Another Reason for Intense Behavioral Problems

"I need to stay with my mom at LEAST 8 weeks."

No, no NO!

The Pack Instincts (Do Unto Others What You Most Hated Having Been Done Unto You) have an insidious and apparently unshakeable hold on the human psyche. The poster below is a good example as to why there are so many reactive dogs walking our city streets and country lanes with their well-meaning and misinformed owners, building a charge and ready to explode when the parameters for discharge are met. When I used to breed German Shepherds I always took the pups away from the mother once their sharp, shiny, needle studded vise-gripped jaws could start to hurt her and provoke her to retaliate. This is not "discipline" and the instillation of "manners" as the poster below romantically theorizes. Even if this meant I would start the pups on gruel sooner than I'd like, it was worth it because it meant they weren't going to be infected with "the charge." But by the same token, I insisted on keeping the pups until 10 weeks if not 12 weeks so that they could get the rough and tumble play with their litter mates all of whom were at the same emotional level. When things got too intense between them, because they couldn't yet process Resistance into Drive, they would naturally deflect onto a "group trigger," looking for another object to bite and then there would be a gang fest on this "emotional midpoint." And then again if one of the pups was more developed than the others, I would remove them from the litter even if that meant I had to do all the rough and tumble play with said pup.




I was first introduced to this notion as a young boy given that my father believed the mother dog taught her pups the rules of the pack. I have written that I just saw fear in both the mother and the puppy. The Monks of New Skete went on to popularize this notion of pack discipline, Cesar Milan believing this to be the case as well and bringing it to the attention of the modern, progressively thinking dog owner. However the one person in Dogdom who has probably done the most to intellectually substantiate the logic stream featured in the above poster so that it has become imprinted in the minds of the current generation of dog trainers/behaviorists, is Ian Dunbar. He has stated that the reason puppies have needle sharp teeth is so that their grip will produce an intense spike of pain which will compel the adults to discipline them. Again he sees this as being in service to cooperation once they are adults and functioning members of the hunt. But being that I am the only one to have developed a model for dog behavior rather than ascribing a human-like psychology for the dog's mind, I have discovered a different purpose. I call the pack instincts: "anger management tools," and not only is it not the source of cooperation, it actually serves to LIMIT the individual's capacity to cooperate. It is a governor on the canine mind and is the source of most behavioral problems in the modern dog, from noise phobia, resource guarding, disobedience, addiction to owner syndrome not to mention reactivity and aggression.

In my model, what sets the canine species apart from all others, save one, is that the individual's hunger for contact is greater than their singular capacity to satisfy it. This hunger-over-balance emotional ratio was amplified exponentially by the domestication process so that it's possible to induce a dog to want to bite anything we want them to bite. Another way of saying this is that dogs end up wanting what we want. This cannot be said of any other species. Such a high emotional capacity makes the domesticated dog social-by-nature and highly cooperative. In order to become individually satisfied in their respective Drive-to-make-contact, they must work together to overcome an object-of-resistance great enough to satisfy everyone's hunger. Therefore, the reason puppies are born with needle sharp teeth is that they would otherwise shred their soft gum and jaw parts as they attempt to crush hard sticks and bones given that their hunger for contact is so strong. The teeth sprout so quickly and so razor sharp in order to PROTECT their soft tissues.

What then is to limit the wild dog or wolf from taking on too difficult a challenge? Fear. Fear follows the path of least resistance. So with an innate aptitude for hunger-over-balance, canines are drawn to the path of highest resistance, a large, dangerous prey animal, but then within this domain their fear as inflicted on them by the adults in the pack, will tune them towards the weakest of these, the young, the infirmed, the wounded and elderly. So the mother wolf putting a whooping on her young cubs is adaptive because it tunes them to the proper frequency of emotional wavelength so that they will not unnecessarily risk injury against, or unnecessarily stress, a healthy robust prey specimen.

The problem for our domestic dogs however is that we always require them to be cooperative, to always choose the path of highest resistance within any given domain. Don't chase the neighbor's cat, don't react to the outstretched hand of a child, don't be unsettled by direct and sustained eye contact of a stranger, don't attack the dog who wanders near your food bowl, don't growl at the vet trying to draw blood, come when I call you, etc., etc..  In all of these scenarios we're asking our dog to resist the influence of fear and the compulsion of millions of years of evolved instinct, that while functional in the wild, are dysfunctional in human civilization and result in millions of dogs being euthanized.

When it comes to raising a puppy in man's world, mother doesn't know best. Her job is to limit cooperation. Instead, we need to learn to follow the ways of the heart. Please join me in Portland Maine for a fuller exposition of these ways.
Published September 26, 2015 by Kevin Behan
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5 responses to “Another Reason for Intense Behavioral Problems”

  1. Ellen says:

    Hi Kevin – wow. This caught me by surprise because of course I thought dogs I came across with certain behavioral issues had them due to NOT spending enough time with their mothers to learn socialization, dog “etiquette,” and get through the first fear imprint period. I never looked at it that she is limiting cooperation. If a mother dog (like ones you had) were socialized and very friendly, wouldn’t she teach the pups to trust you, or is it that instinct that still limits trust and cooperation?

    How old were the pups you took away from their mothers, and you indicate some weren’t weaned as you’d have to make them gruel earlier than you’d like.

    This is something I am still pondering since first reading it. Some of it makes absolute sense, while other points leave me with more questions. I hope to learn more about this from you.

  2. b. says:

    This is great. Thanks for laying out the “code” behind socialization so clearly.

    I’m not quite following how “The teeth sprout so quickly and so razor sharp in order to PROTECT their soft tissues.” Could you elaborate?

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    The oral urge is the basis of sociability, it is the dynamic of emotional grounding. Then during adolescence the oral urge evolves into sensuality which is the mechanics of advanced sociability. Due to a sensual nature (which elaborates upon the oral urge) the individual can feel how to align and synchronize its actions with others. This is why dogs are innately affiliative. This means that on an architectural level, the hunger impulse is constitutionally stronger than the balance mandate in the makeup of the canine mind. Therefore if an animal is to evolve to be social via such a prodigious oral urge, the soft tissues will need to be protected until the adult teeth come in and before the mind develops a faculty of discrimination as to what is to be put in the mouth and what isn’t. Things have to be gripped with the jaws, the only question is protection. My theory is that these needle sharp teeth evolved so that things will be crushed in the jaws before they can hurt the jaws thus giving the young pup the chance to mature healthfully (i.e. manifest a positive disposition to intense rates of change due to a strong oral urge, i.e. the capacity to feel grounded when stressed) both physically and emotionally. Dunbar on the other hand sees the needle sharp teeth being integral to sociability because the pain they cause will inevitably prompt the adults to retaliate. In this theory it is the correction of the adult which cause sociability. I trust one can see this is a very crude argument that isn’t supported by the facts of behavior. My argument is that this interpretation misses the true social dynamic (oral–>sensual–>social) that underpins the canine mind and it also doesn’t understand the mechanics of “the charge” by which the canine mind is tuned to a specific path of resistance that fits it into its ecological niche. But this channeling of the charge to the path of least resistance will always prove counterproductive when requiring the dog to resist the compulsion of instinct and do the most adaptable behavior in the domesticated context which is always characterized by a very high rate of change, a rate which overwhelms other species capacity to adapt because their oral urge, and hence sensual nature, isn’t strong enough to find an emotional ground therein.

  4. Kevin Behan says:

    I’m glad it gives you something to “chew over.” Any questions let me know as this is a very rich area of discussion.

  5. cliff says:

    So Kevin, when are you going to write the much-needed book on how *exactly*, step-by-step, to raise a puppy?

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.