Making Sense of “Making Sense of the Nonsense”

System: 1) A complete exhibition of essential principles or facts, arranged in a rational or organized whole, or a complex of ideas or principles forming a coherent whole.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary


When a personality theory (one animal relative to another animal as in a dominance/submissive interaction) introduces a principle of energy in order to account for the variability of peer-to-peer interactions, it will end up demonstrating the opposite of its thesis. The energy theory will reveal itself as there will be no other way to arrive at a coherent whole. For example, one can’t say that once in a while the earth goes around the sun in order to maintain a geocentric view of the universe. Likewise, once a principle of energy is admitted entry into the discussion about a social system, the logical extension will inevitably lead to an energy theory.

In the recent post “Anatomy of a Discussion on Dominance” the discussion was about to lead to the unravelling of the premise that there can be a situational, fluid kind of dominance as an organizing principle of canine society. The discussion ended with the recognition that wolves stay together as extended families, the pack, because they hunt a large dangerous prey animal that is physically superior. This article will bring that discussion to its logical conclusion and show that the notion of controlling a specific resource due to a situational awareness of context, in fact disproves the notion of dominance in any of its iterations.

  1. To review, in “Anatomy of a Discussion on Dominance” it was established that unlike other predators, packs of wolves are related family members that remain together as an extended group because they hunt a large, dangerous prey animal that they cannot physically overpower. Therefore it becomes logical that the hunting life organizes the social life. This means that the #1 resource in a pack of wolves is a physically superior prey animal.
  2. The wolf that is the least inhibited about wanting this resource, in other words, he/she is most willing to take the moose head on, goes first. The rest follow. Wolves segregate themselves in this regard according to Temperament, i.e. a level of desire relative to a degree of inhibition. At this point one could argue that the lead wolf thereby controls the other’s access to the pack’s #1 resource, a large, dangerous prey animal due to the force of its desire.
  3. However we must also take into consideration that Dr. Mech and other researchers have established that wolves are opportunistic hunters that target the old, injured and the young of these large, dangerous prey animals. And the reason wolves must be opportunistic is because their prey is physically superior. To find an opportunity they must first test the prey or the herd. Wolves desire all moose and their calves, and they desire all bison/musk ox in defensive formation around their young, but first the prey’s defenses must be probed for weakness. If the prey are strong, access is denied. If they are weak, access is granted. So if leadership and control are concepts we must adhere to, the moose/bison/musk ox/caribou qualify as the true “leader” of the group because they “control” access to the wolves’  #1 resource, and which their social life is organized around.
  4. What further commends this prey/predator modality as an emotional on/off switch in peer-to-peer interactions, bearing in mind that this dynamic must have a fluid quality due to a situational awareness that varies from context to context, is its very fluidity due to a situational awareness that varies from context to context. Both prey and predator are intimately aware via an internal ratio of desire relative to inhibition, of their respective situations. Every prey wants to escape and/or fight to live, every wolf wants to bite and/or stay safe, and when the energetic dynamic of desire/inhibition tips in one direction or the other due to a situational awareness of the emotional context, the interaction between prey and predator shifts accordingly. Therefore since the social life of wolves is predicated on their style of hunting, interactions between wolves would likewise be characterized by the tell tale signature of desire relative to inhibition displayed outwardly as inhibited/vulnerable prey (passive submission)–aroused/focused prey (active submission)—inhibited/vulnerable predator (reactive dominance)——aroused/focused predator (active dominance).
  5. In other words what has been interpreted as dominance and submissive states are in reality the predator and prey temperament traits in the two modalities of aroused relative to inhibited. Thus the emotional shifts between wolves and their prey are the same as the emotional shifts between wolves. This is the logical extension of the premise that situational control over resources is the most efficient use of energy.

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Published March 3, 2012 by Kevin Behan
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3 responses to “Making Sense of “Making Sense of the Nonsense””

  1. john says:

    When you say situational control over resources been the most efficient use of energy, do you mean the guarding of food etc probably one of the first confrontational situations seen in pups,

    Im getting muddled up between that idea of conserving energy and rows over food between dogs becoming an aspect of purging the last 1% of the emotional battery is it not conflicting

    one is expelling energy and the other is reserving it ?? thanks

  2. kbehan says:

    I’m commenting here on how Roger Abrantes is using the idea of efficiency, a principle of energy, in order to substantiate a dominance hierarchy that he sees as a fluid dynamic due to a situational awareness of access to resources. My point is that you just can’t let a little energy theory leak into your personality theory (the notion of efficiency) and then expect one’s personality theory to survive for long. You end up needing a complex psychological concept such as “situational awareness” to explain why the so-called dominance hierarchy is fluid rather than static. Furthermore, by letting in a little energy theory because of its undeniable sense, and then having to generate more and more complex psychological rationales to keep the evidence contained within a personality theory, you will end up contradicting yourself.
    For example, if access to resources is the basis of leadership, who then is the real leader? It is established that wolves stay in extended family groups, and my theory that these strong social bonds are due to the canine desire to hunt large, dangerous prey. Therefore the number one resource is said prey, and since they are large and dangerous, they control access to this resource and are thus the leader according to the logic of dominance as control over access to resources. So Abrantes is contradicting the personality theory of a dominance hierarchy with his recognition that it is more efficient to control access over resources so as to avoid outright fighting, because now the bull moose must be considered the leader. (This of course is far closer to the truth, the prey does control the predator, but the idea of a leader is a false personality theory construct).
    Since wolves are opportunistic hunters given the physical superiority of their prey, this means they have an internal metric of desire relative to inhibition so as to feel which large, dangerous prey are vulnerable and can be taken relatively safely. This internal emotional dynamic would be the source of social fluidity as well, rather than “situational awareness.” So when pups are sorting themselves out around various objects of attraction, such as food, they are likewise internally gauging their state of desire relative to inhibition due to resistance from other pups. This internal emotional dynamic is the source of social fluidity rather than “situational awareness” and Abrantes’ assertion that resources are a proxy for establishing dominance. This internal metric relative to objects-of-attraction (food) around which we observe great emotional friction (resistance) resulting in emotional polarization, is the exact same template that will kick in when they confront, as a group, objects-of-resistance. It’s not a dominance hierarchy it’s the prey drive as the organizing template of everything canine. So the pack is an emotionally battery charging system. The friction of pack life formats the battery and initiates that last .01%, and then the vulnerable large prey constitutes the opportunity to release that last .01%. This ensures emotional bonding and is why wolf packs tend to stay together in extended family groups.

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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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