by Ellen Landauer
The Natural Dog Training food and pushing exercise is one of the core exercises developed by Kevin Behan. It gives you a means to access the deepest emotional part of your dog.
PHOTO ABOVE: As this Flat-Coated Retriever reaches for the food, he is leaning into his collar.
Also notice how his topline is harmoniously energized all the way to the tip of his tail.
Within moments of being introduced to Natural Dog Training food and pushing, he is feeling connected from nose, through his heart, gut and with his paws firmly on the ground. Beginning to push through hind legs as well.
Kevin always emphasized that the owner should be the number one variable in ALL situations. He said that REAL training makes YOU the most important thing in your dog's environment no matter what.
Doubtless, most will say, 'But I AM the most important thing to my dog.' Really? Then why did your dog ignore you when you called? Why won't he fully engage in play with you when other dogs are around?? It takes a quantum mental/emotional shift and some time to fully attract your dog's drive - but is well worth it!
The Natural Dog Training food and pushing exercise is the root, the groundwork, needed for all that follows.
It is the basic core work upon which all other routines are built. It also lays a firm foundation that will attract your dog's drive during obedience training.
Natural Dog Training food and pushing is NOT a bribe! It uses hunger and desire to free your dog emotionally to break through an energetic barrier so they can FULLY connect with you.
Later, it is used to foster desire WITHIN your dog to WANT to do sit, down, stay, heel.
The great thing is, it is simple, dogs LOVE it (you will, too) and once you get the hang of it, it is a tool you can use for the lifetime of your dog.
Commonly, once a dog's energy is well-channeled in harmony with yours, much less - or no - food training may be necessary. However, if you run into a training impasse, it is helpful to go back to re-establish this root. ALSO, it provides a great way for you and your dog to connect on a regular basis, even when you are well along in the training.
Natural Dog Training food and pushing is actually the basis of EVERYTHING you ultimately do with your dog. It can be utilized at any point in a dog's development. It can be used to bring a dog back on track if some outside influence manages to interfere with their ability to make direct contact with anything in their world.
Once you've got this first routine very solid, everything you want to teach your dog evolves out of it - SIT, DOWN, STAY, HEEL, etc.
NOTE: As temperament matures, and assuming a dog has not been too emotionally damaged, the need to use food will go down or may become unneccessary.
There are times in training when use of food may be disadvantageous or just redundant. For example, if you were to play hide-and-seek in a safe outdoor environment, the reward of finding you is more than enough for your dog - food would tend to take energy away from the pure excitement of the chase and finding the prey (you).
What is the basis for Natural Dog Training food and pushing?
You are gaining access to the deepest, oldest, most primal impulse - the very bedrock of what makes your dog a dog.
This is a reliable entry point for a level of trust so high that your dog will give you the 'last 1%' energy in the service of utmost harmony, cooperation and love.
As close as dogs and humans are, most dog / human relationships never reach that 'last 1%' level.
***Among canines that serve in law enforcement, military and in hunting you see more of this. After all, these are jobs that require great trust between dog and handler and great initiative on the part of the dog.
- You can't force a dog to search a dark building he's never seen before to apprehend an armed, dangerous criminal!
- You can't force a hunting dog to sit nearby as you fire a 12-gauge shotgun!
- ...and you can't force the dog to dive into icy water repeatedly to retrieve 2 dozen birds and bring them to your hand!
For such relationships to be productive, the handler must work skillfully with the natural inclinations of their dog.***
Natural Dog Training food and pushing peels back the layers of stress, poor upbringing and mishandling by humans to bring a dog back to the contentment and safety of their first days of life.
From the moment a pup is born, they need to nurse from the mother dog to eat and thrive. If you have ever observed a new litter, you notice that if the mother dog stands up, the pups lose their place at the nipples. Disharmony and pandemonium break out, the pups roll about in disarray, loudly wailing.
The puppies engage in a search mission to find a nipple again. This is their first 'hunt.' They surge forward this way and that until they once again are all lined up at the mother dog's belly. With the comfort of warm milk once again filling their bellies, they contentedly quiet down.
Have you ever observed how pups nurse? To access the milk, they drive with their hind legs and push into the mother's belly. As they are feeding, some of this pushing continues, in order to maintain contact.
What if we could get our dog THAT committed, and invested in, maintaining contact with US? That is the basis of the Natural Dog Training food and pushing exercise.
PHOTO ABOVE: Only ten minutes and this dog who was just introduced to Natural Dog Training food and pushing is clearly investing more energy and intensity in his committment to make contact with the trainer.
Holding the food close to our belly mimics the first days of life when pups are close to mother's belly. A dog also better connects with your deep emotional core when the food is held in this way.
In the wild, wolves drive with their hind feet and push into their prey when hunting animals much larger than they. In this activity, we see a mirror image of the baby pups pushing off their hind legs to nurse.
Hunting together is an activity where total cooperation prevails. Each wolf approaches the prey from a different position. None of them are fighting each other over their place in the process - they all are in harmony. This mirrors the pups lined up nursing - each one has its place at the mother's belly, and they are all in harmony.
By using Natural Dog Training food and pushing with your dog, you are mimicking the most harmonious and satisfying activity for them - the hunt which has been imprinted in them from the moment of birth. You and your dog become as one. THAT is training!
When we use this exercise in a way that reawakens this way of moving, a pup or dog is ALSO able to unburden itself of built-up stress.
Because your dog is digging deep into the stored-up 'deep inner stress' in their abdominal area and pushing through resistance (your hand against their lower neck/upper shoulder holding them back).
THIS ALONE begins the process of toning down or eliminating nervousness, fear and behavior problems that grow out of the burden of unchanneled energy.
Additionally, by pushing toward you, they are investing energy into their relationship with you, and opening toward you emotionally.
When dogs run off and get in trouble, it is this kind of satisfying activity they are looking for. What if you became the number one source of this satisfying 'hunt?' Do you think it could be less likely that your dog would need to seek this satisfaction elsewhere? The answer is 'yes.'
'Deep inner stress' is the term Kevin Behan uses to describe the energy charge that naturally builds in any living organism. It builds through various means. Just being alive, we accumulate energy which calls for emotionally satisfying movement to get it to flow. If it's not flowing, the charge increases, just like a battery being charged up. If there is no release and flow of that energy - the charge becomes a hazard. At some point, the battery will explode.
When we see a dog that 'snaps,' 'turns,' and bites someone or something - it is not a sudden process. It has been building up for a LONG time. Even if a dog only accumulates a 5% charge every month and discharges 95% of its energy - over 20 months or so, a big energy overload builds.
Depending on the temperament of the dog, symptoms of overload can include seemingly unreasonable nervousness and fear - or inappropriate, unprovoked aggression. Fear is part of what is perceived as undesireable expressions of aggression. In dogs of higher energy, this can result in someone being bitten by innocently and inadvertently triggering the dog.
Natural Dog Training food and pushing is a core exercise because it relieves the excessive burden of energy - it drains the charge so that the pressure level goes down. The result is we have a more composed, satisfied, confident puppy or dog - and a much safer one to be around.
This exercise is a way of connecting emotionally, attracting your dog's drive and forging the deepest bond possible with your dog.
HOW YOU ARE with your dog when doing the Natural Dog Training food and pushing exercise is CRUCIAL!
In 'Hunting for Heart,' the 'how we are BEING with our dog' is explored as you join me, Ena and Kevin Behan on that quest!
PHOTO BELOW: Ena as a baby pup, ready to teach me some important life lessons!
BUY 'Hunting for Heart' and
Rediscover Your Primordial Bond With Dogs