When I first read Your Dog Is Your Mirror by Kevin Behan, I felt this new paradigm perfectly explained the relationship between me and my dogs. Five years later, I'm still working with Kevin to learn all that I can about his unique method of dog training, while using it to rehab my own rescue dogs. Natural Dog Training asserts that a dog has been gifted with a large emotional capacity, and this in turn explains why their relationship with humans is so unique. Their ability to create deep emotional bonds with us is what makes them such valuable members of our family.
When a puppy is raised in the NDT style, all one has to do is maintain his naturally open-hearted approach to the world. However, for those of us who have taken on older dogs, or maybe raised a puppy with too much stimulation, discipline, or even too much training, we may need to employ the techniques that Kevin has developed to bring our dog back into a flow state-- a state of being in which the dog is completely connected to his owner, his body and his environment.
Working with a dog to bring him back in touch with his natural openness is therapeutic not only for the dog, but for the handler as well. While there are Five Core Exercises in Natural Dog Training, each dog requires a different "prescription." And discerning the needs of an individual dog takes a type of sensitivity and receptivity that brings us closer to a state of immediate-moment consciousness that is quintessential to the dog's way of being. So in the process of healing the dog, of returning him to his natural state, we ourselves must embody the very qualities we wish to produce in the dog.
This way of being with your dog is different from clicker training, and has evolved beyond alpha and pack theories. If you are interested in learning more, and in deepening the connection with your canine companion, Kevin and I will be at Planet Dog for Yappy Hour on August 14th from 1-3 pm to discuss Natural Dog Training. This will entail a demonstration of the Five Core Exercises and a follow up Q&A session to spark further discussion. Hope to see you there!
This article was originally published in Maine Dog Magazine, July of 2016.