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:
- 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)
- 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)
- In that moment we were equal opposites, eliciting both the prey and predator aspects, with the common factor being the desire for the food
- 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?