This chapter covered a period of time when Kevin, as a young man, had a greater stake in his father’s dog training business, just as he began to implement his own model. You sort of start to see a parallel between the components of NDT, how that contradicted his father’s dominance method, and the way that impacted their relationship with each other. His theory continued to evolve. The desire for a canine to hunt meant more than just being satiated – it operates on a deeper, emotional level. When a canine wants something, it sticks to that desire regardless of the amount of resistance is present, and they use this to adapt to different emotional states. Moreover, when wondering why a dog acts or emotes in a particular way, we ought to ask the same thing of ourselves (eg, “why is my dog appearing fearful” –> “what is it that I am fearing?”). In the hunt, the prey is in control. Therefore, if you determine what is prey, then you control the dog. This moves away from dominance/respect/alpha to a shared feeling. You and the prey then become held “in the same frame of reference” to the dog. The prey directs the hunt, not the alpha pack leader. And the difference between what happens in the wild and a domestic home is access to prey.
I liked how this chapter was put together in terms of the beginnings of the NDT and what was going in his life at the time. I felt moved by how his familial anecdotes sync up with his development of the model – it made me think about my life from both broad and narrow perspectives. It is very clear, as you continue to read this book, how our life experiences, our relationships with family and friends and loved ones, have a direct affect on our connection with our dogs.
So, if the dogs and I are out in the woods and we see a deer or rabbit or squirrel or some other animal, basically one of two things will happen: 1) if I train them as if I am alpha pack leader to go in a different direction, then I’m suddenly down two dogs who are a few hundred yards away from me chasing after the “real” prey – because I wouldn’t be a source of attraction; or 2) if I train them the Natural Dog Training way, we are one group, one emotion, attracted toward prey of a higher value = me (i.e. via pushing, fetchtug, inducing a calm steady state focus, etc.). The latter, for those of you who practice NDT know this, takes time, patience and dedicated work.
Some neutrally-charged comments on the dominance model described in this chapter: if a mother supposedly shows to her pup that she is pack leader, then why is it that the mother becomes just as stressed as the pup after a “corrective action”? If an authority/alpha role is truly a basic function of canine order and behavior then the leader ought to show no sign of stress or any other behavior that puts their role in question. If you see in this video the alpha (white) appears fearful – I don’t know about you, but when I am fearful of something, I am tense, my muscles stiffen up, and I’m on high alert. Not signs of a true, dominant pack leader.