Chapter 6: The Immediate-Moment Theory


Kevin’s realization that dogs are pure emotion came to him during a dawning experience as a trainer in 1978. In a few moments of observing a large group of kenneled dogs he came to know, or rather feel, from the energy around him that emotion was the basis of all animal behavior. There are a number of facets that make up this part of his model.  Dogs do not sense time, they only feel what they feel in the moment and cannot take on the perspective of another being. Dogs are adaptive but do not have the higher level cognitive abilities that humans assume they have. He states, “a dog cannot remember, yet it never forgets.” Moreover, different dogs learn in different ways but “trainability” falls upon temperament, or what we often call personality. Even though temperaments vary among dogs, it is always driven by emotion. Every behavior, whether chasing a toy, hunting, sitting, playing, eating, tail wagging, sniffing, and so on is emotional. The most basic expression of emotion, which is sprouted from desire, is through the urge to use the mouth or bite: the ‘urge to ingest’ = grounding. Energy (emotion) moves through a dog in order to get to ground. Like a piece of metal attracted to a magnetic field, so does emotion within a dog go to an object of attraction. Dogs are pulled toward something emotionally because it feels good to them.


There are many times when my dogs will play-bite with me: we have a game of back and forth tussle and there can be a lot of mouth-to-forearm interaction. It’s fun for all involved and it’s not the extent to where they break skin, because what I’ve learned from NDT is that dogs can be precise with the amount of bite-force they make on an object of attraction. I suppose it is a matter of how much resistance is involved and whether emotion is flowing in harmony or discordantly. For instance, a few years ago there was a night when I was feeding the dogs and Trace had taken Bella’s food away from her. So I proceeded to slowly approach Trace to grab the food. We made eye contact and he instantly focused his vision on the food. Bella came upon my right side so now I was between both dogs. I took my eyes away from the food and made contact with Bella as she approached and then Trace bit my hand – just a little “love bite” but enough to where it startled me.

Bad news on my part was that I scolded him verbally and gave him a bop on the nose for biting me. It was a gut-reaction and I don’t blame him for biting me. Good news is that I learned from that experience and it helped understand a bit about the NDT method:

  1. I realized that Trace did not intend to hurt me – his energy ran to ground (into my hand) as an additional variable entered the equation (Bella)
  2. I created a feeling of anger/frustration that tried to block Trace’s desire to run to ground; hence, he bit me when I tried to take what he wanted (food)
  3. In that moment we were equal opposites, eliciting both the prey and predator aspects, with the common factor being the desire for the food
  4. I realized that not only does judging a dog’s behavior affect the ability to create harmonized group consciousness, but so does judging yourself for your own emotional reaction to a dog’s behavior. For instance, I immediately felt bad about my reaction to Trace. Minutes later when he had finished his own food, I approached him and was able to play with him fine. However, I wonder how the negative feelings towards myself impacts the energy within the dog? What then do I do with that?

I understand that intention requires the process of sensing time + taking on a point of view other than one’s self. I went wrong in assuming that Trace knew what he was doing and that he knew why I reacted the way I did. I also realize that even though we were able to play around minutes later, that experience turned into a physical memory of stress for him.

Have I got all of this right? What am I missing NDT community?

© 2011 – 2014 by Scott Hamilton and ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kevin Behan says:

    As always, very insightful. So yes, you became the ground for that electrostatic burst of energy, and also, had you attracted that energy in the dog’s development, then he would have been able to feel that was still you because when he got so intense, he had no feeling for you, thus he couldn’t “know” that hand was a part of you. And you’re exactly right that the judgment against what we feel is what makes the energy debilitating for the dog. If we just “feel” bad and become comfortable with the feeling by not attaching any judgments to it, it dissipates and the dog is none the worse for wear. Even when there are training accidents and a fight happens, depending on how the owner processes the event determines how the dogs process it. If we don’t indulge in guilt then it will process healthfully.

    1. Scott says:

      Ok, thank you for the validation. So, in a similar situation, when two dogs are getting into a fight, say again over food, I assume there are at least two ways to approach that? 1) in the moment, with two dogs gnarling teeth, growling, face-to-face, etc, the owner ought to not overreact emotionally/behaviorally; 2) the bulk of the work in that situation is actually going to take place with individual training (i.e., work with each dog, pushing, stalking, getting stress to surface and then channeling it “positively”).

      But as I step back for a moment and ponder: what’s “wrong” with two dogs fighting over food from a natural point of view? Now, of course the home isn’t the wild, and for me personally with a child in the home I want to be careful if such a thing would occur. So in the moment, how do you channel that from a NDT perspective?

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    When a dog really wants its food, in other words is really clear about feeling desire for the food, pure state of hunger, as opposed to needing the food as a release for pent up energy, then when another dog approaches it while it’s feeding, the other dog doesn’t want the food because it can feel how clear that dog is and it just keeps its distance or turns away. Likewise, a clear dog doesn’t get itself into situations around another dog’s food and if it inadvertently strays into another dog’s zone and gets razzed, it doesn’t retaliate but gets itself out of it as best it can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s