Through a dog’s eyes

Kevin Behan, dog trainer and author from Newfane, Vt., is shown with Rufus, a dog he is training, on Saturday at Harvey’s Home, Garden and Pet in Johnstown. Once trained, Rufus will be avaiable for adoption. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

JOHNSTOWN — It was once thought that dogs became a problem because owners were too dominant.

This allegedly caused the dogs to shut down emotionally, rebel against their owners, or attack other people.

Dog trainer Kevin Behan of Newfane, Vt., who spoke Saturday at Harvey’s Home, Garden and Pet, disagrees and uses his insights into dog or wolf pack behavior to train dogs.

In an interview, Behan said a dog’s “real social impulse is the wolves hunting as a team” and that hunting is a part of a dog’s nature.

“We teach the dogs to mimic hunting,” he said. Chasing, biting and retrieving a frisbee, a ball or a stick for his owner “makes him feel great.”

“All dog training is hunting. Your dog wants to be part of your team,” which satisfies a dog’s natural emotional need—and “he starts to like the world,” said Behan, who calls his method Natural Dog Training.

He compares it to the satisfaction and camaraderie a human gets in being part of a team sport.

A dog needs to be challenged to bite and carry—some dogs more than others, lean back on their hind legs to relax when excited, get belly rubs, and speak on command to let out stress.

Once a dog is emotionally comfortable, commotions in new environments won’t upset him. Behan said he’s taken dogs from quiet countryside in Vermont to the bustling streets of Manhattan without incident.

Behan has been training dogs for 50 years, including rehabilitation of aggressive and problem dogs. He trained his first dog at 10 and started his own kennel in 1981.

He has trained hundreds of police, protection and border-patrol dogs, as well as pets.

Behan has written books called “Natural Dog Training” and “Your Dog Is Your Mirror.”

Behan’s father trained dogs for the K-9 Corps in World War II and was the first American to train dogs for hospitals, police units and retail stores.

By Patricia Older

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