Day 3: The Trail Ahead

Part 1

We started the day off with a nice breakfast and some table-talk about this idea of returning to a default, while at the same time being able to be flexible with the flow of a pathway. An animal’s default, both human and dog included, might be another way of saying comfort zone. We’ve all had times when we had to adjust either direction from our comfort zone and then return to it. Its about adaptability – being able to stretch and then return to base. Kevin uses the traffic metaphor where you have, say five vehicles all going the same pathway but at varying speeds according their default. For instance, 55, 60, 65, 73, and 85 mph. If one is required to move out of default, it must be able to do it under circumstances in which it can adapt. The key here to understand is to strip down any idea of dominance. A person who is driving 85 mph compared to my 70 isn’t trying to dominate me, he’s simply trying to get back to or maintain his default. That’s why when I’m in the left lane and he’s on my ass there’s tension, or vibration, and it needs to be sorted out. So I find a way to make things get back to flow by getting over to the right lane. This does NOT mean that I’m submitting, rather, I’m returning to my default and allowing for Mr. 85 mph to return to his.

The other analogy Kevin points out, and I hope my wife pays attention since she is a musician/choir teacher, is that the pack is no different than a choir. Everyone has their own pitch which gives them a place, or as I like to refer to it as a fitting, in the group. In a choir the singers have different sounds; alto, soprano, tenor, bass, etc. The bass isn’t dominating the tenor or vice versa, they are simply in a different output setting. Together you have one harmonious sound…well, at least you are supposed to. Now, if you add a singer, depending on his or her pitch, other singers may have to move around a bit to maintain the flow of the sound. For instance, I sing in our men’s ensemble at church and my default is tenor but sometimes I need to fill in for the high notes compared to the others.

The example I brought in to this discussion was Alfred Adler’s model for family dynamics. Adler was an Austrian psychotherapist who developed his own psychological theory, Individual Psychology, which veered away from Freud’s psychosexual theory of development. He was famous for coining the terms inferiority complex and family constellation. What I identify Adler with in terms of Natural Dog Training is his theory on birth order. He believed that the family dynamic/constellation operated from the interactions between the roles, or fittings, of each child which was based in their order of birth. It did not mean that the oldest sibling was dominant over the youngest sibling; rather, each child had their own temperamental default that contributed to the whole that was the family dynamic. The same applies to dogs and wolves. Each member gravitates to their respective position within the network of the group in order to make it work.

A constellation in the sky has individual parts, and us humans perceive it that way. But, hypothetically speaking you take away a star from the Big Dipper and you get a shift in the dynamic of the constellation; you take a sibling out of the equation and you get a shift in the context of the family; you take a dog or wolf out of the pack and you get a shift in the dynamic of the group. In all of these there is a difference in the collective energy that is made up of the group consciousness. I can recall when it was just my wife and I and our first apartment. The dynamic consisted of just the two of us. We got our first house and then Bella entered the equation and the three of us adjusted to this new energy. The same thing happened to Trace and Bella became a bit of a different dog – this is natural of course, but how I responded to it was key. Over time, the dynamic of this unit made up of two humans and two dogs evolved. And then you add a baby into the mix and you’ve got one interesting constellation, all with individuals who are part of one group mind and all who are trying to create a sense of flow in relation to each other.

I’ve probably over-analyzed this whole thing but that’s how my mind works.

Part 2

The remainder of the day involved a lot of hands on learning with each individual dog. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty but I do want to touch on how I’m trying to synthesize today’s experience for each dog. Overall, as Kevin pointed out to me, both dogs did fairly well to the variety of techniques. We did a good bit of hide and seek during the beginning part of the day. I was introduced to the infamous trail that leads up to the open field, all along the way practicing come thru hide-and-seek in segments. Trace’s energy gradually improved as we razzed him up a bit. I’d go about 50 yards and duck behind a tree or a rock way and soon enough he’d come trotting along. By the end he was finally giving me some credit for being in his surrounding, but we still have a way to go for him to really focus on me. He is relearning everything about how nature operates. We are introducing him to the idea that tuning me out is not an optimal choice and that the menu of choices include pushing and biting through tug-o-war. The first half of the day he didn’t take any food but once we had him on the line parallel with Bella and did some healing/pushing work, he began to take food. It was during this time in the afternoon that he began to feel how good it is to choose not to panic – again, he’s got a way to go but boy was it a good feeling to see that.

Bella did really well in the morning with hide-and-seek. We hardly needed her on leash. At each segment she’d come blazing down the path, bounding through the mud and terrain. As soon as she’d find me, she’d come to take food and soak in the rub-a-dub. The afternoon was a little more of a struggle for her (a clear example of the equal opposite with Trace having a better afternoon than in the morning). Part of it was me working on the mechanics of sit and down using whisk-away-and-zing. I’m getting a better hang of it. The key for me is to get better at noticing when she collects herself, when she’s trying to take in the food through her subliminal beam.

Anyway, I could keep writing more but I don’t want my exhaustion to seep into this blog. I was able to end the day off with a nice cold beer and come chat time before the sun set. I also got to talk to my wife for a bit which was nice because it has been three days. I really miss them.

Hope you all have a good one and I’ll be back tomorrow!

Scott

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3 thoughts on “Day 3: The Trail Ahead

  1. Thank you for the update—I was looking forward to it after working at our “For Sale” house. Part 1: (a) I recall the traffic analogy from Atterbury as being particularly related to dispelling the dominance myth. Yet, I wonder about the qualitative aspects of each dog’s (handler’s) default setting. Are life stressors harder to negotiate for those at the higher or lower default settings? (b) Interesting on the analogy, I just met an Emergency Manager for a Northern Indian county who does an entire class on the Incident Command System (ICS) as an orchestra. ICS is really about the group mind, the hunt, getting all players focused on the Mission objectives, the moose. The greatest obstacle to the ICS group mind is ego in the form of rumors and gossip. Part 2: I have a rather dumb question. Is the time you spend with Kevin to be work on yourself and your dogs or time to learn how to work with many different dogs with varying degrees and types of strengths and weaknesses? Or, a combination of both? I feel very new to NDT at times. Like I am poking around trying to feel my way through an unknown area. I have a pedantic notion of how-to train-the-trainer but understand that Kevin’s model may differ from the current norms. Noticing how and when the dog “collects” itself seems critical. A different observational skill or situational awareness than we are used to as therapists. So happy to hear that Trace is doing well and taking food.

    Sleep well.

    1. Regarding your part one: the combination of the traffic example and the choir really hits it home for me in terms of the template by which we operate within a family unit, dogs included. It just makes sense and I don’t see how other people can complicate it by misinterpreting something as a dynamic of dominance/submission.

      Regarding your part two: not a dub question at all. I think it is going to be a mixture of both. Getting a good look at my dogs and myself and at the same time training me to be a trainer. I think a big part of for me is just getting a handle of the little nuances. For instance, let’s say you have the dog on a box or rock and you want to whisk-away-and-zing, a shift in the hind feet or energy that becomes concentrated in the rear-end are cues to zing because the dog is trying to settle energy back there to draw in the food. For me, I liken it to my work in aikido where we are doing a lot of whole-body-mechanics in order to blend with an attacker: you want to grow to FEEL the movement as opposed to solely seeing it.

  2. Love reading about your experiences Scott, as I work with Sang on one of my dogs. Thanks for sharing – make sure you don’t get too tired to keep us all up to date 🙂 (selfish, that’s me!)

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