More On Canine Muzzle Grab

Occasionally the Unknown Scientist puts down the pipettes, quells the bunsen burners and graciously takes the time to critique my work. Recently the US has questioned the linkage I’ve drawn between emotion and stress as an explanation for why dogs muzzle grab. The US has employed the technique of interchanging equivalencies to see if my formulaic statements still hold up.


US: So KB’s parsimonious answer is to invent relationships about stress and emotion? And stress is an aspect of consciousness?

KB: Yes, Emotion + Friction = Stress.

We all experience emotion, we all experience stress, we know the difference between friction and flow, so whatever science has to say about the matter we should be able to map to our own personal experiences, and we can then correlate this to the behavior of dogs. In the interest of brevity I will appeal to just these subjective experiences.

In the animal mind (the human animal mind included) emotion demands motion. This mandate invokes thermodynamic consequences because if the animal is subsequently restrained from moving, it quite clearly exhibits stress, and this has been confirmed through all manner of testing. We can find the same inverse, equal/opposite dynamism between emotion and stress in our experiences when driving a car. When traffic is moving one feels flow and is calm. When traffic bogs down stress is induced and this is coupled to a jolt of fear commensurate to the urgency affiliated with getting to our destination. This is a universal phenomenon and thus qualifies as a principle of nature. It is inarguable and verifiable. In short: Stress = Friction (friction being the antecedent to fear) and Emotion = Flow. Put another way one could say stress is the physical memory of emotion after it encounters friction.


The US: It’s times like these when Behan’s BS comes down on his head burying him under piles of gibberish. Clearly ‘stress’ doesn’t mean the same thing it does to the rest of the English speaking world. In  “Your Dog is Your Mirror”, Behan provides his nonsensical definition of stress.

(KB) Stress is the physical memory of a positive attraction that wasn’t consummated and is then to be triggered by fear.

US: So the inverse of “a positive attraction that wasn’t consummated and is then to be triggered by fear” is emotion?

KB: Yes, indeed. Traffic starts moving again and the stress and its attendant fear sensations (which could then be the basis of perilous thoughts in the human mind) dissolves and emotion and the feeling of flow returns.

US: Again from his book (YDIYM):

(KB) “A dog’s consciousness derives from its participation in one overarching will that is enabled by emotion and informed by feelings…..

…….. I interpret emotion as a networked consciousness”

US: Since Behan was the one who introduce mathematical relationships, let’s do a little mathematical substitution and test his parsimonious explanation.

(KB) “But there is a far more parsimonious answer once we understand the inverse relationship between emotion and stress, the interplay of these two aspects of consciousness being responsible for complex behaviors, such as why one dog might muzzle grab another.”

Becomes the recursive:

(KB) “But there is a far more parsimonious answer once we understand the inverse relationship between a networked consciousness and the physical memory of a positive attraction that wasn’t consummated, the interplay of these two aspects of one overarching will that is enabled by emotion[networked consciousness] and informed by feelings being responsible for complex behaviors, such as why one dog might muzzle grab another.”

KB: Yes again. Emotion is a universal feature of every conscious being. See Panskeep or Dimasio, the world’s foremost neuroscientists on emotion. Emotion demands motion. People hear music, they want to move. A dog is stimulated, he wants to move. Movement is synonymous with emotion (which is why we say we feel moved). Motion is the motive. Given this inborn urge to move every emotional being is thereby invested with an emotional momentum that can be likened to the current of a river. We’re floating in a river of emotion whether we know it or not, we have a need to move that is beyond our personal control and has nothing to do with our life history and whatever lessons we may have learned along the way. Emotional beings are not self-contained, but rather are akin to canoeists participating in the flow of a river thus becoming networked as they negotiate its various challenges. When two canoeists impinge and interact, their movements are always being modulated by an underlying current. A bunch of boats drifting down stream come upon a narrow opening and they have to align and sync up in order to get through smoothly, otherwise there’s a lot of jostling and friction which doesn't feel like flow and increases the danger to each. No matter what behavior is being observed, be it flow and/or friction between the boats, underneath is an ever present flowing current, a constant compulsion to be in motion and a metric embedded in the being of every participant so that they will want to move away from friction toward flow to improve their movement.

This mandate for movement inscribes a thermodynamic quality to the nature of emotion, when emotion can’t move it’s conserved as stress, tagged with fear for later retrieval, and this now can only be resolved by overcoming said fear. So IT can only get out the way IT went in. Therefore, and in addition to attuning an animal to danger, more importantly this satisfies the other principles of thermodynamics, (1) a direction of flow, from warm to cool, and (2) the Constructal law so that behavior will be characterized by laminar and turbulent exchanges of momentum which will go on to render a structure that improves access to the flow. Canoeists will align and get in sync in order to successfully navigate a narrow channel. In the evolution of animals, this direction and flow principle intrinsic to emotion means that animals exist as a networked-intelligence. (Not by telepathy, but by the laws of nature imbued in the nature of emotion itself.) The canoeists are linked by the river. Their emotional states and experiences are not self-contained, completely autonomous subjective impressions, but rather are always being modulated by an underlying current.

So, once we understand the inverse relationship between emotion and stress, the parsimonious answer as to why dogs muzzle grab is that they’re completing an emotional circuit. Another dog resists them by directing force at them, this creates unresolved emotion, in the case of my dogs these are sensations in their forelegs triggered when they become the object of Cousy’s attention. By putting that charged object (Cousy’s muzzle) in their mouth they complete the circuit. IT went out the way IT went in. Cousy is thus stymied and so she dashes away, my dogs in hot pursuit. This E-->UE-->RE  template animals apply to all experience and acts of learning. And by do doing, the relationship between my dogs and Cousy becomes more complex because they shift from friction to a state of flow, one characterized by laminar and turbulent exchanges of momentum, what we otherwise call play. They become a networked-intelligence.

Published May 28, 2014 by Kevin Behan
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2 responses to “More On Canine Muzzle Grab”

  1. cliff says:

    @ the U.S. Kevin’s theory is just that— not unlike (am I getting these right…probably not) speciation by natural selection, relativity, gravity… If you feel so strongly about it, go out there with some dogs and disprove it. Until then, note that Kevin’s concepts, and the direct real-world application thereof have transformed our dog.

  2. Steve says:

    Totally agree Cliff, it’s been beautiful to see the confidence, inquisitiveness, trust & playfulness all re-emerge from our highly reactive old rescue staffy. While still reactive with some dogs, his ability to self calm is improving daily.

    Every idea that anyone has ever had is just that – a theory, and theories are proved & disproved all the time. It’s the way it is, not one person on this planet ‘knows’ anything for absolute sure, it’s all just belief based on current understanding & ….theory. Professionals & experts who are so aggressively sure in what they ‘know’ & others don’t ‘know’, remind me of that old Chinese proverb – the wise man knows how little he knows.

    Go on Unknown Scientist, open your heart, go by feeling instead of ‘thinking’ & give it a go with your dog/s for 6 months, you know you want to really 😉

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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.