Dog Fu


Now, I should probably preface by starting out with the statement;  “I am not suggesting or supporting the actual “fighting” or ” abusing” of ANY animal, much less an animal that has as much integrity as I strive to achieve.”

Have you ever “Boxed” your dog? (No, not really “hitting” the dog!)

You know. On those days when your pooch has really been good around their face? When he’s having fun, but seems to be a bit more aware, willing to slow down for a minute, and wants you to play “up close.” An example might be those times like when he’s over the side of the couch, and you get up only because that’s the only way to “get him back.”  🙂

During those times, if you’ve been lucky, you might have been able to experience something kind of cool between the two of you. Be very careful though as this is also a major trust area for your dog.

There is a special, “in fighting” bond that can be created and “played” between K-9’s and their human handlers. It’s best to be described as “play,” but for those who are a bit closer, you’ll know this as intimate play. Take it a bit further and you have behavior modification through direct condition/response.

There are as many dogs as there are owners. And every one of them brings to the table their own personality, training’s, and experiences. So for some of you, this will result in various results. For others, the variables might come from simply finding which game to start.  Games like “Boxing,” “Slap Fighting,” “Duck and Cover,” “Rocky” or even “Dog Fu!” are a few examples that might give you a further understanding of what we’re talking about here. 🙂

The subject matter that follows will include information that allows for significant increases in “control” of your K-9, within the Submission/Dominance/Social structures of the “psyche,” by exploiting the emotional control centers of the animal to change an instinctual response.  Therefore, these insights come at great risk to both yourself and your animal. Please always maintain strict controls at all times, and never put your dog through unnecessary risk of injury. Physically or emotionally.


First of all. “Do I mean, actually hitting your dog with a closed fist?” …Well, maybe not at first….:) (No, not really “hitting” the dog!)

It will depend on your personal relationship with the dog. Most dogs that I know will recover from the blow and distance themselves as best they can, while incorrectly checking their rear for submission opportunities rather than evasion.

I did however say, “most.” And I also said “incorrectly.” I’ll do my best to elaborate each point more clearly.

There are two points within this metaphor.

The first, “will recover from the blow and distance themselves as best they can” describes the level of physical effect you are subjecting the animal to and their typical response. As the statement describes, most K-9’s that have been subjected to a “blow” to the head or face will recover or “shake off” the shock of the attack assuming it has not severely injured them in any way, and while doing so will attempt to distance themselves from any further attacks by backing away rather than turning around to run. BE AWARE!  Even gentle blows to the head of a dog can be fatal. Because of this, “Boxing” is never done with a “closed fist.” When done, it is only with “partially closed” fists, loosely closed and held in such a way that when a strike is made your fingers will absorb the majority of the blow as they collapse into the “fist” giving the “impression” that a hit has been made with a closed fist.

The other point, “while incorrectly checking their rear for submission opportunities rather than evasion.” is used to illustrate the conflict within the animal that will be exploited in order to modify the behaviors and overcome the instinct. 

We’ve all played a little “close to the face” of our dogs. Some dogs respond to this kind of play eagerly, while others are more apprehensive or even a little afraid. It is important to watch the eyes of your K-9 closely as they are truly the windows to the soul.

I have been fortunate enough in my life, and in my relationships with K-9’s to build a fairly extensive understanding of their reactions to facial stimuli in varied situations regardless of whether the animal has been “trained” or if it is simply a common, everyday, domesticated “pet.”

In K-9’s, the face is the dominant “embodiment” of the “soul.” The mind, like ours, sees the world as a being within it, and aware of its own individuality. Because of this, any and all interactions directly or indirectly involved in the face and/or in the area “around” the face will have a dramatic and very real effect on the dog on many different levels. Careful observation of the animal during and after ANY of these exercises is therefore extremely important. Any indication that the personality of the animal is being affected negatively by the exercises must be taken seriously and the training must either be modified or stopped all together. The point of all this is to interact “with” the dog, not “do things TO the dog.”

There is no risk of being anthropomorphic in saying that K-9’s have emotions and responses  similar to those found in Humans. (1)  And although they appear to show similar reactions to physical pain as Humans, the K-9 is actually affected “cognitively” to pain on a very different level. Unlike Humans who can experience pain and “shrug it off,” K-9’s may at times have a much more difficult time “forgetting” the experience. In dogs, pain can have a very distinct psychological effect on the animal that can attach itself cognitively in many, many different ways, with many different results.

Because of this and other mechanisms I am familiar with, I can say that the differences (at least in cognitive languages) are actually not only very similar to those found in Humans, they can actually be considered more acute. “Dogs’ brains react in many of the same ways that humans’ brains do.” Gregory Berns (2)

Anyone considering experimentation with any of these exercises and a K-9 must clearly understand that not only are the physical aspects of the dog being influenced, but the psychological stability of the K-9 “WILL” be influenced as well. Dramatic changes can and often will have dramatic “permanent” effects to the animal. Many of which can not be reversed. The areas you will be working with can affect the personality, emotional stability, as well as the social  and  physical behaviors of your K-9.

You will be working within the “Submission/Dominance” controls, in an attempt to modify “Instinctual/Conditioned” behaviors by exploiting the emotional characteristics held by, or developed within the animal.

As these controls are located within the emotional response/instinct response  conflict within the animal, you can do severe emotional damage to your K-9 as well. Please be aware of this as well as respectful.”

Now! All that said…, Let’s get down to business!

We will be working directly in the face of the K-9 with these exercises. You will want to choose a time when you can get your dog to slow down and let you “smack his face,” or “make noises on his cheek flaps!” This is where you will want to start.

Be aware of accidental “incursions” here, (nips) from your K-9, while also being aware of your own. Because of this, a lot of patience will be required. It is not the time to overly concerned with scolding the dog for biting considering that “you” started it. In the beginning,  both of you will be learning how the game is played, what the rules and boundaries are, what level of “fighting back” is allowed, all while competing and exercising your skills. The dog may want probably quit rather quickly, but continued “positive” exposures will condition the animal to continue playing even though it seems like the dog really doesn’t want to anymore.



I’m sure we can all relate to the little dog that annoyingly tries to jump up on us every time you get within his reach. A small variant might be the one that comes up to you and puts his long nose right in your ear.

Most of the time, we cautiously look around, gently “deflect” the dog.

It’s that “deflect” part I want to address.

We “block” it! If we do it right, experience has taught us various ways to deal with it. But typically, we want to catch the dog “before” it’s actually stuck it’s nose in our ear. So it’s that “fast” reaction where we “shoot our hand up,” slide it between the animal and our ear, around the neck,  then depending if we got there first or not, quickly, twisted our hand, (that’s actually technique) cupped the neck of the K-9 and using the arm pushed the animal away.  It’s usually a pretty effective instinctive response. The dog gets stopped in time but doesn’t get hurt. Sometimes the dog even takes this as permission to play.

Examining the move that you just did to deflect the dog away from you will serve to demonstrate a lot of the mechanics involved in Dog Fu. The anticipation of “where” the ear lick is going to land, and the “angle of attack” necessary to intercept it.  The swift, direct movement of your hand and arm that makes up the ‘parry” used to create a new “Angle of Deflection,” followed by the final execution of the move resulting in the successful deflection of the animal. Now you understand why I call it “Dog Fu?”


The reactive nature of the movements are memory implanted into the muscles by previous experiences whether it’s from warding off an over eager cheek kissing aunt, or too many nose-ears. This is called “Muscle Memory.”

Okay, THERE! That move you just did! The one in your mind that you used to back the little mutt up!  lol  You didn’t hurt him, but you did catch his attention! And tries again. ….Here’s where it can start.


(1) Robert P. Spunt, Emily Ellsworth, and Ralph Adolphs (2016). The Neural Basis of Understanding the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: nsw161v1-nsw161



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