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Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Visit from Jeff Morgan; Dog Behaviorist

Jeff gets a lick from Journey

Ryden's got to check him out thoroughly

Aise getting some attention while Rommel remains outside of Jeff's boundary "bubble"

Jeff, Linda and Delayne

Jeff takes a "pack walk" with Irish and Oken

Shortly after our arrival to our new home and kennel in Minnesota's Arrowhead Region, we received some special visitors. Jeff Morgan, visiting from the east coast, had come to the area to provide private training lessons to an up-and-coming dog behaviorist, Delayne Duhaime. Together, they put on a special workshop that I just couldn't miss despite the stacks of boxes I was facing and the general chaotic state of our new home.  Click on this link to learn more about Jeff Morgan.

When he came to the kennel, I was most interested in learning about his "energy" work. Having a dog with major boundary issues, I thought this could come in handy. I was also interested to see how his technique would work on Journey, who has a very cautious temperament, going out of her way to avoid contact with most people.

The dogs loved our guests and made sure to get up and close to get to know them. Rommel did the usual, jump-up-in-your-face greeting despite my never-ending attempts to curb this behavior. He also has a habit of blocking his kennel mate from getting any attention, always going between a person and the other dog. Jeff's energy work seemed to work on our young fella and I was amazed to see him at the other end of the kennel, waiting his turn, while Aise got attention.

Here's my understanding of this technique as it pertains to our boundary issues with the dogs. When exiting each kennel, my command has been "back" and I stomp my feet gently to let them know that if they rush the gate, their feet will likely get stepped on. With the energy work, I am using my body and an imaginary bubble to keep them back. It seems to be much like a stay command, however the dog is allowed to freely move outside of your bubble. Every time the dog enters the bubble, I move myself forward and toward the dog, backing them up with my forward motion and energy. It's working. For those needed a bigger hint, if they get too close, I can also gently scuff the tops of their feet with my shoe as I walk toward them.

In the case of Journey, who goes out of her way to make a huge boundary bubble around most people she doesn't know, the energy is used to STOP the movement. Stopping the movement allows her to create a new mental picture of the situation and she can heal from all previous habits of motion away from people.  Journey began to circle around the kennel, getting as far away from Jeff as possible. I watched Jeff passively and non aggressively block her movement in any direction by just moving toward her as she ran, from one side to the next. At first, I anticipated that this would create more stress for her, possibly making her feel trapped and thus bringing to the surface the fight or flight response. To my surprise, this blocking of her movement actually calmed her down to the point where Jeff was next to her in a corner of the kennel and she reached out to lick him. As I like to do in much of the training with my dogs here at Points Unknown, Jeff allowed the other dogs in the kennel with Journey to help her feel comfortable with this exercise. I do believe other dogs are the very best trainers of dogs.

Now it's my job to remain consistent with this energy training. I feel as though I have just enough information on the topic to be dangerous. Now I need to do more research to try and understand it better so it can be used effectively in a number of other training applications here at Points Unknown.

Many thanks to Jeff and Delayne, for taking time to show us here at Points Unknown, some new tricks!


  1. Linda! You must teach me this. Journey was so sweet and loving with me during my stay. She did a lot of licking my face and swirling around me. Not quite the amount of attention I got from White Feather, but a very close second. Whatever you're doing is working!

    1. Kathleen, I'll fill you in the best I can. I'm still in the process of fine tuning this technique myself.