More Substantiation of the NDT Hunting Thesis

(Thanks to Sang for bringing this book to my attention.)

Little by little the paradigm on dogs is shifting. The current consensus is becoming that the hunt is what drew wolf and early man together and ultimately yielded the domestic dog. What’s particularly refreshing about this treatment is how it relies on Indigenous stories of domestication as a basis for serious investigation which is then fleshed out with a clinical scientific method.




In the seventies and eighties reading the science on dogs meant a relentless browbeating of how dogs were domesticated by selecting for docility, submissiveness, respect for a pack leader. Meanwhile working in my father’s kennel business was all about aggression in dogs with security and police patrol work, problem dogs that bit people, dogs that killed livestock, not to mention the dogs that were relentless ratters, woodchuck hunters and the field dogs that were happy to flush birds all day. We always had house and barn cats and they had prey instinct but not nearly as savage as many of the dogs I had come to know. Yet they were seen as almost wild and close to their natural underpinnings while dogs were called tamed and almost totally removed from nature. Concurrently I quickly learned that you couldn’t trust “friendliness.” A dog would snuggle up to me in the admitting office and then later in his kennel would try to bite me. At some point it all began to make sense when I realized that working together in the hunt was the basis of sociability, and friendliness was a defensive response when in socially charged, non-hunting contexts. I credit working with protection and police dogs for the breakthrough and my manner of analysis (immediate-moment) which didn’t put human thoughts into the mind of a dog.

What remains lacking in the emerging consensus is the role of emotion in the hunt. In fact I will go so far to state that emotion evolved through the hunt, it’s not something that was tacked on to conscious experience, it’s a universal operating system of the animal mind. The other glaring omission remains the recognition that human beings are every bit a part of nature as is an animal in the natural world and that domestication is a natural evolutionary process. Thus the dog is the wildest aspect of the wolf, magnified until it is the major feature of its emotional makeup.

What’s particularly rich is how the book is received by Marc Bekoff on his Psychology Today Blog.

Bekoff focuses on how cooperation not competition is the basis of the relationship between the wolf and early humans and simultaneously wants to give high cognitive capacity the credit for this. Meanwhile a mathematician has divined the systems’ rules by which a wolf hunt proceeds and these simple rules have nothing to do with high cognition. This is why the emotional bond between a Police handler and her/his dog, or a hunter and his gun dog, the hounds and the hound master, the shepherd and the sheep herder, all a function of hunting is more profound than between the average owner and companion dog who is only asked to be friendly. So if cooperation in the hunt which is the basis of the wolf’s lifestyle is based on a systems’ logic, why wouldn’t the social lives of  be based on the same non-competitive system’s logic as well? Bekoff still sees the social dynamic as based on dominance and submission. Whereas an immediate-moment analysis arrives at this understanding and this is a point of view that Bekoff has pilloried on his blog (when he used to accept comments) accusing me of failing biology 101.


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Published August 22, 2018 by Kevin Behan
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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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