “IQ,” but it has something.   I do okay with dog and with 2-year-old.  It’s the adults that are something else.  Yesterday there were two 45-minute stretches at my apartment where due to churning tornado cells overhead, me and certain others from my apartment building went straight to the spider-hole that is our basement, complete with skull and cross-bones on the creaky door at the foot of the little spidery stairwell leading in.  We sat in that stairwell trying to interpret the way the leaves in the trees leaned, and our ex-tornado-chaser correctly told us in which direction there had been a tornado.  But the four of us stayed in four corners of that well, each with a computer (link to Latvia), a cell-phone (link to Doppler weather map) or brother in Texas, or battery radio.   What was missing, aside from a vacuum cleaner and mop and bucket?  A dog.  We all needed to wrap our arms around a sentient animal, one that wasn’t ANY part of the human rat-race, either for sex or for status.

  • LinP

    I will look forward to devouring the show and the book.

    Training my dog has taught me more about myself than any single experience in my life–and in that I include marriage, motherhood, and professional and athletic accomplishments. That is not an overstatement.

    She came to us as a somewhat reactive and fearful dog. Creating a bond of trust with her has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. She made me dig deep inside myself to acknowledge and understand the energies I was bringing to our relationship, which led to a new level of my own self-awareness. The lessons from working with my dog has permeated my interactions with all living beings–furry and human. She has helped me step into my real self, absolutely making me a better wife, mother, and friend. I wonder how I ever would have gotten to know myself in such profound and important ways if it were not for her?

    Boston, MA

  • Roman’s Holistic pet service

    Its a good move to have Kevin on your show. I’m convinced and i apply this “natural method” for many years. Kevin’s book is effects like the “law of attraction”   effected so many readers the last couple of years. Now Kevin applies many laws on one shoot. Law of duality, law of opposites and contraries, law of traction,  law of cause and effect….all this in one book…. unfortunately (and here your show may help) people see dogs the old fashion way (animals who just serve the purpose) and not of a individual K9-sona (K9persona) who wants to help, heal, teach us how to become a better person

    • Roman’s Holistic pets ervice

      corrections: law of attraction; thank you

  • Ellen Dibble

    What about people with Asperger’s and dogs?  Do they bring out the best in each other?

  • Ellen Dibble

    What about a man and a wife who are finding out they are toxic to each other, on the cusp of divorce for painful years.  The two are as different as can be.
       How does the dog deal with it?
        What do the eyes say?
      (It’s tough on children.)

  • Stillin

    I am a dog lover. I love my dogs, and my dogs love me. Right now, I have an aging,dying collie, a blue merle we all adore. I have a stray 90+ hound that melted our hearts we took him in he is the best. I will never be without a dog. At one point, I signed up to work as a customs agent here on the border, NY and Canada, as a k-9 unit worker. I ended up staying with art teaching although the customs money was enticing. In the end, I am sooooooooo glad I did not train as a K-9 trainer. I just don’t like what I have seen on dog shows on how they live, the dogs that are trained only to do certain things. I think it’s horrible. So glad I stayed with teaching art, and having my own dogs, running them at the river, and having them sleep on my bed. They’re clean, I don’t care. I love my dogs.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I never thought of our dog in terms of dominance.  She was very eager to be good except for one exception:  She would follow us to school at any opportunity, clear across town, and wait in the playground.  “Go home” met with a blank stare.  Tongue laps out, she watches us.  “Go HOME.”  More blank stare.
       But children probably never try to dominate their dogs.

  • Angelique

    Kevin’s very right about wanting the dog to use it’s energy/emotion. My very vet unsafe dog is now social during our vet visits. How did this happen? Kevin worked with us to help him feel in the flow of energy instead of shut down and stressing out and eventually snapping. Now when he is fearful at the vets my vet helps him bark, and bite his toy and feel connected in those moments. No reasssuring him or correcting, we draw him out, engage him and we’re all on the same team. 

  • tom berke

    I live with 13 year old DeutschenHund and someone said:
    “Everyone has a best friend during each stage of life – only a precious few
    have the same one.”

    This is how see my relationship with my boy Bruder.

    just a small dose of humility, we might learn from the animals what we need to
    become better people.

  • Anke

    I have two dogs- one is an anxious “mess” and the other is a little buddha. What does this say about me?

  • Scott S

    Just wanted to hear the guest’s thoughts about how being spayed/neutered can affect a dog’s behavior, as well as “people” food.

    My dog is only about 7 years old but she’s always been really lazy, sleeping probably 16+ hours out of the day. She doesn’t like meeting new people, always seems stressed, and has recently started to dread going outdoors.

  • prefer to not share


    I too am a dog lover from Vermont and have two in my family who are 9 and 11. The older dog is very in-tune with weather patterns  (thunderstorms) but most importantly – he can read my health – even before I can.

    I have serious mental health issues which need to be in check – which takes great self dicipline to keep all aspects of my life in balance. My male, older dog can read my negative and anxious energy. He knows when I’m not feeling well emotionally and physically before I even do. His signs are pacing, rubbing against me and acting anxious himself. He wimpers and looks at me with great concern. My husband will comment on my upsetting the dog which in turn is when I’m upset.

    This is no fluke – it’s real. I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful partner in keeping my mental health stable.

    Great show – thanks for allowing me to share.

  • Jemimah

    My chocolate lab is THE most empathic dog I’ve ever had and, yes, if I pay attention to her I can sometimes realize that I’m worried about something I hadn’t even quite known I was worried about. 
    I’ve also noticed that if I’m nervous that she’s going to snarl at another dog, she does it.  If I casually acknowledge the other dog owner and ignore her, she’s fine.  We can learn so much if we pay attention!

  • JudyC

    I know a couple who had two dogs that got along until their marriage collapsed. The dogs began fighting each other when the couple’s arguments escalated and the marriage became very unhappy. The dogs would have to be separated from one another, no longer able to remain in the same room together. The couple divorced and each one took a dog. I am sure when there is upset with the humans, the dogs and cats react in many different ways.

  • Cathy Rec

    I started to cry heavily when I saw pictures of the 13 year old boy killed in Libya.  At first glance, all I saw was how much he looked like my son at that age and I just started to wail!  My Shih Tzu, who was in the other room, came running in and was crying herself, trying to get in my lap and find out what was wrong.  I had to calm down enough to comfort her.  Most of the time she’s as calm as I am, but whenever there is any excitement or emotion, she’s right there.

  • Adeleohki

    How do you know if your dog loves you?

    • Stillin

      When they look at you you will recognize it in their eyes. When they get close to you by their own choice, like bump up next to you. When they get in bed with you and plop down as close as they can. When they sigh if you are in a wierd mood or something, those are all dog love signs! read your dog.

  • Elaine and Lunar Sky

    I suppose if a dog is just a pet this might not be as evident to the average dog owner.  As part of a service dog team, my emotions will influence whether my service dog will heel, pick up items or push and elevator button.  It is very important to use the correct voice in speaking to the dog and to groom the dog daily to affirm the bond between dog and owner. 

    Ignoring a dog is the worst thing you can do so if you do not have the time – give the dog to someone who does.

  • Charnock

    When I was going through a very difficult time emotionally, my dog started having seizures.  Could they have been related?

  • Anonymous

    I like Kevin’s approach about how  dogs and humans share the hunt instinct

  • Constance DeWitt

    I think the information Mr. Behan has shared is transferrable to much more in Nature.  I look forward to a resurgence of this “energetic connection” for more of the population as we move into the future.
    We really need it.

  • http://www.soul-friends.org Kate Nicoll, LCSW

    As a clinical social worker who incorporates animals into play therapy with children and teens, I can attest to the issue of mirroring in the human-animal bond.  In this process of attunement, you will see the dog react to the inner emotional state of the child.  One of my working therapy dogs at Soul Friends, Inc., Bear will often bark in excitement at the toughest kids to get them to shed the facade and work on internal emotional issues.  It has worked again and again – and we have demonstrated in research that this bond can improve children’s sense of hopefulness and body awareness

  • Jill

    How do you integrate new science which tells us that aversive training begets aggression in your work?

    • Joyce

      Post this on Kevin’s website or do a search there.  Kevin has worked with my dog and me and my husband.  He’s amazing.  You might find the answer to your question by searching his site.  naturaldogtraining.com or try naturaldogblog.com or http://leecharleskelley.com/top10myths/themythsofbehaviorism.html

  • Melissa Squireshome

    I think this approach could relate to human parenting as well.

  • Karen

    Do you think that there is a point at which an abused or neglected that the dog cannot connect with a good owner once adopted?

  • Tina

    I’m considered by most to be fairly “hyper” but my Jack Russell Terrier is very mellow…unusual for this breed

    I’m shy and the opposite of aggressive but my dog is very outgoing with people and is an alpha who is very dog-aggressive with any dog who dares to challenge her.

    Does this mean I’m really a mellow, assertive person instead of the hyper  whimp I think I am?  

    PS We both are OCD in our own way

    • Ellen Dibble

      Maybe your dog sees your latent assertive, mellow aspects and knows just how to express that for you.  He/she is your better half, or other half.   Complementarity being a kind of mirroring.  I’m thinking of the family dog that seemed in an unspoken way to express the constancy and affection of my father.  We have an old snapshot of my father on his knees with his hands behind the setter’s floppy ears; my father is outside his car, getting ready to go to work, and he and the dog are barking at each other, soft barks.  Remember Peter Pan, where Nana the St. Bernard (I think) is “the eyes a mother leaves behind to guard her children), when the parents go out?  Our dog was an absent father’s stand-in, and as I think of it, this worked very well in terms of socializing the children.

  • Morgannatick

    Totally agree with the point of dogs wanting what they perceive is of value to us. I used to carry my dogs chew toys around in my back pocket and tell her again and again “no, no no, leave this” and use a gentle tone to sound serious and warning. and sure enough she would snatch it and race away. and we did laps of this as I did yard work and chores and she was thrilled she was getting my “special thing”. Back when she was a puppy but huge way that helped her get grounded when she was hugely high energy.  Things I seriously did not want her to have I took it upon myself to extract them from her having access to them.

  • Philip

    I find that I’m never more connected with my dog, a siberian husky, than when we’re running long distances together.  We don’t think about it, it’s just there.

  • Stillin

    Oh dogs I could listen 24-7 365! My dogs, especially the stray, has taught me to be quiet and watch and listen. Here’s a couple thoughts…somewhere, I don’t remember where, I heard or read a dog could or may, take up an illness in place of a human. Don’t ask me where but I heard this. At one point, in our lives, there was a LOT of tension, we had a german sherpherd and a new baby girl. Our new baby girl had to have a spinal tap at 3 weeks to rule out meningitis, and our shepherd died in a siezure. Later, I read in metaphysics that tension in the home caused the baby’s high fever/ severely high and out of nowhere…I wonder if my shephard picked up all that tension and had a seizure so nobody else would. I believe this actually. Second, never wanted two dogs at once but a stray hound showed up, ended up being over 90lbs and big baby. At first he drove us all crazy, and was wild in the house and not bonding with any of the other animals, the other dog and a bunny and cats, but then boom, settled down, got with it and rules the roost now, we adore him. I find ALL animals fascinating, and I truly prefer them to people much of the time.

  • Gemli

    There may be a strong emotional connection between dogs and humans, and dogs may indeed pick up subtle cues that we don’t recognize.  But I think Mr. Behan vastly overinterprets the evidence.  He may be completely right, or completely wrong, but there would be no way to tell from the mushy metaphorical analysis that he seems to rely upon.  If you base your findings on the presence of emotions that are hidden, or suppressed, or that people don’t even know they’re having, then you can say just about anything.  I’m surprised that there is so little skepticism expressed by callers or commenters.

    • d.b.

      But his point is that the dog SHOWS you what those hidden, suppressed issues are. It’s not that these things never come to light and it’s something that he’s never seen.

  • Maggie

    Thank you for giving permission for an emotional relationship with my dogs!  Widowed at a relatively young age, I was given my first dachshund by my daughters for Mother’s Day..  His name was Henry.  I’d be in conversation with others, and I’d say “I said to Henry….” and everyone would laugh, as though I should be using that phrase about conversation with human only.  But the truth is, I said a lot to Henry in those days.  I always said that he had a tremendous burden to bear most of his years, listening to my goings on.  He was with us for 10 years, a stalwart and loving soul.  On the day he died, he had hurt his back, and within the day deteriorated at such a rate we faced every pet owner’s dreaded decision  But he made it so easy.  Because of the deep emotional connection we had formed over the years, there was no question that it was time.  I still remember the way we looked at each other, and all that was said in that one look.  I never once doubted our decision to let him go; not out of some utilitarian, pragmatic consideration, but out of what we felt from him, what he wanted for his life, which he could no longer have.
    I now have Karl (8) and Klaus (3) with whom I am extremely connected.  When I feel very stressed, I seek them out and rub their coats.  I am intentional about the time I spend with them, I feel the calm that their presence imparts.  I truly believe they have saved my life; or at the very least enriched it beyond my wildest expectations.
    Now sometimes Klaus acts a little crazy.  I have always thought I had it pretty together…but now, I don’t know!
    Thank you again for this very important, and fun, discussion!

  • Angela

    My Boxer was very tuned in emotionally, and it was never so apparent than after my father died.  In the week following, she just laid on the couch and cried – trying to move her was like moving a mountain.

  • Lou, Nashville TN

    I rescued my dog, Townes, at 6 weeks. He is now 8 1/2.  I got him with the  goal of showing another being nothing but love…and as a result, he has shown me and everyone he comes in contact with nothing but love. Yet, there have been 5 or 6 times, for unknown reasons to me, where he has gotten in front of me and protected me from someone he did not  like.  We have been through alot, good and bad. He has taught me at least as much as I have taught him.  

  • Ljbejoian

    My Bernese Mountain Dog was so in tune with me.  I have diabetes and she could sense when my blood sugar was out of control.  She once woke me out of a dead sleep and I discovered that my insulin pump had failed.  I was sleeping right through a very dangerous medical situation and she got me up !!!

    • v……

      i agree, my chow/shep ehrn i esd going thru some seizure episodes, wud get 2 me right b4 & start licking on my legs. it took a bit 2 catch on what he was trying 2 do. my daughter pit/lab stays by me close when my sugar level goes low(diabetes) so i know what u mean. theyre both my babies, love them so much

  • Ellen Dibble

    Remembering the family dog — she would jump up on my high bed each morning right before breakfast time.  We were pretty close, but the family had seven children, mom and dad.  When I was sent away to boarding school, I was very very homesick.  I don’t remember ever connecting with the dog when I came home the next summer, but I believe she (the dog) threw herself under a car in the meantime.  I mean, she exercised her freedom and liberty in the chase on the busy highway our house was on and chased too fast and too close.

  • john

    phone just went dead I was in the “Q” Ive had two dogs both labs one would retrive all day long- recall at 7 months old – goto any of several spots- people thouth i was a trainer-  my second dog won’t get off the couch the only principle rule i used was let the work become the reward the second dog won’t work

  • Sheila Carlson, Lincoln, RI

    Question:  How does this work if the dog is close to two, or more, people in the household?  Whose emotions and personality does he mirror?   Or do you believe the dog only truly bonds with one person?

  • Suewmarks

    The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, our Irish Setter, Blue, who guarded her sticks assiduously, keeping them from us and changing hiding places if we happened to look at her burying one, grabbed a stick on our walk, made a very wide circle, came running up to me, and dropped it at my feet. A first, and a last . . . . .

  • Juliaaib

    What about CATS? They are always missed when one talks about a companion animal…but I feel even MORE intuition from a companion cat than I do a dog…all animals, even down to rabbits I’ve owned GIVE that emotional exchange, they just use different languages.

  • Peter Collier

    I’m a bird hunter with two sweet setters that work as a team, and also a therapist trained in family therapy as a way of addressing individual issues in children.  All of your observations relating to the emotional connection between dog and owner, and the resulting behaviors,  are very similar to parent / child interactions. I see many behaviors in children that may look pathological  when seen in an individual context that make perfect sense in the context of the family system, and are usually reflective and metaphoric of the tension in the family.  Wonderful topic.

  • MCogliano

    My 20 month old Vizla will not leave the dog park.  He loves playing keep away, and once he gets a ball at the park, he won’t come to me even if I have his favorite treat.

    Do you have any suggestions to correct this behavior.


    • Ellen Dibble

      Sounds to me like the dog is saying that you are playing keep-away.  You give; I’ll give; you come; I’ll come.  (I don’t know; I’m just thinking, the show is over; maybe someone here knows the answer.)

    • Jules

      Have you ever tried carrying a second ball or other toy that he really likes?  If you show him that you have another ball, he may come to you and drop his ball so he can focus on the ball you have.  (A kong on a rope or tug toy might work well to get his attention and let you reel him in, but you’ll have to let him have fun with this toy, not just use it to catch him.) 

  • elkay

    Mr. Behan: Please refrain from giving psychological interpretations and clinical recommendations based upon anecdotal, second-hand reports from people over the phone, not to mention methods that have no empirical support whatsoever. It is irresponsible and you are not qualified to give such recommendations.

  • DogsRuleCatsDrool

    Great show.  Rescuing my dog was the best thing I ever did for myself.  I was a dog walker for years, and I saw the difference in how dogs act when they were around me versus when they were with their owners.  They react to humans in such an amazing way.  I can’t wait to read the book!!

  • Stillin

    Hearing about the “bear/cougar” thing, right now I have been watching a family of red foxes, amazing, social, funny, beautiful. Here’s an interesting thing, my 90lb. hound, Brooklynn, who LOVES to chase a fox if he sees one, has not picked up on these young fox kit. No odor? I am standing on a rocky dike watching these fox for about half an hour at a time, Brooklynn is intently staring way out past them, missing them. They are curious and cautious. I never say anything or feed them or anything I just watch. I have seen the mother twice and the father once not at the same time. Now, when I go to see them, they run up from the grass , get on the rocks and stare at me like “Hey you!” I just adore, love wildlife. I won’t take Brooklynn with me anymore as the fox are getting bigger and I don’t want to stress them and I don’t want Brooklynn catching on. Normally, if he smells a fox or sees one runnning in the woods, he will chase it. I am not encouraging any hunting, chasing as I of course , love my fox.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

    I would be interested to know how my dogs…are my mirror?  Great concept, but I fail to see relevance in my life. I have 2 terriers, who are sweet and loving to everyone. I have one German Shepherd who is sweet and loving to me, but will attack any other person or dog. All 3 dogs were obtained as pups and I raised them equally. The terriers are 11, the GS is 3 years old.

    I think that I am sweet and loving, and have no desire to attack anyone…2 legged or 4 legged. Wonder how that fits into his theory?

    • Kaw619

      Jason – your post made me laugh.  I have a 7 month old golden retriever and I told my husband that we must be bitey and barky on the inside.  We are both pretty calm and try to exercise Baxter as much as possible and he’s still a wild child. 

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Thanks for you comment, it is nice to know I have pleased someone.  

    • Stillin

      I have had German Shepherds, love that breed. Is your shepherd fixed? If not, neutor. The G.S needs to learn his behavior is unacceptable. How do you do that? You flip him over fast and painlessly and hold him there whenever he STARTS to show the behavior of attack, whether it’s another dog or person. Nobody will like your dog, and that will make him worse.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Yes, she is fixed. I have tried obedience classes, specialized “classes” for aggression at my local shelter, but nothing has worked. She is very strong willed, but eager to please me…as all dogs are. You suggestion sounds like it would be worth investigating…but I am not sure how I could do it all the time. But I will give it a try. You are correct, she scares everyone but me, and friends who are dog lovers avoid all contact with her. Thanks very much for the advice.

        • Stillin

          Oh! Jason, you HAVE to do it all the time to make it work!!! You actually have to step up to the plate and MAKE her behave, so that you will enjoy her, others will etc.and just pretend you are her parent. You have to do this! You will so much happier so will she! let me know what happens…you can do it!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            I am trying my best…please see my reply above. Thanks for your input.

          • Stillin

            Jason, I keep checking this and it’s still going! O.K. I figured it out. You know how committed you are to keeping your shep and never giving up? Well you have to be THAT COMMITTED TO CHANGING IT’S BEHAVIOR!!!! That’s all you gotta do. Decide, I have had enough and this is the end of this sh…..won’t matter who you go to what you read, YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO CHANGING IT, in other words Jason, TAKE CHARGE.  Abused women do this all the time, figure out enough is enough, something is going to change NOW. 

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            Actually, thanks to the many helpful replies here…including yours…I have made some amazing progress. Please see my reply to Jules, a few comments above above, ending with THANKS AGAIN.  That about sums up where I am. And really the commands we tried last weekend worked very well. The dog is now obeying my sit and stay commands, and also the “down” command. They guys I worked with last Saturday.. had one of their dogs come by and my GS went crazy..but I used the training pronged collar they lent me, and she obeyed, wend down in to the full down position…and remained calm. This was the FIRST time in 3 years that happened.  I am meeting these same guys tomorrow (Tues. June 7) evening for another session – and they are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.  for me and the dog.

            But the progress has been amazing.  And to think that this all came about because of you helpful folks on this site is really quite wonderful.

        • Jules

          Jason, in my experience with GSDs, they are just becoming adults at 3 years old and feeling their oats.  If your dog is barking at people who come to the door or somehow impinge on her territory that’s one thing.  It’s natural for dogs with any guarding instinct to get between you and another person (especially if that person is acting at all strange, for ex., furtive, aggressive, or scared), and to bark at the person to warn them away.  If you acknowledge or greet the person, or invite them into the house or yard, etc. your dog should accept them. This doesn’t mean that she has to be all friendly and tail-waggy; calm and watchful is OK.  

          However, if your dog routinely lunges close up to a non-threatening people, or even worse, comes into physical contact and actually attacks, I’m sad to say I agree with the trainer about putting her down.  You’ve given her 3 years of a loving life and that’s a lot.  To live like a dog like this is extremely stressful, unless you’re a hermit who lives in the country and has a very secure fence.In analyzing this situation, I would try to separate the dog aggression from the human aggression.  While dog aggression is a big concern and must be managed carefully, aggression toward humans is a deadly serious situation.

          Also, before trying Stillin’s advice to use an “alpha roll”, read a little on it (wikipedia has an article).  Many trainers believe it does more harm than good.

          • Stillin

            At this point since his big breed is attacking I think he has to take control and be able to get the dog out of the attack mode. Unless he can catch it before it does, all he can do is flip it over and make it calm down. I didn’t know it has a name, and I wouldn’t use it with every dog, but I have had shepherds and I think they need that if this is where the dog is behavior wise today. Don/t want to cause harm, if he doesn’t take charge there will be alot worse harm done than a roll eh?

          • Jules

            I agree that being in control of a large aggressive dog is all-important.  However, the alpha roll isn’t the only way and may not be a good way to accomplish this.  At one time it was commonly recommended, but now, not so much.  It’s worth reading up on.  If it works for you and your dogs, great.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            Good comments and thoughts,. which are much appreciated. When I take the dogs in my car, which is daily, the GS (if given the opportunity) will actually jump out the window to attack another dog. She also did this once with a police officer directing traffic. Since that event she is always leashed while in the vehicle…and yes, I know all the dogs need to be attached to seat belts…..

            You are very correct…it is extremely stressful…and certainly not the situation I ever wanted, or even imagined, when I got this sweet 9 pound ball of fur…3 years ago. But that said, I am a person who believes that a committment is for life – to human or animal. And when I took that pup, it was a life bond. 

            Putting her down at 3 years of age would cause me to live the rest of my life in unendurable sorrow and regret. That I cannot do. She is so full of life and love (for me), that I will continue to work with her.  Terminating her life, when she is in her prime…to me, is about as morally objectionable an act as one could commit.

            I even wrote to Cesar Milan…pleading to go to LA for some sessions…I live in Nebraska…never received a reply.

            I have read about 6 books on obedience and aggrsssion, as well as many web articles…nothing has helped. But I remain optimistic and cautious with her.

          • Jules

            Going after a police officer directing traffic may be understandable for a young dog:  strange person in a hat, sticking his arms out (in other words, trying to look big), possibly staring in her direction, and close to her turf (the car).  If this is the only incident, I agree with your cautious optimism.  

            I would pay attention to how she acts around people in the absence of other dogs, including your other dogs.  It could be that strange dogs are what’s really getting her wound up.  It could be that your other dogs are intensifying her reaction (I’ve often seen terriers act pretty aggressively toward other dogs).You might want to try contacting a Schutzhund club (this is a sport involving obedience, tracking, and protection–lots of into on the web) or a GSD breeder who breeds dogs for Schutzhund for advice.  These people are used to dealing with dogs that are have high energy and strong instincts to guard, and may be able to help or point you toward resources closer than Cesar Milan.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            Thanks for the infor on Schutzhund..I will see what I can find out. You are on target with the Terriers….  They are big barkers, and act very aggressive….but that is all a bluff, and once they “rush” someone..they are as gentle as lambs, and everyone is a friend.  But, the sad reality, is that the GS learned that behavior as a pup from the much older Terriers…., and she is big enough to be a threat. And add what she learned from the Terriers to her natural protective aggression and we have a dangerous mix. I cannot fault her for learning what she did. And I had no idea what it would lead to.

          • Jules

            I can understand your dedication to your dog and admire your commitment.  Another poster commented about going through four trainers before finding someone who helped (Kevin Behan, the guest on the show).  Good luck with your quest.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            Thanks very much.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            I hope you see this…. I will check back daily.   Following your advice I looked up Schutzhund in my local area. Today I called one of the 2 folks listed. He and his training buddy offered to meet me and my GS this afternoon at the park they use.

            I have to say that they taught me more in 90 minutes than all the previous “trainers” and classes I have had. Their opinion is that my dog is highly trainable…and not as aggressive as they expected. They showed me, using a corrective collar, how to make her obey my commands.

            We were all impressed at how well she performed. And they invited us back this Tuesday evening when they usually meet. I have a procedure to follow now.  I do not think that she will ever be the cuddly kids my Terriers are…but if she becomes easier to live with and less aggressive to other people and dogs it will be my dream come true. 

            Thank you very much for giving me this lead. I would have never known about it without your suggestion. And you have given me hope for more peace of mind with my dog and we both will have a happier life as a result. THANKS AGAIN!

          • Jules

            Hi Jason, I’m glad to have been of help, and very happy to hear the good news!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            Glad you received my message of thanks!

          • Joyce

            Give Kevin Behan a call.  He could definitely help you.  Phone number is on his website naturaldogtraining.com

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

            I just read the article on alpha roll….  I am not sure this would help, but thanks anyway.

    • Joyce

      Hope you decide to get the book or do some more reading on Kevin’s website or on Naturaldogblog.com.  The dynamics are more complicated when there is more than one dog but Kevin’s theory is comprehensive and if you had a conversation with him about the three dogs it would all make sense.  

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Thanks for the website info. I have already bookmarked it and will go back and read it. I have had some luck with 2 local guys…just last Saturday.

  • Seth

    I have a suggestion for a show topic and read tis is the best place to put it:

    This summer and fall I’ll be performing my original one-man show Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee. I would like to discuss the possibility of setting up an interview about how I developed this show. I call it a hysterical romp through America’s spiritual enterprise. 

    In a time when faith creates a foundation for people’s political choices, ways they spend their money and where they choose to live, I feel it’s important to examine and mirror back what I see going on in the communities I struggle to be a part of. 

    You can watch an excerpt of the show here: http://bit.ly/mUwykW
    The scenes are Personal Growth Addicts Anonymous and Angels and Sh!t. 

    I’ll be on the Fringe circuit during the summer in Washington DC, Minneapolis and Indianapolis. I’ll also be touring it on the east coast in the fall in Boston and Northampton, MA as well as Asheville and Chapel Hill, NC. 

    This one-man show tracks my own experience of growing up Catholic in RI, going to a college started by a Buddhist monk, then going through a plethora of other spiritual traditions. The show delves into self-help and pop-psychology showing the all-too-real characters I’ve met along the way. Most people call it “funny”.

    Below you will find a press release for the show.  Please call or email me for any more details and I will be in contact with you to see if you have any further questions in the next couple weeks.
    Thank you for your time,

    Seth Lepore
    (802) 275-7262

    From: Seth Lepore, (802) 275-7262, seth[at]sethums.com

    Who: Seth Lepore, Westhampton, MA

    What: Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee. Written and performed by Seth Lepore. Directed by Thomas Griffin.

    When: July-November “Have You Lost Your Religion?”Tour.

    Where: Capital Fringe, Washington, D.C.; Minnesota Fringe, Minneapolis, MN; IndyFringe, Indianapolis, IN; Northampton, MA, Boston, MA, Chapel Hill, NC; Asheville, NC

    Why: Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee, a one-man show written and performed by Seth Lepore, is a hysterical romp through America’s spiritual enterprise. The show exposes the blurry line between self-help and faith. Yoga gurus, healthy chocolate peddlers and Buddhists with God complexes ego-trip their way toward absurdity.  

    “Losing My Religion” is a humorous, ironic and sardonic look at what Lepore describes as “the blurry line between self-help and faith.” Based on his own spiritual journey, which saw him leave the Catholic Church as a teenager and meander for over 20 years through Buddhism and a host of other isms, the monologue juxtaposes wickedly funny and insightful characterizations of the people he has met along the way with thoughtful commentary on his own spiritual seeking.

    Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee escorts the audience through an earnest, sidesplitting depiction of the trials and tribulations of losing and finding one’s spiritual path. Lepore uses his fecund imagination to take a humorous and sincere look at the pitfalls and biases that make up the melting pot of spiritual choices. The intention of the piece is to create an ongoing dialogue that presents more questions than answers in terms of how we approach faith as a culture.

    “Lepore comes across a lone, common-man hero…Possessing a rubber-faced ability to slide cleanly into character and deadly accurate powers of observation, Lepore’s acting is integral to the success of [the piece] and worth the price of admission alone.

    Carefully chosen words make the satire wicked and the comedy rapier-sharp. His humor comes on many levels — sometimes over-the-top, often much more subtle — and that makes an evening rise above stand-up comedy to something closer to social commentary.” Jon Potter, Brattleboro Reformer

    “Lepore is adept at detailed characterization, and that means his [portrayals] are all too real, and funny… He gets at the tension between the human urge for connection — with others and the universe — and the dangers of guru worship and group-think.” Mark Collins, Boulder Daily Camera

    More information can be found at http:sethums.com

    • Pancake

      C’mon Seth, you’re a comedian! You know “the best place to put it.”

    • Pancake

      Also Seth: Have you met Greensboro performance artist Sam Martin out there on the fringe circuit? You guys have plenty in common.

  • Pancake

    Cows are the emotion champs. Their feelings are like a thunder clap compared to a finger snap for human feelings. Consider that when biting your next burger. Or would you rather eat dog meat. (Theirs correspond in comparison to a quiet muffled cell phone ring.)

  • Brett

    Dogs are good behaviorists, good observers, particularly of their “masters.” Where this ability to observe subtle changes in the environment/the behavior of others breaks down for the dog is in interpretation of what they’re seeing, particularly something they’ve never seen before. A dog can become frightened/bewildered of a large, shiny, plastic bag flapping in the wind while they are out for a walk, or of a vacuum cleaner that seems to invade the living room…dogs who are afraid of thunder storms seem to fear some cataclysm is imminent. 

    Dogs cue off of their “masters.”  They often misinterpret their “master’s” response to a given situation as fear or something the dog needs to be protective off. We humans could learn a lot about keeping our dogs well-adjusted in responding to a given situation by considering how our dogs are interpreting what’s going on. I see “masters” pull hard on leashes and get very uptight when they are out walking with their dogs, for example, and the two are met by another dog and “owner.” This tells the dog, “something is wrong and you need to guard/be protective.” They become aggressive/get emotionally ratcheted up based on their “owner’s” ostensible response. 

    I believe dogs tell time based on the diminishment of smells around them, e.g., their “master” leaves them alone in the house, and they sniff where the human had walked just before leaving, getting a sense of time passing as the smell of the shoe/foot diminishes. 

    I want to mention two solutions to problems (fear of thunder storms, being left home alone) I talked about above: a “thunder coat” and “pheromone therapy.”  Try each for fear of storms and for separation anxiety. If problems are diminished but not completely ameliorated, try BOTH! 

    I only half listened to the show…I was a bit turned off by the guest’s dismissive view of other “dog psyche” paradigms, as if hearing a Freudian dismissing a Skinnerian and vice-versa. There IS a hierarchy and dominance aspect to certain dog behaviors, particularly present when one “owns” two or more dogs. One can observe this easily. See how feeding time goes if one is in doubt…but this is AMONG the dogs!!! Sometimes dogs get confused, though, as to what role the human is supposed to play (seen mostly when the dog is a puppy), and having the human send the right messages to the dog can help clear up any confusion. This can be done without the human “dominating” the dog or without playing leader of the pack. 

    I don’t currently have a dog in my home. I “owned” a hybrid wolf for 17 years (he died about ten years ago). I never really thought that I “owned” him or that I was his “master.” It was more of a contract we had; in exchange for food, shelter and helping him to maintain health he provided me with companionship and protection.   We have a contract with all domesticated animals. (They don’t have to honor their end of the contract, but we do—always!) We created that contract when we decided as humans to domesticate certain animals. Are we as a society honoring that contract? 

  • Jules

    Years ago, I read “The Tao of Bow Wow”, which helped me understand the flow of energy between human and canine.  Sounds like this book expands on that, and I’m looking forward to it.

    I’ve had the same experience with my German Shepherds as the caller who found that touching and hugging her dog caused the dog to start paying more attention to her signals in general. (They did not respond well to my attempts to be a domineering drill sargeant.)  I learned to lean over them, hold them around the neck and chest (which is a dominant position) while petting them or kissing their heads and murmuring endearments.  They love this and become instantly tuned in to me.  Another trick is to lean over their back and give them a couple pets on the side when going from house to yard, into the bedroom, etc.  

    A daily play session with both of my dogs keeps us all in tune with each other, and keeps my two dogs on an even keel with each other.  (The German Shepherd can be too concerned about keeping my other dog “down”.)  It’s a game of fetch, but it’s like a simulated hunt in which we all have our roles to play, and they have to do a few things I direct them to do (sit, stay, come, find it).  Since doing yoga, I’ve become more aware of my breath and can use that to capture their undivided attention while they wait for me to throw their toys.

    • Susan D.

      Touching, hugging, kissing, murmuring endearments, transitional touches, and daily play sessions work wonders on humans too. If only we did more of that with our children, partners and other beloveds!

  • Torrent

    This pseudo-religious gobbledygook is an insult to dog owners and trainers.

    • Stillin

      Your view is the kind of view that is scary to me, and there is not much on this planet that scares me, trust that.

    • Kaelaja

      I don’t think this theory claims to be religious and falls short, therefore to call it pseudo religious seems to be a misnomer.  I don’t understand the word gobbledygook and don’t believe this comment ads much to the debate.

    • Joyce

      Why are you wasting your time here then?

    • Doreen

      your comments are a real turn off. I know first hand how his training works where others’ hasn’t. 

  • Kerrin Walling

    My dog, Ringo, I always call my “first-born,” which my family makes fun of me for.  However, I really feel that way.  We’ve had a strong emotional connection for our entire 10 year relationship.  When he was a puppy in 2001, we lived in NYC during the time of the attack on the World Trade Center.  I was working downtown at the time and thankfully made it home to my upper-east side apartment on foot to care for him.  Obviously, I was extremely upset and shook up on the afternoon of the attack, and when we went out for our afternoon walk, he was visibly devastated as well, which manifested itself in horrible diarrhea.  Of course, Ringo had no idea that the WWT had just been attacked, but he was responding to my emotions and I’ve always believed, as Kevin says, that he mirrors my emotions daily. 

  • Elrywels

    Are there some dogs that are not as in tune with their owners: like a corgi or a poodle?

    • Ellen Dibble

      The corgi is apparently in tune with Queen Elizabeth, for what it’s worth.  And I have seen poodles that could never ever be in tune with me (or is it other way to), and some less apparently pompous or petulant poodles I can groove with just fine (a half-gray, sloppy, unapologetically ridiculous one I have in mind).  Where is their sense of dignity?  Or rather, where is their sense of humility?  Some mix of the two would match me to a subset of dogs, if I needed one, which I wish I did.

    • Lola

      Standard Poodles are known not only for their intelligence but for their heightened sensitivity to their owners moods. My SP’s previous owner was nervous around him, making him nervous, and it escalated. He relaxed with me. One time, when he was under a year old, I had a 3 day migraine. He took to his bed as well, and the only thing he asked me for during those days was the necessary trips outside. This from a rambunctious high-energy puppy. I was amazed…  

    • Anonymous

      I’m a corgi person.  The love moves in both directions.  However, I’ve been told (and have observed) that corgis love people and, if their owner dies or they’re abandoned, they love the next person in their life just as much. They’re not born mourners.  That should be a huge relief to a pet lover — no problem with “What happens if I…?”

      Poodles are very smart, very intuitive. Terrific dogs!  They often seem aloof but just as often are very humorous.  One friend has a service poodle who is utterly faithful, attentive, and joyful and does his job at hospitals and nursing homes with great professionalism.  In off hours, he’s a clown!

  • Spookmcg

    This seems to be another part of the dog picture, but as limited as the other “dominance” and “positive” approaches.  Each dog brings his own psyche to the relationship; it’s not all about us.  They are not mirrors – what a limited metaphor.

    • Joyce

      You might want to read the book before writing off the metaphor.  And consider…do you see yourself the same way others do? We “see” in the mirror using not just our vision but all of who we are. 
      The cover of Kevin’s book is a good example.  When I first saw it I thought the dog looked sad.  The next time I looked at it I thought the dog looked angry.  What’s real?  The dog is reflecting something about me, not some objective reality that everyone will see the same way.  

  • http://www.smartpei.typepad.com robpatrob

    This insight makes perfect sense to me. My sisters and I all are mad about dogs and are very different from each other. Our dogs are personality clones of the 3 of us. I think this is also why right now having had to put mine down – I am so devastated more so than when my father died. I feel as if a part of me died too and maybe it has..

    • Maggie

      Yes, this special connection cannot be understated.  I have had the same experience with loss of dog vs. loss of human and know what you mean. 

  • marilyn bensavage

    altho our dog ( a doberman) can’t speak….he hears , feels and understands EVERYTHING! We’ve had him for nearly (12) yrs and we cmarilyonsider him as much of a family member as anyone .  The connection he has with my daughter ( his owner )….. is something to be appreciated and treasured….Marilyn Bensavage

  • Torrent

    1)  if the dog is a mirror then acting
    dominant should result in a dog acting dominant, not submissive like
    Behan claims

    2)  Behan misrepresents reinforcement
    training by claiming the trainers are not concerned with their

    3)  If the dog is a mirror, then
    Behan’s see-saw metaphor doesn’t make sense.

    Behan’s tendency to see patterns
    doesn’t even consider the possibility that the Educator’s dogs
    had different personalities. Just like children even when raised
    the same way.

    4)  The evolutionary explanation put
    forth is ridiculous. Wolves are not inferior to the moose. This is a
    lie and that Behan crafts his story around. Besides, the dogs is
    related to the Asian wolf which didn’t hunt moose and even for the
    Grey wolf, moose is not the main prey.

    5)  The idea of stuck energy is
    metaphysical nonsense.

    6) Again, Behan makes a ridiculous
    claim. Most scientists suggest that we evolved eating fruits and
    nuts and some small game and by the time they hunted wooly mammoths,
    they had already evolved to full humans. Also, the mammoth existed
    only in a limited geographical region and most mammoths were the size of modern elephants.  Most important is that he is lying when he claims same evolutionary paths.  By the time he makes his comparison of humans hunting mammoths, we had were already modern humans.7)The so called covenant of the
    tongue is a folkloric tale. Nothing more.
    8) Dogs used in medical detection
    don’t require us to believe they possess magical properties.
    Cancer has a chemical signature and seizure alert dogs are

    • d.b.

      Reading your critiques, it doesn’t seem like you have a grasp of what his theory is. I have a hard time following your objections to what he’s actually proposing.

      • Torrent

        Behan’s ideas aren’t based on reality. This is why he constantly relies on inappropriate metaphors and as such his metaphors are often contradictory. In fact anyone that really understands Behan realize that it’s all metaphysical garbage and the examples he provides as evidence have real, physical, explanations. As such we don’t have to propose that dogs feel or are mirrors to detect cancer. They do so because they can smell it.

        • d.b.

          Again, you’re critiques aren’t based off of what he’s actually proposing. He doesn’t say a dog detects cancer cause it’s a ‘mirror’. It’s about the emotion itself. Try convincing someone who’s survived cancer that it’s not an incredibly emotional experience. Why are humans the only species who can experience that? And just because there are physical components to behavior, doesn’t mean that there aren’t emotional components as well. They don’t have to cancel each other out.

          • Torrent

            My Critique is right on and if you were more scientifically literate it would be obvious to you that his ideas are drivel.  Your idiotic argument is irrelevant, Behan is claiming that dogs detect cancer ins some magical way and the logical, testable explanation is that it is simple chemistry. The detection dogs also can detect cancer on petri dishes or even before the patient knwos they have cancer.. making your comment moot.

          • Maggie

            Do you have a dog, Torrnet?

          • Maggie

             sorry, Torrent?

          • pf

            Despite your critique of your critique (nice and self-serving). I agree with d.b., your own admitted reliance on a scientific explanation means you are not grasping the emotional level of the situations that arise in Behan’s book. It’s not magic, unless you’re so soulless as to think emotions (which yes, has a route in chemical reactions) rely solely on receptors and nerve signals and not information gathered through your senses (like feeling happy when you see someone you love (a real thing, not magic by the way) also happy).

    • Jaguarundi23

      you sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Torrent

    Behan often cites Pollan’s work but no only does this book reverse and take an non-scientific view of genetic selection (ie. the plants is making us select them) but it also assumes an intention on the part of the plant.

    A dog’s mind is not an energy circuit. it is a product of its brain. Just like the mind of every other animal (humans too) is a manifestation of the brain. Dogs and other animals smell things because it is evolution.

  • Torrent

    The skeptical, rational thinking person must ask themselve how does Behan “apprehend the energetic essence” of all things?  What magical abilities does he have to give him such a power?

  • Ron Munro Bsc Ma PhD

    Mr Behan comes across as a self styled philosoph. Never once did he put his points in a clear and concise manner.
    without being couched in philosophic mumbo jumbo.

    You need to focus on plain talk.    examples

    “If we don’t apprehend the energetic essence that all things have in common, our mind will perceive the inside as being distinct from the outside, ”  This is just babble. Not impressed

    “A dog’s mind is an energy circuit.” (Neuronal pathways usually are Mr Behan!!)

    “new paradigm in addressing how dog and human…..connect”…. more circumlocution 

    ” The Botany of Desire”    What the heck does that mean?
    And so you go on and on

    Come down to earth Mr Behan

  • Pam Carle

    I’m trying to understand what you write about dogs. Are you saying dogs live only in the present?

    All things have an “energetic essence” in common; like a need for social interaction, or a preference for staying alive? It isn’t clear to me what an energetic essence is.

    I’ll probably buy your book, but wanted to understand this summary first. BTW I have two dogs.

    Pam Carle

  • Brett

    I have to agree with many of the comments…when Behan was talking about a dog displaying energy that we humans consider undesirable, as in, say, shredding a blanket, he suggests having the dog engage in continuing to get out its energy (sorry for the paraphrasing), without any specific explanation, just abstract conceptual ideas. “Owners” need real nuts and bolts behavioral instruction in these instances, not pseudo-pop psychology musings. One could get the wrong idea that the dog needs to chew more blankets or something (a really bad idea, btw). For example, he could have elaborated by talking about a simple behavioral technique of “redirection.” If you find the dog chewing on a blanket, you could distract him/her with a ball and turn his/her attention away from the blanket and toward a game of fetch. Once the dog is engaged with fetch, remove the blanket and he/she will most likely forget about the blanket (and put objects one doesn’t want the dog to chew on out of his/her reach!) 

    • alex

      C’mon, this is an hour interview, – a conversation. Obviously, there’s more to it than what you can hear in that amount of time. Your point of the behavioral technique is also saying something without actually saying anything. How exactly, does redirection work for a dog who’s nutso over squirrels? If it were really that simple, then why can’t you use this to break up dog fights or prevent a dog from attacking a person? Of course it CAN work sometimes, but the whole point of this topic is that there’s something deeper going on. I don’t believe the intent of the show was to have it be a training lesson. It’s the idea behind it all.

      • Brett

        Granted, that’s a point, and certainly going nutso over squirrels, breaking up dog fights and attacking humans are tough behaviors to deal with, albeit in a different realm altogether than having a dog shred one’s blanket. I was referring to Behan’s talking about continuing energy from an undesirable behavior without being specific, which could be confusing. He, I presume, meant things like playing with, walking with, bonding with, etc., and not continuing the behavior of concern, which is redirection. The human needs to direct these things, after all. It would have taken no time to bring clarification to what he meant. 

        Dogs that might attack people or fight other dogs have a much deeper problem than separation anxiety or being mad at their “owner.” They’ll not be distracted from their madness. It would be ludicrous to give advice on air or even in a blog about such behaviors; sometimes dogs attack who are injured/in enormous pain/there could be myriad reasons….The squirrel thing might be best solved by pheromone therapy or even medication in severe form, particularly if the dog seems really gripped to the point of suffering (I’ve seen some). Bird dogs and herding dogs seem to suffer from the squirrel thing more than other breeds, or at least that’s been my experience. Make no mistake, it’s THE OCD behavior of choice in the dog kingdom. 

        Besides, a behavioral approach is just a practical guide by which one can explore something deeper…a walk with one’s dog can be an experience that brings one closer to something deeper, but you have to walk first. 

  • Torrent

    Michael Pollan fails to note that every year 4 million dogs are killed. So what does the wolf know about not getting slaughtered that the dog does not?  Of course both questions are contrived and have the unstated and unproven assumptions.

    Behan’s whole premise is based on magical thinking. There is no biological justification to believe that such a group mind is possible and if there was, then it should be possible with all animals (at least mammals) given that we all share the same basic biology. We already have the best explanation for evolution, that’s why despite his self aggrandizing claim, these views are not part of any science curriculum. Dogs fee, cats feel, bears feel, humans feel, sloths feel, but to suggest that they feel what we feel (and Behan is not referring to empathy or some other biologically plausible examples) is simply not justified.

    So does a dog know it’s place as he claims? Well the 4 million killed each year are good evidence against such a proclamation, and to top it off. Cats have now surpassed dogs as household pets.

    And as far as the “relationship”, even horse owners say the same thing about their horses. So do cat people, and most other pet owners. As a trainer, Behan’s reach is exceeding his grasp. While he is competent when it comes to training, as soon as he strays into a less concrete field he is out of his comfort zone so he makes up stories to fill in his lack of knowledge.  What’s more he sets himself up as some divinely touched guru that has figured out that all scientists are wrong. Behan is right. He has no evidence. The available evidence doesn’t support his assertions. But he is right  He “knows” it, it’s a feeling.

    Behan has dog truthiness.

    • C824767

      the scientists have no evidence either, unfortunately

  • Lacey

    About 18 months ago, a very young dog appeared on my backporch in the middle of the night. No one was looking for him and now he is mine. He was a shrieking (not barking), lunging, chasing and biting whirlwind. If it moved – be it human, squirrel, bike, bird, vehicle, dog - it was in danger around Lou.  The mere scent or sound of another human would set him off. And there was no redirecting him, or calming him.

    I am an exercise fiend so I tried to run it out of him.  5 miles a day carrying a backpack. Didn’t work.   I tried positive reinforcement guided by a trainer, feeding him treats around his triggers. Nope! I hired a dominance-based trainer and after 2 months there was no improvement.  None.

    I was sceptical, but within 5 days of doing Kevin’s primary training exercise, I could call the dog off any of his triggers.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a long road and the Natural Dog method is no insta-fix.  We still have a long way to go before the dog’s heart (and mine) is healed because we are examining some of the very core issues of existance. I am learning to speak up for myself and speak my truth, so the dog doesn’t have to do it for me. In the long run, the dog  and I will be healthier and whole (not just “well behaved”) for doing things the Natural way. 

    • Maggie

      Lacey, this is the most level headed, empirically based comment we’ve had here yet!  It was wonderful to read.  Good luck to you — trust it:  love will win out.

    • Torrent

      Behan falsely labels ‘his’ method NDT. Frankly it’s the just a mix of reward and punishment that has been around a long time. What’s new is the juju, quasi-mystical language he uses to explain what he is doing.  Those who are familiar with learning theory don’t buy into his beliefs.

      • C824767


  • Kentucky Sue

    “….when dogs smell, they are importing the essences of things directly into thier gut so it casn be digested.”  Where does this come from???

      My studies of dogs have taught me that a dog has a much larger olifactory center in its brain than do we humans. They can learn much (in their brain) from smelling another dog, or another dogs excrement, etc.
    They can tell its sex, health, whether it is a female in heat and more.

    I have found too often that people writing about dogs simply write down their ideas as if they were facts. If they are writing about dog training, they are sometimes teaching the teacher of the dog things that simply are not true which can be not a good thing for the dog. 

  • christine randolph

    and still if you rely too much on the group mind your dog could get hit by a car off leash

  • Katherine

    Especially if you have a hunting dog if it smells something your dog will go after it!!!! Why?

  • LPerkins

    I just left this on your Facebook page, but am duplicating it here for a particularly dog-interested audience:

    I would love to hear On Point Radio discuss the topic of breed-specific legislation, ideally to bring attention to the plight of Lennox, a perfectly innocent dog whose execution is imminent. Lennox has been on death row under the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act for 18 months in Belfast, Northern Ireland. But this issue has U.S. relevancy. Over 650 U.S. cities have enacted breed-specific pit bull laws. And people all over the world care: Almost 200,000 people around the globe have signed an online petition for his release.

    Lennox’s Petition: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?sl190510

    The Latest Update: http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2011/10/20/stay-of-execution-for-lennox-new-appeal-readied/

    Victoria Stilwell’s Plea:http://positively.com/2011/10/09/how-the-legal-system-failed-lennox/

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  • Longfellow’s Evangeline

    This video on YouTube says more about dogs, people, education, learning and laughter than ‘some people’ will ever know.  They will think it is an anecdote, and want proof. Eh, Ttteabaggers, whatch goin na do about em.
    Video Name “El Baile Profesional (HD) Merengue, a dog doing the merengue with partner.  

  • Samsara

    Wonderful show! I appreciated that Kevin Behan was able to postulate ideas about dogs that went beyond our current scientific knowledge. We’re so driven by science and fact as a society that it’s unusual to hear a layperson who is willing to wrestle with current scientific knowledge, even if it contradicts their experience. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your imagination,” to quote Shakespeare. 

  • Emitr

    Kevin Behan is onto something.  I’ve always intuited that I should not have a dog, because my emotional life is secluded and withdrawn.  A dog needs emotional presence from its human companion, and I need so much time alone, emotionally withdrawn.  I’ve always been single, I’ve learned not to have roommates because they become disappointed and even resentful of my emotional seclusion, and I wouldn’t want to starve a dog of emotion, either.  A dog that mirrored me would be alone and empty, and a dog shouldn’t have to live its short life like that.  Not that I haven’t learned to be happy alone, as myself, but it would be ethically wrong to make a dog have to mirror me all its life.

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Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s leader meet. We’ll look at Russia and the high voltage chess game over Ukraine. Plus, we look at potential US military strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Aug 27, 2014
The cast of the new ABC comedy, "Black-ish." (Courtesy ABC)

This week the Emmys celebrate the best in television. We’ll look at what’s ahead for the Fall TV season.

Aug 26, 2014
Matthew Triska, 13, center, helps Alex Fester, 10, to build code using an iPad at a youth workshop at the Apple store on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Stanford, Calif.  (AP)

Educational apps are all over these days. How are they working for the education of our children? Plus: why our kids need more sleep.

Aug 26, 2014
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, right, speaks with Ady Barkan of the Center for Popular Democracy as she arrives for a dinner during the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.  (AP)

Multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer says he and his fellow super-rich are killing the goose–the American middle class — that lays the golden eggs.

On Point Blog
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Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

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Why Facebook And Twitter Had Different Priorities This Week
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

There’s no hidden agenda to the difference between most people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds this week. Just a hidden type of emotional content and case use. Digiday’s John McDermott explains.

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Our Week In The Web: August 22, 2014
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

On mixed media messaging, Spotify serendipity and a view of Earth from the International Space Station.

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