Gary Wilkes and why dogs roll in you-know-what


As mentioned earlier Gary Wilkes is a thoughtful writer on dogs and is willing to make definitive statements. Since some of these statements touch on my theory, I like to expound on these topics since I can contrast my model with a gene-centric interpretation as offered by Wilkes. We will find that gene-centric theories are recursive and always end up in self-contradicting logic loops.

This is what he has to say on the matter:


“Why do some dogs roll in dead things and poop? Because that is a behavior observed in canids. THAT is the explanation. Unless you have a way-back machine and can observe a function of this, you are simply blowing smoke when you offer an explanation.”

“SOME canids do this. That means it’s not as dominant a gene as noses, ears, four legs, tails or eyeballs. Not ALL canids do this. It’s likely a vestigial behavior that may or may not have had a purpose at one time, but didn’t limit the survival of those who possessed it. You can ‘maybe’ all you want, but there isn’t any need to explain it beyond this.”

KB: In other words if a gene-centric theory can’t explain something, then there is no need for an explanation.

Note that geologists don’t have a “way-back machine” and yet they are able to formulate informed explanations on past events based on what they can indeed know of geological processes they study in the present. Now the behavioral processes in the present, and can which help us make informed explanations on why dogs do what they do, are emotional processes. But unfortunately the gene-centric theorists are formulating explanations based solely on natural selection of genes, instincts and human conceptualizations of nature. They will even insert human thoughts into the mind of a dog (or any animal) in order to make the explanation seem complete. At least Wilkes is bold enough to indicate where he has reach an explanatory limit. But his premise that the explanatory possibilities have been exhausted is incorrect.

Wilkes on Emotion:

“There is no consensus. Without specific definitions, logical analysis is impossible. To say that all aggression is ‘fear based’ requires a solid definition of fear – yet none exists. The same is true of words like ’emotion’. The experts never bothered to explain the biological function of those things.  …………  

One of the things that are both incredibly important and poorly understood is ’emotion’. They are commonly thought of as ‘causative’ agents, but we then act as if they are not. If that sounds confusing, it’s because emotions have never been explained well enough.”

KB  The most important component of animal behavior is emotion and yet behavioral sciences and those who think in depth about dogs have been busy constructing theories and explanations while admitting they don’t understand emotion, the most important fundamental of the animal mind and behavior.

Emotion is the confluence of physiology and neurology in service to locomotion. It is not fundamentally about survival of the individual or the species, but of establishing a networked consciousness through collectivized movements. This not only ensures survival but enables a trans-species communication that adds new energy to the system. Dogs are the exemplars of this emotional phenomenon which is how they flourish in tandem with humans.

Emotion as energy runs to ground just as all energies in nature run to ground. A “preyful aspect” which is anything to do with a body and even fresh snow, dew or the bio-musk of disturbed earth, is an emotional ground. When a dog experiences resistance to movement, this registers as tension in the tips of his shoulder blades and so ALL dogs roll on their backs to ground out this tension, and some seek out more vivid grounds (poop, blood, carrion, etc.) to release their muscular tension being held in the forequarters. The most important thing is to understand that the network is more elemental than genes. There is no gene or set of genes that encode for the V formation that geese fly in. Given their body plan it’s the only way they can cover great distances. Their locomotive rhythm causes them to network.



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Published January 30, 2019 by Kevin Behan
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6 responses to “Gary Wilkes and why dogs roll in you-know-what”

  1. I recently read Your Dog is Your Mirror and really enjoy and resonate with most of what you say. Thank you for posting you expansive knowledge.

  2. joanne frame says:

    I had a couple of incidents with my dogs this week which I’m trying to unpick in terms of emotion, grounding and collapsing – mine and the dogs which I think is related to what you are talking about.

    The first incident involved a dog off lead coming up to one of my dogs Jack onlead. He ran over to us. Jack was excited alert, interested. Then the mood changed and this much bigger, and younger dog turned aggressive and jumped on Jack. My reading of the situation is that the bigger dog was attracted initially but then when faced with jack’s excitement, his behaviour ‘collapsed’ and aggression was his only option? Jack didn’t retaliate he squeaked and collapsed under the bigger dog. The bigger dog had to be pulled off.

    The second incident involved my lab, Archie and an older black dog Corrie. Corrie has an interesting behaviour. When he sees another dog coming he just watches and sits. Archie’s behaviour…this has happened before…was to make a bee-line for corrie and hump him. The dog carries on sitting. In this case the male owner grabbed Archie and pulled him off. When he let him go Archie went back. So Archie is attracted, but is becoming more sensuous rather than collapsing. Or is he just collapsing into a different type of behaviour because of his breed and personality? Obviously both behaviours are inappropriate. But seems to me that both are examples of a dog trying to get energy to run to ground? Can you help me distinguish what is going on in each case?

    It might help me work out the human angle, because both incidents had a charge for me, particularly the one where my dog, Archie, was acting inappropriately!

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    I would say that Jack is harboring stuck energy and when he felt safe enough and this energy began to move, the surge destabilized this brittle natured dog and he exploded. Not coincidentally Archie manifested the exact equal/opposite orientation, sensual arousal when deep latent energy moves hence the hubba hubba. So both dogs holding back –equal– but different responses — opposites.

  4. Joanne Frame says:

    Perfect, thank you for your explanation. Great! Now time for me to do the work to develop it it into a smooth wave-form ?

  5. Frankie says:

    I love this, Gary! Great insight. ?

    It seems all the research I’ve come across in Google suggests the key for training our pups is to keep patient, and keep things fun and lighthearted… which is some of what you seem to be saying here.

    Being impatient and physically forcing your pup to obey has the complete opposite effect.

    I found this list of the top 5 commands (sit, stay, etc) and how best to teach them (patience and fun, of course ;))

    Anyway, after reading some of your posts, I trust your expert opinion and wonder if you have anything to add to/comment. Any feedback is appreciated.

  6. Andrea says:

    Love the approach of recognizing that animal behavior is dependent on emotion and therefore recognizing that behaviors of dogs (even ones that owners can find disturbing like rolling in poo) happens for a reason. I often try to enforce this concept with my clients and will definitely share this article to help with that, thanks!

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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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