“Empathy & Evolution: How Dogs Convert Stress Into Flow”
Guest Blogger Kevin Behan Explains the Evolution of “Empathy” in Dogs
Published on August 6, 2012 by Lee Charles Kelley in My Puppy, My Self
“I’m proud to present this guest post by my mentor and colleague, Kevin Behan, originator of Natural Dog Training, which views the canine mind as an energy (i.e., emotional) system rather than as a thinking machine, or by projecting the human concepts of dominance and submission onto canine behavior. Those of us who use NDT techniques find that they’re very effective for training obedience commands and for solving behavioral problems that can’t be solved by more traditional methods.
In this post, Behan applies the principles of a new scientific concept—The Construcal Law—to the co-evolutionary paths of canids and hominids.”
The Flow of Evolution
From unknown beginnings, the relationship between dog and man is constantly evolving to render more and more ways of service.
There are many dogs like the ones being used by the Indiana Crisis Response Team—headed by Dr. Jean Marie Thompson—who are deployed in disaster and crisis situations to help victims cope with emotional trauma. The dogs seek out those who are experiencing PTSD or other (dis)affective disorders. And there is an observable and measurable effect as the dog engages with the victim.
Meanwhile canine cognition labs around the world are conducting experiments to elucidate how dogs have become so attuned to human beings that they seem to have developed a capacity for empathy.
But is this kind of empathy a form of emotional contagion or a form of higher cognition? Or is it something else entirely?