The Kinship Story

Sometimes there’s just something you know must be true. Everything supports your belief in it being this way. Ever since I was a kid, I knew there was something magical about interacting with other living creatures. It didn’t matter what species. I knew there was a way to make contact that would transform the way the world was for me. It has to do with an attitude that sets the stage for contact with others to be possible. From this attitude contact will occur, it must. Once contact occurs, there is a bond and a relationship forms. This was what compelled me to continue on the path to master this attitude. Even as a child, I knew what was important was being able to make contact and build relationships. I also knew intuitively that what was true between me and animals would also be true of people and me. This became my quest; how to make contact so that I could have that which was vital to me, relationships. I now know there is a way to do this that is exquisite. It works all the time, with everyone, everywhere, no matter what.

A trained dog behaves and listens all the time on or off leash no matter where they are or what is going on, and you can trust them to roam free in your house even when you’re not there. In order to train a dog you must make contact, without any corrections or pain or negative confrontation. No treats either no bribery with cheese doodles. It takes a little dog psychology and praise as well as contact. It is more than just training a dog to know commands. Training is a way of life and never wears off because it is constantly being reinforced through contact.

It is not so much about what training your dog this way can do for you as much as it is about what it can do to you. I will teach how to make contact with your dog and the attitude necessary for contact to occur. I will teach you how to read your dog so you will understand them and how to pace them so you can develop rapport. I will teach how to be with your dog and how to train them to behave and listen to you off leash.

I do dog training because it is my deeply held personal belief that dogs can offer their owners opportunities for personal growth and companionship that are not experienced frequently enough. Dogs are always in touch with the reality of the moment. They react directly to the environment. It is their ability to let go of the past and the future that dogs can offer their human companions. The peace and comfort that this ability offers is amazing. If we allow them to, our dogs will show us the world in ways many have forgotten since we ourselves were children. In return we may begin to understand that all the inhabitants of the earth have a place in the grand scheme and a right to be here.

Having relationships with dogs has led me to a realization that animals live in a different world than people. In the woods with the animals, all sense of time fades. I realize being with animals wasn’t just about making contact or the attitude necessary for it to occur. It is also about what the relationships formed in this way do for us and to us. Time stopped for me for the first time out of the woods.

Most training programs are based on reward and punishment and rely on conditioning. There is an alternative. You can teach your dog from a model based on learning. The difference between conditioning and learning is that true learning is generative. Teaching from a generative model teaches your dog how to learn. When you teach your dog how to learn, you escape from having to train it situationally.

Which means no corrections.

Sharing some of my secrets will help you understand why my dogs show such remarkable intelligence and how they can do such extraordinary things. I begin by pacing the dog, creating interest, obtaining respect, building confidence and developing rapport.

Once this is in place I find out where I can meet the dog on a basis of mutual understanding. During this work I study the dog’s general attitude and behavior, then I begin helping them to achieve their best possible self.

When working with clients I often find myself re-educating them. I usually have to work from the inside out. The dogs need to be released from the poor behavior often encouraged by their well-meaning owners. I end up teaching them how to play and have fun, the meaning of love and friendship, how to care for others, and do their own thinking, and most important of all how to be themselves (both the dogs and the humans).

I remember reading about J. Allen Boone who was given the job of caring for Strongheart, a magnificent German import German Shepherd trained for police and movie work in his book Kinship With All Life.

Strongheart was delivered to Boone’s house by a man who was said to talk to Strongheart not the way people talked to dogs but as though he were talking to a person. Strongheart was told who Boone was and why he had to stay with him and to do the best he could by him.

Strongheart listened, like he understood. Every now and then he would look over at Boone and scan him from head to toe, as though deciding for himself if he agreed. The man told Boone to treat Strongheart exactly as you would treat a person. And was told not to talk down to him or use baby talk or to say anything to him that he did not sincerely mean. And that he should read something worthwhile to him every day.

Boone didn’t know what Strongheart thought of him or how he was going to take care of him but he felt that Strongheart probably did and that he might somehow be able understand. I find it remarkable and rare that Boone could let himself learn from a dog. I found it reassuring that somebody else did too.

When bedtime came Boone ran into a dilemma. Strongheart climbed on the bed and kept turning his backend towards Boones’ face. Boone kept trying to turn Strongheart around but ended up sleeping with Strongheart’s tail hitting him in the nose. As if that weren’t enough Strongheart kept jumping up at noises and every time he did Boone was toppled to the floor. Boone tried to correct Strongheart saying you either calm down or sleep somewhere else. But Strongheart grabbed hold of Boone’s sleeve and led him to the door where he had been jumping. Strongheart let go of Boone and grabbed the door knob and opened the door. Then he began looking towards the door then back at Boone and Strongheart was able to explain he preferred to sleep facing the door. And so Strongheart got Boone to turn the bed around so he could sleep facing the door. Boone writes he was actually conscious of being in rational correspondence with Strongheart. This is the secret of my success. Because I am willing to learn from dogs, I found a way to understanding through pacing and rapport that allows me to make contact.

In the movie Powder there is a scene where the deputy goes hunting and he shoots a deer. Powder grabbed the deputy by the arm and put his hand on the deer. The deputy was jolted back with fear and terror. When Powder let go of him he was screaming with terror and curled up on the ground trembling and crying. Later on the Sheriff came to see him and questioned him about why he was not competing in the sharp shooters contest, one that he had won for the last five years or so. He said that he just didn’t want to any more. He said that when Powder grabbed him he felt the deer dying. He felt life going away and being more terrified and alone than ever before. And now when he looks down the barrel of a gun all he can do is feel the fear and terror of dying and being alone, more alone than he had ever understood existed and that he just can’t do it anymore. The Sheriff next asked Powder what he did to the deputy. Powder said he opened him up so he could see what he was doing. Powder had been able to establish contact for the deputy so he could experience what the deer was going through. The attitude that allows contact comes from understanding, empathy, and being open and interested in what the animal can show you. Dogs have plenty to show. Having the attitude causes contact to occur, you cannot stop it, it just happens to you. Having contact causes you to become aware of even your simplest actions. Once you have contact you cannot escape it, but you wouldn’t want to. With contact you are never alone or afraid. Dogs have contact all the time. Dogs don’t want you to help them; they want you to lead them.

Dogs want to be with us and need us. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, in her book The Hidden Life of Dogs, writes that she would let two of her dogs roam free and when they got lost they would walk up to someone’s porch and sit down and wait for her to come and get them. She was told to come and get them, of course by the people who read the tags on the dog’s collars and called her. This provides evidence to support my belief that dogs want to be with us. She says her dogs did this over and over again like they knew she would come and get them if they did and I believe her and I think they knew how to get a ride home.

As amazing as dogs are I believe that a dog can only think and act like a dog and they are not little fur people. We have an obligation to care for them and to protect them from harm, danger and corrections. And to train them, a dog can only do what you let them do. When handled correctly they can do no wrong. Establish contact, get their attention and teach them how to behave.

Proper training is a form of survival assistance. When dolphins with offspring need to go and hunt for food another member of the pod will baby sit. They have been observed teaching the baby some ways to hunt. This form of survival assistance is called kinship. Kinship® is the method of training all dog owners have been waiting for, a way to make contact and really get your dog trained.

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