Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Open Letter to New York Dog Trainers

This blog post is actually written for all dog owners and trainers, everywhere.

An Open Letter to NYC Dog Trainers
"I know exactly what I want to say. 
I just can't type it without fingers!" 

I'd like to introduce you to a wonderful new training technique. It can help shy dogs become confident, turn aggressive dogs into love- muffins, eliminate fear, decrease unwanted barking, make dogs happier and more playful, increase obedience, and can even help with housebreaking issues. In fact, it does all that and a lot more.

I must be joking, right? 

Nope. It's called "The Pushing Exercise" and here are just a few case histories:

Ginger: I got an e-mail from a veteran dog trainer of 35 years who started out using “pack leader” methods but switched several years ago to an “all positive” approach. She wanted to know how to get her “shy,” 11 month-old Jack Russell terrier Ginger to stop eliminating in the house. Since the little Jack wouldn’t play, I suggested that the woman spend some time on the floor every day, letting the dog jump on top of her, and that she hand feed all her dog’s meals outdoors, using what we in Natural Dog Training call the pushing exercise. Within a week the little doggie had not only stopped eliminating in the house, she was much less shy and actually began bringing her owner a toy. 

Ba’sia: Some members of an online behavior board read about the pushing exercise here on this blog, and several of them tried it, just to see what changes if any it created in their dogs. Within 4 or 5 days the owners of a Belgian shepherd named Ba’sia, whose only real behavioral problem was that she loved to chase the Frisbee but wouldn’t bring it back, began bringing it back to her owners, on her own, with no prompts. She just suddenly “felt” like doing it. 

Fancy: When Fancy, a boxer, was a puppy she was sick for several months and had to be kenneled at the vet’s office. As a result she had trouble interpreting social signals from other dogs and was getting into skirmishes a lot at the park and at the dog run. I did the pushing exercise with her for a few days, and she slowly began to learn how to play nicely with other dogs. There was one unanticipated side-effect.

Her owners called me about four days in, to ask if I’d also been working on her fear of sidewalk grates. I told them I hadn’t. In fact, I hadn’t even known about the behavior.

“Well, whatever you're doing with her is working like a charm. She’s no longer afraid of them!”

Kyla: A German shepherd mix (mostly shepherd) named Kyla had a very “dominant” temperament, and one problem she had was that she could not be bribed, cajoled, or coaxed with treats away from her intense focus on squirrels. She also pulled constantly on the leash, ignored her owner’s commands, constantly got underfoot at home, was always jumping up on the bed or the couch, barked incessantly at other dogs at the dog run, and scavenged like there was no tomorrow. But Kyla slowly and gradually became a totally different dog. She now loves to obey all her commands, she no longer pulls on the leash, she still shows a strong interest in squirrels, but is easily called away, stays off the furniture, and no longer scavenges. 

Why? Because of the pushing exercise.

Caleb: A Welsh springer spaniel named Caleb, who sometimes stays with me overnight, was starting to exhibit a very severe form of resource guarding whenever other dogs were staying with me as well. At meal time he felt he had to attack any dog who came near any food, even the food in their own dinner bowl. All food was his! This was an otherwise wonderfully social dog who had a knack for making almost any other dog love him, no matter what it took. But at meal time, with other dogs around, he became a monster. So, as an experiment, I did the pushing exercise with him for 2 days, and guess what? He never showed any signs of resource guarding ever again.

Muskoka: This is a Westie who had 2 problems — leash aggression and an absolutely frantic fear of walking anywhere near 72nd Street between West End and Broadway (the location of her vet’s office). She’s now no longer leash aggressive, and is slowly getting used to walking nearer and nearer the dreaded place where she gets all her shots and examinations, and used to get her toenails clipped.

Dudley: He’s a cocker spaniel who’d had separation anxiety for seven years, and during that time had also forgotten how to play. He was so frightened of being left alone, he was found by his owners several times, trembling in a corner covered in his own excrement, his eyes practically spinning with terror and despair. It took much longer to bring this poor little guy back to normal, but one of the primary ingredients was — you guessed it — the pushing exercise!

How is it possible that one simple exercise — whose only point seems to be to teach a dog to be pushy about eating — have such diverse effects, one of which is that it actually makes dogs less pushy?

If your background is in dominance training (or being the pack leader), this exercise would make no sense to you for a lot of reasons, the main one being that by simply allowing (not to mention outright encouraging!) a dog to push into his owner to get his meals every day you would be setting up the exact opposite dynamic of what the pack leader culture believes in. You would in the clearest of terms be allowing your dog to “dominate” you. And yet the exercise makes dogs more, not less obedient. It makes them less pushy about food. It makes them more likely to stay off the furniture, come when called, and less likely to get into fights or engage in resource guarding. In other words, it makes them less “dominant.”

If your background is in the “all positive” approach, the exercise probably makes no sense to you either because from a learning theory perspective all the exercise is doing is reinforcing a specific behavior, pushing for food. And yet it makes dogs less pushy!

How is this possible?

Working for a Living
Dogs are designed to work for a living. Pet dogs no longer have the utilitarian function in our lives that they once did. They don’t have to hunt, herd, or guard our flocks for us to get their daily provender. Their expectation (learned and reinforced by their owners) is that a bowlful of food will appear in the kitchen or on the back porch 2x a day, and that’s pretty much it. Oh, sure, sometimes they might have to perform tricks to get an extra treat now and then, but for the most part all the energy they’re designed by evolution to expend on working for a living goes into, what? Playing with other dogs at the dog park? Going on long walks? Playing fetch with a Frisbee or tennis ball? Patrolling the back yard for gophers? All worthwhile pursuits, but hardly dirty-fingernails, blue-collar, working-class stuff.

If they’re lucky — and if they’re suited for such tasks — they might get a chance to do Schutzhund or go to agility trials and dance through some weave poles. But again, it's hardly the real 8-hr. day, punching the time-clock down at the elk herd type stuff, is it?

Meanwhile our species, the human animal — who also used to hunt (and gather) for a living — now expend much less of our physical energy toward putting food into our dinner bowls. Sure, some of us still farm the land and pull nets full of fish out of the sea. But the difference (or one of them) is that those of us who engage in that kind of hard, physical labor on a regular basis don’t need gym memberships. Most of the rest of us do.

Why is that? Why do we go to the gym, or the golf course, or go hiking or kayaking or play tennis or go skiing?

Because pushing feels good. Whether your thing is lifting weights, jogging on a treadmill, doing pilates, playing golf or tennis, hiking, kayaking, skiing, or going to a spin class, you’re pushing against something to get a result. And the pushing feels good.

Think about it: in a spin class you’re pushing the pedals on the bike. In tennis you’re pushing your back, leg, shoulder, and arm muscles to go after the ball so you can put the right force and spin and velocity on it to “push” it back over the net. In golf you’re using those same muscles to put enough force against that little ball to drive it (push it) down the fairway. If you’re on a treadmill you’re pushing your leg muscles to work past your own internal resistance. If you’re doing pilates you’re pushing against your core.

Why is Michael Phelps the best swimmer in the world? His physical gifts are part of it, but there are other swimmers with his height, his reach. Why does he consistently perform better? Why do some football teams always seem to come from behind in the final minutes to win a big game while other teams tend to fade in the clutch? The kind of athletes who come through, when others can't, usually do so because they’re good at pushing past their own internal resistance, past that internal voice that says to the rest of us, “I can’t do this.”

Do dogs have such an inner voice?

Not exactly. But if the dogs I described in the case histories I cited above could talk they might very well say things like this:

“I can’t hold my bladder muscles until I get outside the house!”

“I can’t bring the Frisbee back to my owners!”

“I can’t walk on sidewalk grates!”

“I can’t control myself when I see other dogs eating!”

“I can’t obey commands or not chase squirrels or not be dominant!”

“I can’t walk down 72nd Street!”

“I can’t be left alone in the apartment!”

Well, my little doggies, the truth is, “Yes, you can!”

You just have to learn how to push past your own internal resistance. You just need to have someone with a nice big pouch of food, take you outdoors, and teach you how to push for your dinner. You don’t have to push very hard at first. You don’t even have to push at all if you don’t want to. But slowly and gradually, the more you learn how hard you can push, and how good it feels to push that hard, and then even a little harder, and a little harder after that, you’ll start to realize that you can do anything.

And guess who’s the one teaching you that wonderful lesson?

That’s right. It’s the person who loves you. He or she is the one who’s like Michael Phelps’ trainer, or Tom Brady or Joe Montana, the one person who knows you can do it. That you can come from behind, you can get out of the hole you’re in, and prevail! That you are a strong doggie with a wonderful, wild heritage. And that you can do anything.

All you need is a little push…

(To see videos of me doing "The Pushing Exercise" go here: videos.)

“Changing the World, One Dog at a Time”
Join Me on Facebook!
Follow Me on Twitter!

My Puppy, My Self (archived)


kevin behan said...

This is a great article that demonstrates the universality of overcoming resistance as the means by which animals as well as humans derive their greatest "sense of accomplishment."

Dutch Doggy said...

I've been soaking myself in your (and Kevin's) theories for the past days. I've even orderd Natural Dog Training!

I've read on a number of different sites about the Pushing method and I've even printed it out. But I didn't quite "get it" until I read this post with its myriad of concrete examples. But I heard, and now see, the lightbulb hanging over my head turn on.

It's funny but I came across you in my search for a training method for my puppy, but pushing is going to be great for my 10 year-old cocker who's basically forgotten how to play! While I'm writing this I just realized that the only time I can entice her to play, is when I reapeatedly push really hard against her. It takes a long time before she reacts but this can only be a positive sign about how well a properly applied Push Technique is going to work wonderfully. I can't wait to start applying it.


Brooklyn Shiba said...

I have a 2 year old Shiba Inu. The prevailing mythology is that you can never let these dogs off leash because their prey instinct is so strong that they will take off after something and you will never see it again.

I never really bought it. But when she was about 8-9 mos, I began to have trouble with her going hunting (and not coming when called) for chicken bones in the park. For almost 2 mos, I fed her all her meals by hand in the park, and since that time, she has never run off after chicken bones. If her recall starts to weaken for some reason, I bring some roasted chicken breast pieces to the park for a few days and she settles down.

As a consequence, I let her run off leash whenever we have an opportunity - there is nothing more beautiful than a Shiba joyfully running full speed in huge circles around a big open field or bounding though the underbrush snuffling for squirrels or rabbits or whatever.

Unknown said...

My dog will mug my hand continuously. How would I adapt the pushing exercise for him? He won't have any problem "pushing"into my hand, but the wait will be problematic!

LCK said...

Hi, HDSheena,

I'm not sure I have a clear picture of what you mean by your dog "mugging" your hand.

Are you doing the pushing exercise? Can you be more specific about what the problems is?


Unknown said...

"Praise her for showing interest in it. Then close your fingers gently across your palm (covering the food), and say, in a warm, gentle tone of voice, “Wait…” And as you can see the dog holding her energy back for a second or so, say, “Good… Ready!” in a happy tone, then open your hand and let her eat." from your pushing article.
There will be no waiting. My dog will see me get the food, and immediately start licking, chewing, following the food hand. I can certainly train a leave-it behaviour, but that doesn't seem to be what you're talking about here..

LCK said...

No, I'm definitely not talking about "leave it."

Given your dog's tendencies, I'd do one of two things: 1) hold the food hand closed, say, "Wait..." in an encouraging tone of voice, wait for the tiniest sense that the dog is holding back, then open the hand and let her eat, or 2) don't wait for her to suspend her eagerness, just start the hand feeding immediately.

The primary goal of the pushing exercise, in simplest terms, is to get the dog to push into you while eating. Once the dog is pushing for her daily meals some of the excess energy she's showing should start to wane. This will be especially true once you can get her to push into you as hard as she can.

If her energy doesn't start to wane, it means I haven't described the exercise in clear enough terms, meaning that there's something you're doing or not doing that's different from the way I would do it. If that's the case it might be a good idea to get Neil Sattin's DVD set, or find a video of Kevin Behan doing the pushing exercise (on his website, Natural Dog Training.)

I hope this helps,


mlb said...

What if you already make your dog "work" for her after the long walk (with backpack) or after some kind of disciplined play? I already believe in "nothing for free" with my dog...but she does have issues with confidence because she was under-socialized and traumatized as a pup...

LCK said...

I think you've mistaken my whole position on this. I'm not advocating that dogs be made to work to enforce the "nothing in life is free" policy, or as a form of discipline. What I'm saying is that dogs need to work; they need to put their energy to work in some way. Pushing for food is in no way related to making a dog wear heavy weights or preventing her from eating her meals until she's showed "submission" to a "pack leader." It's about taking a system -- the dog -- which isn't functioning at its optimal level, and getting it to function better. It's more like tuning the spark plugs on a car than it is like NILIF or engaging in any kind of discipline.

I hope this helps!


Unknown said...


I'm unclear on a couple of things. Why the need to feed outside and when can you stop the outside feeding and pushing exercise?

LCK said...

Feeding outdoors requires that the dog stay focused despite external stimuli that might otherwise capture his attention.

As for when you'd stop pushing, that depends on the dog. For most of the dogs I've done this with, there was a clear behavioral problem that needed to be addressed. Once the behavioral problem disappears, I tend to stop pushing. However, that sometimes means that you have to go back later, if another problem surfaces, or another manifestation of the 1st problem re-surfaces.

I hope this helps,


LCK said...

I got this e-mail from Muskoka's owner. They moved from NYC to Toronto, and the little Westie had trouble adjusting at first. Thanks to the pushing exercise, she's back to being the same old Muskoka!

Hi Lee,

I just wanted to send you a quick note to thank you so much! Pushing really does work!!!

Muskoka has taken awhile to get settled here in Toronto, the change was a little much for her at first. She didn't even like going out for walks, she'd run outside to the grass, do her business and run back in. She was also peeing on the carpet every night and any time we left her alone (even for a very short-time).

It was just breaking my heart and I felt at a loss and didn't know what to do. I think I was a little stressed out from leaving NYC and everything because it took a couple of weeks for me to remember to try pushing.

We've been pushing for a couple of weeks now and she is so much better! Her personality is back!!!! The peeing stopped almost immediately when we started pushing and she's slowly been expanding her walks and is now game to go for long exploring walks with me. She's even willing to play tug when we're in the park now (she wasn't playing at all at first), and when we were at a pet store yesterday she grabbed a ball out of a basket and carried it the whole way home (I know not ideal behavior, but I was so happy she has her personality back I was almost shedding tears of joy).

Thank you!


Deborah said...

Hi Lee

A trainer has suggested I try this method to desensitise to touch sensitivity (aggression.

I get the process of the method and I have been doing it for two days, comfortably. I have a scientific mind however, and I need to understand how this fits in with learning theory (if we can remove reference to energy, if that is possible).

I can understand the pushing against a hand desensitises and counter conditions the dog to hand pressure because a reward is delivered at the same time but is there anything else I should understand.

I don't fully understand how it can be used for other behavioural issues.

Thank you!

LCK said...

Hi Deborah,

Thanks for your question.

Unfortunately, this exercise really can't be explained through the lens of learning theory. It simply can't. And my explanation may seem a bit long, so please bear with me.

The concept of positive reinforcement is a clinical outgrowth of Freud's pleasure principle, which states, essentially, that animals are constantly seeking pleasurable experiences, and seeking to repeat behaviors that brought them pleasure previously. The major difference is that Freud defined pleasure as the release of pent-up feelings and emotions.

What motivates behavior? From your comment it sounds like you believe that "rewards" do. However, a reward or a positive reinforcement aren't actual physical objects, events or markers. They're concepts, and animal behavior can't be motivated or shaped by concepts, only by pleasurable changes in the animal's internal feeling states. "Doing X made me feel good; I want to do it again..."

Freud also saw the psyche as an energy system. Modern neuroscience has shown that this is true. For instance, impulse control tasks (delayed gratification, will power, etc.), use up mental energy that can be measured via blood glucose levels in the parts of the brain that control executive function. Freud predicted this. (There are a number of studies on this, including two that have been done on dogs, though without the blood glucose data.) Freud also predicted the discovery of endorphins, dopamine, etc.

So what motivates behavior, where does the impetus to DO something start?

Without a stimulus of some kind, no new behavior is likely to be observed. And what is a stimulus?

According to Freud a stimulus, whether internal (such as hunger) or external (seeing a squirrel in the park) operates by creating an increase in energy which in turn creates feelings of pressure (gotta eat! gotta chase that squirrel!), which then motivates us to find a way to relieve the uncomfortable feelings brought on by that pressure.

There are constant shifts in pressure always taking place inside our bodies. Pressure from a full bladder or colon, increased blood pressure from stress, the unconscious pressure to breathe in and out, the emotional pressures we put on ourselves, or are put on us by our bosses, our families, and so on.

Remember, Freud thought pleasure was the feeling of relief that takes place when these various pressures are reduced, and the feelings and emotions brought on by internal or external stimuli are released.

Skinner was no dummy. He realized Freud was right when he described all behavior as being motivated by a relentless desire to experience pleasure. So Skinner expanded on Freud's work. But since Skinner thought that feelings and thoughts and emotions couldn't be measured empirically (which they couldn't, at the time), he would find a way to collect data on observable behavior ONLY. As a result, reinforcements or rewards are NOT actual things or experiences; they're data points, collected after the fact.

This is why a dog will sometimes seem to learn a command in relation to a "reward," but will ignore that command in other circumstances because no matter how pleasant it is to eat a liver treat, if there's enough pressure impacting the dog when he sees a squirrel, he'll ignore the liver treat and chase the squirrel.

To be continued in next comment…

LCK said...

So hopefully, if you can see that unexpressed emotions (i.e., feelings that were not acted on in the moment, and therefore didn't release the dog's feelings of internal pressure) have nowhere to go, and that they eventually have to find some kind of release, then perhaps you can see that when a dog pushes as hard as he can against you while he's eating he's getting the experience of a) forming a strong physical and emotional connection with you (Freud called this cathexis), 2) releasing pent-up emotions that have been "leaking" out in the form of behavioral problems, and 3) feeling the pleasure in his gut of ingesting some yummy food, then you might also be able to entertain the idea that this exercise can't be explained through the principles of learning theory, i.e., dry data obtained from observing rats and pigeons in a sterile environment where none of the data -- NONE -- was based on how the animals were feeling at any given moment.

Dogs are feeling beings. They're emotional. They get stressed, they feel pressured, they need ways to release tension. Why do you think play is so therapeutic? (Or do you?)

Freud's genius (and Kevin Behan's, since he invented the pushing exercise) is that we don't need to know the exact circumstances that caused the behavioral problem to develop, we only need to know that there's a simple template that Nature has put in place: energy in > energy out. The energy can either come out in the form of behavioral problems or in the form of obedience. We just need to "push" the dog in the right direction.

I hope this helps!


Tara said...

Mr. Kelley - I just stumbled across your page when I was searching for "food obsession" help. I have a 4 year old cocker spaniel that has developed an infatuation with feeding time. As a puppy, he took his time eating, didn't rush, and often took a while to eat. In the past few months, food time is all he can seem to think about. He starts pawing at us and whining at 4am to have breakfast. I recently started a new job that lets me come home earlier in the afternoon (3:30 or 4:00 instead of 5:30). As soon as I walk in the door in the afternoon, he's pacing, crying, pawing at me to feed him. I understand he really doesn't have a concept of time and thus relates my schedule of coming home to dinner. How do I get him to stop begging SO much though? We haven't gotten a full night's sleep in weeks because he's ready to go before the crack of dawn. We walk him about a mile every night so I don't think exercise alone is the answer to his anxiety. I'm not sure how the "push method" would help to connect this issue, but I'm willing to try it....

LCK said...

Hi Tara,

Have you discussed your dog's food obsessions with your veterinarian?

I would definitely ask just to see if there might be a physiological rather than psychological reason your dog has become food obssessed.

Was there any change in the household prior to the onset of this new behavior?

Tara said...

No, no changes that I can think of. I've had friends suggest that maybe he's really just hungry. He eats 1 cup at breakfast and 1 cup at dinner, though so I don't think he necessarily needs more food. We've tried dividing his dinner up into two sessions, one around 4 and then again around 9pm, thinking maybe he is just hungry and his body can't wait 10-12 hours between feeding times. That didn't do any good either.

He seems to be in good health otherwise, but we haven't had any labs run at checkups to see if he has any issues. I know that humans can "crash" when their blood sugar drops too low. Our dog does have a tendency sometimes to throw up bile at the back door if we're gone for too long past dinner time. I usually just chalked it up to nervousness because he is a really anxious dog in general. I have no idea if this is related, but he's also developed aggression toward other dogs when we're out for walks. As I type, the more all of this seems to be connected... I probably need to call my vet.

I did try the push method tonight for dinner. If I did it right, it was extremely successful. After a few attempts, he was pushing against me. I'm going to continue this method just to see if we can tell any other behavior differences. I don't think it will hurt.

Thanks for the fast response. I'll check back again in case you have any other suggestions. I've been reading your blog all afternoon. I'm excited to try some of my own behavior modifications in hopes to help our pup.

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot for this article (and all the others :-) I discovered Natural Dog Training a few months ago and can only confirm the amazing results of pushing, fetch, tug of war and the eyes exercise. For me the most remarkable effect has been that for my 8 year old dog Leo separation anxiety is now a thing of the past (the neighbours confirm :-). And this is a huge one - for 7 years I'd tried everything and nothing worked. So a huge thanks to you, Kevin and Neil!

LCK said...

Thanks, Anke. I'm very happy for you and Leo!


Larry said...

Lee, Thanks sooo much for the great information. I too, am just discovering NDT. I've received Neil's DVD and will start on "pushing" this weekend. I have a pointer/hound(they think) approx 2yrs old resuce,(Ella) She has leash aggression and also goes bonkers while riding in the car if we see other dogs walking. I'm assuming that these issues will also be helped by the pushing exercise. She has a very strong prey drive and food motivation, so it would seem this would be tailor made for her, do you agree? I'm so pumped to start with these methods.

LCK said...

Strong prey drive and food motivation are good qualities for training. Very good.

Since your dog is a rescue, you might want to go to the Canine PTSD page on my website to see my symptom scale mock-up for C-PTSD:

And my blog devoted specifically to Canine PTSD:

Best of luck!

Rita said...

I've read your book NDT. We have a puppy(rottweiler mix, we think shepherd), got him at 3 mo, hes 4 and a half now. 3 of us in household, my daughter is owner. He sleeps in kennel in her room. I've been reading a lot of you literature. I play with him the most, he sees me as his playmate. I'm worried about his biting habits, because I play withi him the most, he wants to bite me and tug at me when he wants to play. I read in your book that he will grow out of this. Is this a bad habit I'm allowing? by not disiplining? I also play tug with him and push him around when he comes back to me and lays his body into me, he likes me to push him around. Does this count as in your pushing exercise? Please help!!!

LCK said...

Hi Rita,

Natural Dog Training was written by Kevin Behan, not me.

Are you playing with him indoors or outdoors?

The fact that he's biting too much in play may mean that he's being overstimulated. You should play with him outdoors, and redirect his teeth and jaws into a toy whenever possible. If he continues to "bite" your hands, you should give him a cooling down period in his crate, with something to chew on like a bone or a bully stick.

The "pushing" game you're doing is not the same as "The Pushing Exercise," which is where a dog has to push into you while he eats. However, it's a good game that we call "push-of-war." Just don't overdo it at this age.

I don't know enough about the dog's background, temperament, etc., to give you any other specific advice. But it sounds like you're going in the right direction. If I were you I'd re-read the puppy section of Kevin's book.

Best of luck!

Rita said...

Thanks for the quick response!

I will try to tone down my playing with him and re-read the puppy section of Kevin's book. I think he said they outgrow the biting. That's what I'm hoping for but concerned. I do get him too riled up. As soon as he sees me he gets excited. He has literally grabbed my hand(with his mouth, not hard), to pull me down off the couch just wanting me to play with him. I know he's not meaning to bite, just play. I have difficulty yelling at hime when I know he does not have bad intentions but am I allowing bad behavior? bad habits.

I play with him both indoor and outdoor.

More about the puppy. He has a great temperament. He loves people, he loves other dogs. Very social, doesn't shy around anyone. He does like to nibble, bite when people get him over stimulated and he rolls around on his back but still want to bite. I do stick things in his mouth when he wants to bite. Wouldn't sticking him in his kennel make him associate it with negative feelings? Being confused as to why he got stuck in there?

LCK said...

Kevin is right. Puppies grow out of their oral phase, but many still retain negative feelings when their oral impulses are punished or repressed by their owners. In my opinion this is the #1 cause of misbehaviors and emotional problems in adult dogs.

The fact that he uses his teeth in such a gentle way -- no real biting -- is a credit to his species!

The only bad behaviors I can see coming out of what's going on are the ones relative to getting the pup too wound up without giving him a safe and satisfying outlet for his urge to bite (a safe outlet means redirecting him away from your hands and clothing, and onto a toy).

Best of luck!