Censorship In Dogdom and the Nature of Dominance

Psychology Today has the right to summarily delete any column or terminate any columnist as they see fit, even on a whim, and so their decision to end Lee Charles Kelley’s column “My Puppy My Self is not censorship by any means. When it comes to privately held methods of discourse all’s fair in a free marketplace of ideas. But for those seeking a full spectrum of opinion and information on the nature of the canine mind, a different way of seeing things in a well written and well reasoned way, such a voice will now prove a little harder to find. In Constructal law this would be called a “brake” on flow. Psychology Today’s termination of Lee’s blog may not be censorship, but given that it wasn’t based on the quality of writing or of reasoning it’s not a noble or honorable act either.

Tellingly, it would seem that the topic which might have breached Psychology Todays’ threshold of tolerance is the notion of dominance. In my model, only human beings are capable of dominance because if one would think about it with a clarity free of external prejudices and vested interests, dominance is ultimately a thought. It requires the capacity to compare one moment with another moment or one point of view with another point of view. And there is no empirical evidence to support the notion of dominance. There is only the subjective interpretation of empirical evidence. I understand why many behaviorists believe they see dominance in the doings of animals. They observe friction between animals, and that there is something that ameliorates these volatile interactions so that actual violence is quite rare, they observe a clearly defined social structure, and most behaviorists believe that dogs can think and compare one moment to another, one point of view to another. So this is an understandable interpretation, it’s just that it can’t encompass the evidence and is constantly contradicting itself. It raises questions.

There is however something the thought of dominance has in common with the instinctive impulse in animals that behaviorists mislabel as dominance; Fear, specifically, fear of change. This archetypal fear works according to relative height, if the predator gets on top of the prey it gains physical leverage and can smother its every attempt at defense or escape. One animal trying to gain height over another is what behaviorists have mislabeled as dominance when it really is fear, a fear of being knocked off balance. (For example you may have noticed that the more confident dog is the one that offers its neck, looks for a stick or goes belly up to induce a state of flow in its partner. It’s not depending on looking down in order to feel safe, it only wants flow. And if it flips to counterbalance the other’s dogs tentativeness, they can get the flow going. They’re not thinking this out, they’re feeling it.) The human intellect is built on that same scaffolding of relative height and thus occupying the “high ground” or “gaining” an advantage minimizes an underlying fear.

Furthermore, the capacity to think about being dominant over another factors out into the belief that an external source of authority is more valuable than an internal source of guidance. Such a believer identifies with authority in order to mollify the fear of being disconnected from the hierarchy, they want to feel safe. This can indeed motivate one to ascend a social, tribal, corporate or military ladder of power so that they can control others. (Although a more powerful motive is the hunger for flow.) When closely questioned about their position a dominant person doesn’t rely on the strength of their argument and quickly alludes to outside authority figures or august certifications. And they believe that consensus settles the argument, ignoring that virtually every advance in understanding comes at the expense of consensus. Paradoxically they see themselves as a free thinker and are apt to drift into saccharine treatments of their subject matter. But that again is the nature of Nature as every trait is accompanied by its equal and yet opposite counterbalance.

And so as if we needed the reminder, the editorial policy at Psychology Today have demonstrated once again, that since time immemorial the mind of man can very well entertain the notion of dominance and is prepared to squelch honest debate due to a fear of change. Apparently at Psychology Today critical thinking on the science of dogs, even for those who live and work with dogs on a daily and professional basis, is to be left wholly to credentialed scientists no questions asked. In that case it will now take another twenty years for behaviorism to realize that dominance is a thought that cannot be applied to the animal mind, just as it took twenty years for these same folks, who in 1992 were maintaining that the social structure of canines is predicated on a hierarchy of social rank, to notice the social fluidity that undermines that premise. The back channel intellectual-blacklisting machinations at Psychology Today is not censorship, but it does indeed prove that dominance is alive and well in the intellectual affairs of human beings. Not to worry, while it may take Time, Flow is on our side.

Lee, Keep On Pushing!

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Published February 22, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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10 responses to “Censorship In Dogdom and the Nature of Dominance”

  1. Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate your kindness and support.

    On to bigger and better things!


  2. cliff says:

    Go with The Flow!

  3. Alex Susman says:

    Your articles are.great Lee. I compare it to the first time i heard Coltrane solo on giant steps for the first time. Or bill Evans destroy autumn leaves. You are a pioneer in that sense. I have grown immensely as a trainer because of you’re ability to take it to a whole ‘nother level. You are a pioneer when others are unwilling to have an open mind. I say congratulations. While some see this as an upset, its a victory in my eyes.

  4. Chris Fowler says:

    Kevin, this may not be the best spot to make this comment, but one I have been wanting to make since I discovered your writings.
    I live amongst a constantly revolving group of multiple dogs. I board a small number of dogs on my rural property in Oregon.
    I have been studying dog behavior for years, soaking up as many ideas about training and behavior as I can find. My only purpose
    is to create a safe and emotionally satisfying experience for these dogs.
    This is what I have observed:

    Never once have I been able to spot the ‘Dominant’ dog. Bullies, yes plenty of them, but they are never the ‘leaders’
    In fact the bullies are usually avoided.

    Dog behavior is NEVER consistent. It changes moment to moment, even between the same dogs. It changes dramatically
    when the dog mix changes. A dog that is up one minute, is down the next.

    Dogs who are ill at ease with other dogs in the yard, change their whole demeanor when they are allowed to run the trails

    Dogs who don’t feel good about their circumstances, have no appetite. Once they settle in and feel better about their
    circumstances, they turn into chow hounds.

    I’m not a psychologist or a dog behaviorist or dog trainer, or anything with initials after my name. I’m just a retired flight nurse
    who wanted to do something different, so I started taking in dogs on my property while their owners traveled. I thought how
    hard could it be?..Turns out, a lot harder than I thought…I didn’t know anything about dog behavior beyond owning
    multiple dogs for most of my life, I didn’t even know their was such a thing as a dog behaviorist! But when I tried to find answers
    to my many questions from the established and published field…none of it made any sense!
    The prescriptions only occasionally fit the mold. When I stumbled upon your book YDIYM, I knew I was onto something solid,
    something that authentically explained the reality of dog interaction, the actions/reactions I observe everyday.
    I don’t fully comprehend all of your ideas. I recognize the words, but not always the way they are strung together. But I have
    a very uneducated idea that you are truly on to something and look forward to reading more of your work.

  5. John says:

    What people don’t realise is that out of situations like this an underdog arises and we as flawed individuals are drawn to him as a mirror of ourselves , the underdog then becomes a hero and one to be followed. Thanks Lee

  6. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and support.

    It’s funny but I don’t feel that my position has been diminished in any way by what happened.

    Upward and onward!

    Plus thanks to google cache, nothing is ever lost on the internet:

    Hierarchies Without Dominance: The Pack as a Flow System

  7. kbehan says:

    Thanks Chris. It’s very gratifying to see people thinking in terms of flow and the immediate-moment and away from the old paradigms. You have noticed and are articulating a flow dynamic that is constantly shifting in order to accommodate the situation at hand, in other words, one dog shifting into “up” and the counterpart into “down” so that they can get flow going. Given that emotion is a “force of attraction” it takes two to make flow, so there is no leader, there is only the one who feels flow the strongest, the other one then recognizing the opening. And this Up/Down duality can shift in an instant from one frame to the next, even during the same interaction (in fact we call it play). Then there are those who are too sensitive (the bullies or the overly shy) and they perceive a shift as unbalancing and so they either shut down (can’t eat) or overload (bully) to reduce their tension, which the other dogs in the flow have no need for since it destroys their reverie and thus they avoid.
    Fortunately for you your mind has not been trained into submission by the authorities of modern dogdom. They actually seek to shut down alternative views when they should welcome debate. I can never understand that. They should love that dog trainers, professionals and owners are deeply interested in the nature of the canine mind and have questions. But because they can’t answer these questions, they become the bully. Imagine how many thousands upon thousands of hours Lee put into his posts, and they stood for years generating thousands of threads of informed discussion. And then the bullies say without making one substantive critique, that they must be removed, a digital version of book burning. Incredible behavior from the very ones that say they believe in an open discussion of ideas.

  8. Josh D says:

    I only hope that others stumble upon NDT as I did. Lee’s writings are a large reason why I feel I have a greater understanding and appreciation for our dog’s cooperation. All the best to you LCK! And thank you for your dedication and willingness to stand behind concepts that others may ridicule yet make so much sense.

  9. Some of my posts for PsychologyToday.com can still be accessed through internet archives.

    I hope this link works: ”My Puppy, My Self” (archived)

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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.
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