The “Core Exercises” were introduced by Kevin Behan as a way to systematise Natural Dog Training and help handlers focus on a set of skills to practise with their dogs. Initially four exercises; the bark, push, supple and bite – to which was added collection, make five “Core Exercises”. The aim is to be able to practise these “no matter what”. Mastering these exercises may need other challenges to help open the pipework, such as fasting, stalking, balance disruption, and soft mouth mawing.
“Speak” or bark for a biscuit, sometimes starting with a lick of the lips, sitting, stamping foot, snorting, or just exaggerated breathing. Like the big bad wolf, with a huff, and a puff, can your dog bark? The bark, the bite and jumping up are closely linked, so look for crossovers between all three.
Pushing, or striving for food. First ask, will your dog take food? Then follow food? Jumping up too, then push in for food? The effort required for overcoming resistance in all the challenges of NDT.
With slow, smooth strokes, the supple into a down and rollover, pushing the shoulders into the ground. The supple core exercise is the softest of the five and gets the dog to feel sensual rather than sensitised to touch. Use handling of the dog’s neck and top-line, right down to the rear and encourage a softening, curving, curling tactile indulgence.
The hunt is agreeing on what to bite. To bite a toy and then carry it about is emotionally grounding, training the dog to hold on to a good feeling. Can you get your dog to bite what you want him to bite? Will your dog carry the toy around with a swagger, looking for admiration and a touch?
The opposite to pushing in some respects, collection steadies a dog, turning movement energy into potential energy. The potential for movement, but contained and gathered, mainly in the rear. Power and control. The steadiness is resisting the stimulating effects of prey-like movements, watch but don’t run, look don’t touch.