Connection between Emotion and Hunting

Which doesn’t belong and why?

Emotion, Love, Affection, Bonding, Altruism, Cooperation, Prey-Predator dynamic.

Actually it’s a trick question, in my model they all belong although admittedly the final term seems jarring relative to the warm, fuzzy, comforting feeling we get from the others.

I have argued, and I invite argument to the contrary, that the oldest relationship between living organisms, one that predates parent/offspring, male/female, filial, or peer-to-peer, is the relationship between prey and predator, and therefore it serves as the platform for how emotion evolved. Below is an example of how primordial this relationship is.

In my model, emotion is a function of attraction and is organic, in other words, it depends on the body more than the Central Nervous System. In fact, everything about physiology, anatomy and neurology, evolves upon the prey/predator dynamic because making a living, and avoiding being fodder for another organisms’ means of making its living is the fundamental mandate essential to evolution. Therefore emotion preceding the centralization of the nervous system is more consistent with the evidence than the idea that as species evolved their centralized nervous systems, emotion then emerged from an enhanced capacity.

I have also argued since the seventies that the hunger circuitry is the means of “grounding” emotional states of attraction. In short, the ingestive circuitry is the main vehicle by which an organism experiences pleasure in emotional experiences. From several years ago the reader might recall the following study confirming this connection:

Furthermore, the pressure that predators put on prey, induces in prey organisms collectivized defensive behaviors, in other words they become more social due to the hunt, and to overcome that increase in their capacity to resist predation, induces in predators collectivized predatory behaviors, in other words they become more social due to the hunt. This is another track wherein the prey/predator dynamic is the basis of emotion and subsequent social configurations.

Meanwhile consensus science is operating from the framework that emotion is a cognitive phenomenon, or in the Panksepp model, that CARE giving is a maternal urge, SEEK is an exploratory urge, RAGE is a defensive urge, so that these are separate and distinct from each other with emotion being a function of neurology and neurochemistry. A more parsimonious explanation that is even more consistent with the understanding of emotion as universal to all living beings and the emerging view thanks to Panksepp that it exists below the cognitive plane, is that it evolved from the prey/predator dynamic. This would mean that the prey/predator dynamic is the basis of Panksepp’s affective systems.

Lee Charles Kelleys’ comment on this study sums things up nicely:

“Of course if scientists were to entertain the idea that prey and predator operate as two cogs — or better yet, two polarities –, in the same energetic machinery of life, and that it’s all based on the properties of attraction and resistance then the jelly’s behavior makes perfect sense.”



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Published June 6, 2015 by Kevin Behan
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4 responses to “Connection between Emotion and Hunting”

  1. joanne frame says:

    I’ve been thinking a bit about this recently and I have slightly different slant, but I may be saying the same thing. I’m wondering if the main drive is for the relationship, between 2 beings…prey-predator, mother-baby…to obtain and increase flow, as in constructal law. The grounding, ie the bite, is when there is an overload…that is necessary to eat and so the process supports the prey-predator process…but we ALL want to connect and grow/evolve, it’s part of nature, and so I see prey-predator as the subset of the wider model of connection and growth. Dogs hunt, but they also thrive without hunting. Can they, or any animal, including humans, thrive without connection?

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    Not quite sure what you mean, but do agree that flow is everything and that this is correctly articulated by the Constructal law. My point is that emotion flows through the prey/predator dynamic. Just to repeat my logic stream to see if this clarifies: emotional grounding is the means of connection, and the oral urge is the basis of emotional grounding, with the oral urge evolving into sensuality in the emotionally well-developed individual. So when we see dogs getting along without hunting, it’s due to their sensuality that evolved from their heritage as group hunters. Sensuality enables alignment and synchronization so that they can collectivize their actions and experience gratification just by the experience of collectivized behavior, no need for a tangible return. (sled dogs ecstatic in harness is a good example of this, dogs loving car rides, etc.) If however, free ranging dogs were not to be fed by humans, and if there wasn’t any scavenging opportunities, then I predict they would end up as coordinated group hunting of large prey. Basically police/protection dog training recapitulates this phenomenon so it’s not an abstract thought experiment. There’s no other animal that can be trained to do such work which again returns us to the group hunting of large prey as the basis of everything canine. Were we to leave hunting out of the equation, we soon see deterioration in the breed, the Doberman Pinscher being the prime example of this (deterioration of their prey drive) but we can see it also happening in Goldens, Irish Setters, spaniels and so on. Ultimately I don’t believe that dogs can thrive without hunting.

  3. joanne frame says:

    Thankyou for your additional clarification Kevin. I want to give it some further thought before I respond. Can I just clarify what you meant by “deterioration in the breed’, do you mean over generations of breeding for specific traits like “friendliness” or do you mean in a particular dogs life, if it doesn’t hunt?

  4. Kevin Behan says:

    I think b..’s point about limits of binary information is relevant here. The current model of looking at behavior sees either a 0 or a 1. So in this binary view it’s always a dichotomy, a false one in my view, if it’s not aggressive then it is friendly. Therefore friendly is social, aggression is anti-social. The larger role of conductivity is missed. So for example if an organism has a “friendly” immune system, they are soon killed by infections. If they have an appropriately aggressive immune system, they live to their full potential. Their life conducts the most amount of energy. Developing this faculty of discrimination is dependent on a flow principle, and the hunting paradigm is the best way to effect the proper perspective so an organism is discriminating about when to be social and when not to be social; who is of the group and who is non-conductive to the group. This is where breeding programs have fallen apart, and even competitive dog sports when they become highly stylized and behavior is all about scoring points, the essence of the work can fall through the cracks. For example, the SV had to introduce the “watch dog” designation because so many high performance sport dogs were failing in the simplest function of having a working dog, they wouldn’t bark at strangers. (don’t get me started on how they failed in police service). Like many other trainers, I started importing young dogs without any training rather than titled dogs. I think Brad Higgins might say the same thing about highly stylized field dogs that excel in competition under controlled and a narrow range of circumstances, but perform poorly under actual working conditions. Eventually, when breeding for friendliness as a temperament trait, it isn’t, any more than friendliness has something to do with how an immune system recognizes that which is of the “Self” versus that which is not of the “Self,” then poor health begins to permeate the genome. In regards to an individual dog, hunting doesn’t have to mean bringing an actual prey to ground with the owner, it could simply mean conducting the five core exercises no-matter-what. If dog and owner agree on what the prey is, then the dog is getting what it wants most, a feeling of connection that leads to full flow. So we see in current manically positive training systems, that people are working at getting a connection with their dog by promoting its friendliness and being positive and this is producing phobias, defensive hysteria, manic prey instinct and so on. Dogs are becoming more SENSITIVE and less SENSUAL. Also don’t forget, that the same experts who believe that genes are the entire scope of behavior, were arguing just a decade ago that therefore all dogs should be neutered since the fundamental point of sexuality is held to be about gene replication. This is the information bottleneck that the binary approach always renders. Even though the same experts now say wait to neuter just a bit longer, or if you’re really, really responsible, maybe not, they are still arguing from the same flawed perspective of their binary paradigm. Nothing has changed. The experts are now just scrambling to fit the new evidence back into the old box.

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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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