Kevin Behan: A Legend in His Own Mind

${``}Self{-}praise\ is\ no\ recommendation{"} -\ proverb$

If one were to believe the propaganda Kevin Behan has built around himself, you would come out with the impression that he is the kind of intellect that comes around once in a generation. He realized evolution was wrong with just by taking a couple of biology courses. He can defeat dogs using only his “dog warden energy” which he stores in a “battery”. And if the scientific community would only listen to him. he could revolutionize, not only dog training, but also biology, chemistry, psychology and physics.

Behan has managed to gather small, but dedicated following by marketing to an unsophisticated audience and dazzling them with gibberish. Like many snake-oil salesmen he uses scientific language to impress his reader. In reality he is saying nothing at all. The way he explains dog behavior comes down to a meaningless slogan :It’s all “energy” dude.

“If something your dog is doing isn’t in service to your group, your network, by definition it is because it is working from an ELECTRICAL static load/overload dynamic. Therefore, don’t desensitize, RE-MAGNETIZE, by definition this will inform the dog how to ALIGN with you along the flow of a completed ELECTRICAL circuit, i.e. the owner as a part of dogs-mind-as-energy-circuit because owner is bringing the dog’s “moose energy” (deepest layer in the battery) TO GROUND.” – Kevin Behan [ed. his emphasis]

Kevin is the greatest. Just ask him.

He Debunked Pack Theory

“Actually, I may be the first one to discredit the “old wolf pack theory.”[1]

His Theory is All Encompassing.

“The NDT claim of being natural is supported on every level by a consistent argument that never contradicts itself as it carries through basic physics, evolution, domestication, temperament, emotion, personality, sexuality, aggression, learning and sociability. “[2]

Cognition Researchers are Wasting Their Time – dogs don’t learn.

“Quite to the contrary, the energy model I’m proposing will prove to be the only one in the marketplace that doesn’t treat the dog as either an instinctual automaton or a learning machine. I’m saying that the source of their creative adaptability is not intellectual and neither is it genetic.”[3]

Problem with Biology is TOO MUCH Thinking

“Evolutionary biology is “thought-centric” because it seeks reasons as to why some genes flourish while others go extinct, rather than seeing genes as an expression of natural laws, and as subordinate to these laws. “[3]

Behan Invented the Use of Tug Toys for Training

“In 1998 I worked with a trainer who was having difficulty teaching her dog to stay in the start position at Agility training while the other dogs were running the course… Then 12 years later I’m working with another person from the agility world and they tell me that this is now common training practice in the Agility world. Now maybe someone else thought of it on their own, but I wonder if there is any instance of it happening before 1998.”[4]

“The best explanation for everything canine, from the evolution of the wolf to the domestication of the dog—to the incredible emotional relationship that has emerged between the modern pet and its owner— is that dogs feel what we feel.”[5]

Charles Darwin Stole from Kevin Behan

“My theory is that dogs and humans have the same primordial emotional makeup.”[5]

Pavlov’s Discoveries are Trivial

“Okay, if we cannot say that the dog salivated because of an association, because that really isn’t saying anything, why, then, does the dog salivate when he hears the bell?”[5]

In a future post I will address some of the more ridiculous claims made by Behan but I’ll leave you with one more quote that illustrates how little this man knows about dogs.

“Meanwhile, because dogs don’t and can’t think, they do not respond to what their owner thinks, says, or even does;”[5]

Unified Dog Theory: Kelley’s 19th Nervous Breakdown

REFERENCES

23 thoughts on “Kevin Behan: A Legend in His Own Mind”

1. Kevin Behan sounds like the long-lost love-child of Chuck Norris and Sylvia Browne.

• Apparently he’s not published in any journal because scientists reject his views because he threatens them….

2. john says:

Towering genius disdains a beaten path, it seeks regions hitherto unexplored,

We should be too big to take offence, and too noble to give it,

Abe Lincoln

3. Am I supposed to understand anything that I just read from this guy? Because I don’t. What exactly is he advocating here? How does he train a dog? Does this mean that I should rub my sweater against my dog real quick and that will fix her aggression issues? Because that’s energy, right? Hm…maybe a worthwhile experiment. Also, has he spent even one minute around a dog in his life? Dogs don’t learn. What a crock! If a dog doesn’t learn you couldn’t even teach it your tug training agility methods in the first place you idiot. God, next thing you know he’ll have a following like Cesar Millan and Pattinson and the rest, and we’ll just have one more person who won’t listen when we try to explain that dogs don’t sit around and howl at the moon when people aren’t around. Sigh. I apologize for the cynicism, I have little patience for idiocy this week.

• No you are not supposed to really understand it. Like a lot of quackery, it prodigious gibberish

Consider this explanation for an anti flea tag. I almost get the feeling that Behan wrote the copy: “The EasyDefense tag is treated with a bio-energetic process and sealed in an electro-magnetic shielded envelope. When opened and placed on your pet, it uses your pet’s own inherent energy to send out frequencies that repel pests. The process operates with quantum mechanic’s refined frequencies, and is somewhat similar to the basic principles of homeopathy. ”
http://www.onlynaturalpet.com/products/Only-Natural-Pet-EasyDefense-Flea-Tick-Tag/999024.aspx

4. Ms. Hero says:

I can’t help but be curious about what fuels your sophomoric attempts to discredit Mr. Behan. Taking statements out of context, name calling his followers, and engaging in a smear champaign will hardly give your arguments credit. In fact, you have failed to put forth a coherent counter theory at all. It would be interesting to see your arguments from a theoretical and scientific perspective; your rants add nothing to the discussion.

• First your are a fool and I suggest you look up the word sophomoric since you are misapplying it. Conceit is Behan thinking that with a couple of college courses and the vast experience of mucking up kennels that he would be able to divine truths of the universe – it fulfils both requirements of “sophomoric”: conceit and lack of knowledge.

Feel free to put Behan’s quote into context. I already gave you the links. I did so because the quotes are so ridiculous that a reader might be tempted to think I just made them up. If you first need to DE-MAGNITIZE yourself, I’ll wait.

And to your last point, we already have good scientific explanations. I don’t have to do anything since it’s Behan who want to toppled the current scientific thinking he should go ahead and start providing evidence instead of sophistry.

• Charles says:

So, I”m curious. How would you spend your days if you couldn’t sit for hours discrediting Behan? You’re apparently too paranoid, scared, or just plain bored to do anything but name call and finger point. You refuse to enlighten us as to your VAST experience as a dog trainer/behaviorist/psychologist or whatever you purport to be. Or even who you are, for that matter. You can make all the arguments you want for refusing to identify yourself, except perhaps the real reason. People would then be able to do their own research and find out exactly who you are,..or aren’t. Talk about “Legend In Your Own Mind”. It appears that term was invented for YOU, not Behan.

• Since you are curious I will inform you. It doesn’t take days to expose Behan. It takes minutes.
And I am neither scared nor bored. Debunking this stuff takes so little time and is so easy, I could pass the job to any competent grade 9 student and they could see through his word-fog.

I dislike stupidity and I dislike frauds. I specially dislike fauxperts taking advantage of the ignorance and gullibility of vulnerable people. As to my days, they are usually spent in the lab doing research and reading papers. As for my nights: Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours.

We know Behan is lying when he takes credit because there are German magazines and books predating Behan’s birth describing the very same thing. The question is why are you defending a liar? And you should really learn to read. I’ve made no claims of having “VAST” experience, mostly because I don’t make arguments of authority. Should I ever reference myself as the authority on something, I will of course provide my CV. Until then, I refer you to a rich repository of science literature debunking everything Behan claims. And you see the REFERENCES heading I include in most of the posts? That’s how people can check and do their own research.

My thesis is solid. Anyone who thinks he knows more than the scientific community without ever doing research is a self-deluded fool and a legend in his own mind.

And if you want to reply again, address the points made in the post. Don’t waste my time with your sycophantic defense of Behan.

• bobscomment says:

Please kindly provide the names of a couple of the German dog trainers who you believe describe techniques similar to Behan’s. In a later post, you specifically note that Pushing is an older technique. I am interested in learning more about these older methods but do not know where to start. Thank you.

• You’ll have to wait until I return to Germany again. I read this in some old books/magazines at one of the many Schutzhund clubs I visited several years ago. As as a beginner to the language my focus was on the content. Though I did also heard this from an 80 year old French trainer, if you know any old European trainers they might be able to tell you about it too.

I’ll try to look into it for you and find documentation.

• bobscomment says:

I appreciate your time and effort. I will await your response. I do not have any connection to European dog trainers and the books and magazine articles you reference seem pre-Internet era. Some of the described techniques, for example, “pushing”, appear to have practical dog training value. Therefore, it would be extremely helpful to have access to earlier theory, rationale for development, and see variation on technique.

5. Someone I know recently started swearing by Kevin Behan. I was considering reading his book, the one with the moose in it. As you may recall, I am a clicker trainer. Out of curiosity, is there anything in his book that is going to interest or enrage me? I remembered the name from your blog and pulled this up to remind myself. The person who swears by him has a habit of constantly bashing clicker trainers and I’m curious to see what is ‘better’. After all, before clicker training, there was only really punishment I am certainly open to other ideas and theories to improve my training. Is there anything you can see being gleaned from this? It sounds pretty nonsensical but he does seem to have quite a cult following so my curiosity is peaked.

• I am more easily enraged by pseudoscience and anti-science claims than most people; though I suspect everyone is that way about their profession.

The one thing that bothered me the most was the persistent claim that animals can’t and do not think. What follows is the incredibly egocentric view that everything dogs do is a reflection of how we feel (the mirror) – via telepathic means, I assume.

Functionally, Behan is a run-of-the-mill traditional trainer practicing reward (usually prey games) and punishment (prongs/ecollar). The marketing hook is that his approach is cloaked in a very mysterious philosophy/language that includes “emotional batteries”, “emotional center of gravity” thermodynamic defying “energy” and “networked consciouness”

I’ve seen it in some forums and his defenders don’t really understand learning theory. I don’t think one can go from knowing about OC to NDT without something breaking in your mind.

As a clicker trainer you will be offended by his total rejection of learning theory and his reliance on punishment to get compliance. As fare as Behan is concerned, dogs don’t learn – they gravitate to resolve emotion. The “Mirror” book is not really about training and reads more like an autobiography. It focuses more on how he went from trying to become his father to rejecting him and everything he stood for.

His first book, NDT is more about training but it suffers from the fact that it reads like it was written by an aphasic who is just learning English.

• Thanks! Sounds like he is moving in the opposite direction than me. I am looking for something MORE positive than the clicker trainers, not less so. Good to know. Nothing like repackaging the same old product, right?

6. Alex Susman says:

His clients are quite satisfied. More so, they seem to have a great understanding of how to “train” a dog, and what training is really all about. I think at the end of the day that is what is most important. If you don’t understand the man, that’s fine. A lot of people are misunderstood. But, the proof is there. Clients able to understand him and get results. Few people have gone to the length he has in writing to describe their work. I think Kevin has hit the nail on the head in a lot of explanations and people have a problem with that because once in their lifetime, as well as mine, were stuck at a point where they couldn’t find explanations that made sense. Kevin explains things pretty darn well. His understanding of the dog is pretty sound. At times he can be complex and at times fairly simple.

“The one thing that bothered me the most was the persistent claim that animals can’t and do not think.”

I think this is where you misunderstand. The point he is making, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t matter if the dog thinks or doesn’t. More importantly, that the dog feels a strong emotional attraction to the prey, and to understand that this is an emotional thing, NOT as much as a thought thing. As well, I am not saying it is not important AT ALL to figure out what the dog is thinking, even if the dog is thinking, that’s a great argument to propose. More importantly, that which is going on is emotional first, then rational, if so! He does talk about the brain in his writings, but he makes it clear to put the heart first, that’s all.

I’m not really defending him, what he writes though makes sense to me. His writings that talk about looking at dominance and what it is are also enjoyable reads. I agree with the way he goes about things. His understanding of what a bite is to a dog and it’s importance. I like a lot of what he writes but that doesn’t mean I don’t like what others write as well. His work just speaks to me.

I also think he really understands the whole learning thing. In my opinion his remarks on learning speak into defiance of what humans usually go through, and even challenge the whole aspect of what we consider learning.

He looks at it like this, as I understand it. When a dog truly learns how to behave is when it is faced by a compulsion of attraction. Prey. Same way when one meets someone who they think is highly attractive, naturally they behave ALOT differently then they would behave around someone they don’t. They want the being that is attractive to them, and so, they “behave” in a way that would get them there or at least, align themselves with the other, as to form a common object of attraction. The same works with fear, when someone is scared they behave naturally different then with someone they aren’t afraid of. Fear could also be in the head as well. When faced with these two very powerful states, one certainly behaves, and is obedient, to their own level of emotional capacity, some have very narrow tubes, and so “mis-behave”, or at least that is how we see it.

Kevin has done an excellent job at explaining the conundrum that a lot of people fall into, the one that he faced his whole life as learned by his father, a practicioner of the dominant theory model, and one that many still practice today. That our job as humans or trainers is to teach the dog how to behave by rewarding those behaviors doesn’t make any sense, is biased, and suffers out of projection. We think we can “teach” the dog how to behave, when really, the dog already knows how to behave perfectly, we just as humans fail to understand that for one, and two, hold judgments on that, which in turn makes us question our judgments of emotion itself, and so get’s in the way of what training is all about. I don’t think any other trainer in history as made such an awesome and clear point. And so, what he strives for us to understand is that the human has to understand what makes the dog behave is an emotional aspect first, (attraction, fear, etc.) present that scenario to the dog (understanding the dog doesn’t care at all, and more importantly to Kevin, doesn’t have the ability to know, although more so, cares if the situation is “real” or not [meaning in order to practice re-call you don’t need a deer, any prey will do, and would be recommended you start easy]) and there you have it, obedience in real form (as long as they feel it). I don’t understand how you can’t see the simplicity of this or truth to it.

” If a dog doesn’t learn you couldn’t even teach it your tug training agility methods in the first place you idiot. ”

First, I have no problem with you calling anyone an idiot, I’m not offended. To get to the “heart of the matter” here, or really to explain this in a mature manner, or both, most importantly, is that first, your explanation isn’t on point because I think the argument here would be that the dog doesn’t need to learn how to tug, it already knows. Also, WE are not teaching the dog anything, rather, the dog is teaching itself how to behave thanks to our ability to understand how to play (consciousness). Since we understand how to play with a dog, feel what it feels, vice versa, we can create alignment, towards the common object of attraction. The tug. And so, the argument is that since we are not teaching the dog anything, (the dog is teaching itself) the dog isn’t learning anything (as it relates to what we think we are teaching it). The problem is that you have a problem with understanding that we aren’t teaching the dog anything. We simply are an entity who is consciousnesses (an entity that even though we are in the dynamic, aren’t the dynamic, the prey is) of this and nothing more. The same goes for when you are attracted to somebody, do they teach you how to behave? No. You behave in accordance to what works, and whatever doesn’t you don’t waste your time in. It get’s tricky when you have someone who tells you how to behave, that is quite an interesting situation that I would love to explore on a later date when I have the time. but for now, I think I’ve explained myself pretty clearly.

I don’t see the disdain for his work. Again his clients turn out to be great trainers in their own right and find things pretty simple. Overall, the only problems that come up seem to be common by amateur handlers, things that just take time and experience, but once they get through that, they see themselves being able to create flow. I applaud that for sure.

And what about “pushing”, the exercise he promotes which is intended to create flow as well as ground the dog. Nothing positive to say about that? His promotion of the eye’s exercise? Nothing? Sounds like someone is just desperate for attention rather than interested in giving critique. Shows more about you than it does about the person being talked about.

• Yes Alex, I’m sure some of his clients are satisfied. I find ‘satisfaction’ to be a poor metric of expertise; it speaks more toward the human tendency to embrace emotively appealing woo or (if Behan is being honest) for his capacity toward self-deception. No doubt Brad Pattison, Cesar Millan, homeopaths, witch doctors, faith healers, psychics, astrologers, palm and tarot readers also have satisfied clients.

As a ‘mechanic’ Behan is moderately competent but that is because he is using the same tools as any other “balanced” trainer. When you peel away NDT’s cloak of mysticism and obfuscation, you are left with a guy who uses reward and punishment. That’s all.

I understand Behan perfectly – where ever he actually makes sense – this is why I can categorically state that he is peddling garbage to a scientifically and philosophically illiterate audience. Like many who defend him you erroneously point to his training success as proof that his musings are correct. This is a thinking error.

It curious that you would write, “stuck at a point where they couldn’t find explanations that made sense,” because that phrasing mirrors what many people say to explain their devotion to a cult; it feels right. Cult or religions don’t have to makes sense as long as they fill some emotional void, just like the one you describe.

Alex you write; “The point he is making, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t matter if the dog thinks or doesn’t.
The words are cut and dry and no interpretation is needed.

“Dogs don’t and can’t think” – Your Dog is Your Mirror p. xxix”

You are not getting my opinion on Behan’s views; I am showing you what he thinks. He repeats this pronouncement a few more times, so you can’t dismiss it as a one-off.

One of the main problems with Behan’s views (it doesn’t meet the threshold of ‘theory’ despite the title) is that all his terms are circular, vague, contradictory or undefined. At its best it’s relabeling and at its worse it’s meaningless gibberish.

I too would point to the elder Behan as a key to understanding Kevin. Growing up under a domineering father; what he called and “overbearing militaristic” approach. It makes sense that he’d rebel against his father and all that he stood for. The very opposite of his father’s view of one person in charge is Kevin’s view of the Brood group mind.

Pushing is not Behan’s. I know he like paint himself as an innovator but the reality is that trainers had been “pushing” long before Kevin came along.

“WE are not teaching the dog anything”
Free-shapers already know that in most cases the dog already knows the behavior. You are teaching by forming an association in the dog’s brain between cue and behavior.

And so, the argument is that since we are not teaching the dog anything, (the dog is teaching itself) the dog isn’t learning anything (as it relates to what we think we are teaching it).
And that is a terrible argument that completely ignores reality. You are teaching the dog which behaviors result in success. Learning is observed by a reliable change in behavior to a specific situation. And if you are setting up that situation, then you are teaching.

The rest of that was regurgitated sophistry.

7. molly's mom says:

I know someone who had some training sessions with Kevin Behan, raved about him and recommended his books and training methods when I got a dog. After skimming various books, i could not make sense of Kevin’s book and thought maybe he just was not the best writer. I settled on the “Mother Knows Best” (Carol Lea Benjamin) method and found a like minded trainer. Not to brag but my dog really is a dream. She also gets an extraordinary amount of exercise (something she needs) and socialization (don’t know if she needs, but she seems to love) daily. She passed her therapy test on the first try.

When I finally met my friend’s dog (who lives far away) I could not believe how poorly behaved she was. Barking incessantly, snarling, flashing her teeth and lunging at strange dogs (she is a large black shepherd and looks very intimidating). He could barely control her. He said things like, “you can’t teach a dog not to bark” and that the other behavior indicated she simply wanted to “play” with the other dogs but the owners did not understand the dogs language so they would not allow it. These other dogs, I assure you, had no interest in playing with her. Nothing could dissuade him from these ideas and he quoted Kevin Behan regularly. His methods may work for some but am i ever glad i didn’t listen when he suggested him!

Phew!