Dogs don’t have the ability to think, they don’t understand time and they certainly don’t project into the future. However, dogs do have an amazing ability in their sense of smell. The significance of that is something we often don’t fully understand. Dogs are emotionally charged by what they feel because there is an underlying value to it. There is a deeper meaning in our relationship with them when we see how they detect illnesses such as cancer. Moreover, human beings constantly emit ungrounded energy that attracts dogs. Kevin argues that this is so because this new energy has “potential.” It draws out a dog’s desire to make contact with it, or, to go to ground. Dogs are drawn to objects in which we invest energy, such as a toy. The object is now an extension of our being and has been charged by our own energy: an effective tool when it comes to training.
There’s no better explanation than this: “Animal consciousness and human consciousness intersect at the dog. Dogs are “heart energy”: the place where physical and nerve energy intersect, where brain meets body, where human connects with nature. This makes the dog humanity’s emotional mirror. Dogs precisely reflect how our physical and nervous energies become our feelings. Dogs are our ultimate tool for self-revelation” (Behan 2011, p. 15)
The one sentence that caught my eye in this chapter was this: “This emotional arousal is also why playing tug with a dog is a more powerful emotional reward in a training regimen than just giving a dog a food treat, since the trainer invests more emotion into a game of tug” (Behan 2011, p. 13). With both of our dogs, tug-of-war, fetch, and even play-fighting is so exhilarating. Its not only the physical exertion of energy but also the feeling of yin-and-yang, oneness with the dog. In biological terms, its as if we are a vector that carries energy (emotion) from one cell (human) to another (dog) via agent (toy)…back and forth, back and forth. But I think the energy doesn’t have to flow externally, it can flow internally as well. For instance, when I feel emotionally charged to take the dogs out to go potty, they can sense that. But when I feel emotionally charged to go for a walk, they REALLY sense that! Two different actions, two levels of intrinsic value to the emotional charge.
One thing I have realized in my own training is not to think too much, and go more by feel. I think this can be a powerful tool because I am more emotionally and physically invested in the dog training. As a practitioner of the Japanese martial art of Aikido, I am reminded of the struggles that often occur in learning new technique. It can be so frustrating when it doesn’t work at first: maybe I’m not moving correctly, maybe me feet aren’t placed correctly, maybe I’m not in a good hanmi, or lower center stance, MAYBE I’M THINKING TOO MUCH! Sensei has a remedy for this: blindfolding. Its amazing what a blindfolded human can do with an attacker: you quit over-thinking and go by feel. Its actually kind of funny when you realize how effective you can be when you flow with your attacker by feeling his energy connecting with your own. Maybe this example is a bit off track, but I’m wondering if there is a connection?
More on investing emotional energy into objects: Bella loves socks and shoes, and occasionally one of my wife’s bras. Think about it, our feet touch the “ground” all the time. Add that to the motion of our walking, running, etc and you see how much energy we put into our shoes. Every time we come home after being gone Bella is right there with one of my slippers or shoes in her mouth. Likewise, she’s using her jaws to bite into it: the fastest method a dog uses to go to ground. I also find it interesting, as Kevin alludes in this chapter, the way the dogs react when I’ve been around other dogs. For instance, I took care of two Huskies for a friend of ours. Every day, we’d spend some time working on pushing or stalking, and I’d come home and Bella and Trace were like magnets to me. The same thing happens when we come back from vacation. We have spent time exporting emotional energy into something and even when we leave that something we carry that new energy back with us and our dogs pick up on it. Now, most dog owners have experienced these kinds of things time after time but now we have a better understanding of what’s going on.