Does this dog need its head examined, or does this video reveal something profound about the nature of information?
Modern ethologists, behaviorists and many trainers argue that dogs and wolves organize into social structures according to a rational calculation relative to gaining control over resources. Supposedly dogs compute a cost/benefit analysis, while taking in all the relevant variables of a given context, in order to decide whether or not it is worth the effort and risk to challenge another individual over a particular resource. So if dogs are capable of such mental gymnastics, filtering and assessing complex criteria in a dynamic interaction which is going to factor out over a long period of time, how can a dog think it is able to play with a statue? What part of cold, lifeless, motionless steel isn’t relevant to this context?
The object of evolution and therefore behavior, is to import objects of resistance into the configuration. Evolution transpires through a principle of thermodynamics called the Constructal law. This has been established by Adrian Bejan in his book “Design In Nature.” While universal across the animal kingdom, this principle of self-organization around which the animal mind is configured is easiest to see in the dog (as well as very, very young children). The dog projects physical memories of resistance onto objects of attraction that resist being “emotionally accelerated” i.e. put into motion. The past is projected onto the present in order to enable the future. This is how the animal mind arrives at an emotional response. And in the animal mind an emotional response is the precursor to action. (When young children play with toys they are emotionally projecting as well but when prodded to think about it, the bubble is burst and they concede they are only “pretending.”) However this dog feels that the statue is alive, as alive as any human being that has ever accelerated its brain and body into hyper-manic prey instinct mode by throwing a stick, and this is the entire scope of its conscious awareness. It will eventually tire of the frustration because the statue is unable to go beyond the initial phase of mirroring, i.e. triggering the emotional battery. (although with a border collie you can never know how long it will persist). Nevertheless the collie isn’t pretending. And a quick thought experiment, if this was a dog hyper sensitive about its food bowl, and were a statue of another dog placed near its bowl, do you think we might see a sustained emotional response that is likewise out of proportion to context?
Emotionally projecting feelings of resistance means that a dog doesn’t perceive reality directly. Rather, reality triggers its physical memory banks, (i.e. emotional battery) and this releases energy (stress) and the dog becomes either afraid, excited or aroused depending on Temperament and context, both of which are a function of emotional conductivity. If both parties in the interaction can exchange their feelings of resistance (stress = emotional mass) so that they become in emotional counterbalance with each other, then they create a new feeling and this will elaborate in a prescribed manner so that they will end up mirroring each other. In other words, they will self-organize into a complex hierarchy of a lot of little wants, crystallized around one Big Want. Furthermore, being able to feel a common object-of-attention that can absorb this stress, greatly facilitates the process and exponentially improves the configuration because this is how objects of resistance are incorporated into the fold. So called “resource guarding” is an artifact of the phenomenon of emotional projection by which the configuration evolves. Two dogs project into the same object-of-attraction, but it’s not enough to absorb their collective energies. This is an indirect way of connecting with each other, and the resulting stress between them will accrue and if emotion is free to run its course will ultimately guide them toward an object-of-attention that can absorb their collective energies, i.e. the one “Big Want.” Everything dogs do fits into this template of emotional conductivity.
While explaining this dynamic might sound complicated because we don’t have the luxury of intellectual abracadabra, nevertheless it happens intuitively and thoughtlessly every time a dog and owner play fetch. Just take emotion, add feelings, no thinking required.