Point Two


“Natural selection favored the dogs that did a better job of figuring out the intentions of humans.”

We run across this kind of statement all the time in the discussion on dogs. It’s supposed to serve as a powerful locomotive hauling a long logic train up Argument mountain, but it always stops me dead in the tracks because it’s also running as the caboose:

Which proto-dogs were able to figure out the intentions of humans and become domesticated? The ones who were slightly better than the others at figuring out the intentions of humans.

We are jumped straightaway to a foregone conclusion that proximity to humans is the definitive factor in the domestication of the dog, and yes doggone it, dogs think just like we think.

“Natural selection favored the dogs……………………..”

is like saying steel becomes magnetized by being placed besides a magnet. Yes, proximity is relevant, but we observe that when other items are placed near magnets they don’t become magnetized. So something deep within the makeup of steel, and which precedes by eons being placed near a magnet is the true operative principle; i.e. the re-alignment of the atoms in its lattice structure so that their respective electromagnetic charges end up accumulating rather than neutralizing each other. Once we understand this, the proximity factor becomes rather trivial. So what is it about the nature of proto-dog that drew them to humans and allowed them and humans to cross the species divide? What kind of powerful emotional “magnet” might have caused them to align with each other, deep, deep down internally, on a preverbal, non-rational, non-cognitive level of mind millions and millions of years older than any influence man has brought to bear over the mere thousands of years our two species have been in contact, and how might this deep, deep emotional dynamic be related to dogs orienting toward the human gaze and synchronizing with human moods and physical mannerisms? I suggest this question will prove to be the little engine that can. On the other hand, once we hook our train to the mighty Neo-Darwinian locomotive, our destination automatically becomes Theory of Mind. There’s no other station on the Abracadabra line.


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Published July 22, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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7 responses to “Point Two”

  1. John says:

    When I first started in dogs many moons ago , I came from a long line of hunters, folk without guns who used their dogs to kill vermin on the farm and put food on the table.
    My father came from a family of a 12 child household, food was scarce but what they had was an understanding of hunting with dogs , not training or behaviour science .
    When I developed an interest in working dogs times had changed and life was easier in Ireland we still had dogs that hunted but not out of the same necessity

    When I look back at the hunting we did and the dogs we kept its with a complete understanding on why the dogs were so social , I saw pet dogs owners who struggled everyday to manage their dogs back then I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult because our dogs just did what we wanted them to do , their was no secret as far as I was concerned Dogs were easy for me , never had a problem dog never read a book on training either

    It’s only a few years ago since I started requiring knowledge on the net , and it turned out to be a minefield of one conditioning or another one view over another but none of it quite grasped what I already knew for me the biggest factor was how Hunting socialised our dogs , nothing else not treats , petting , fussing , training discipline none of the commonly held wisdom of today ,

    So for someone who came to dogs from a working angle , the only thing that makes any sense to me was and still is NDT not because I’m looking to be part of a following or anti pack leader or positive conditioning , it’s just that nothing on the net has reinforced what I already under stand through my own dealing with the dogs .

    When I read reports about NDT and how far off the mark it is, I reflect on my own history with the canine and how the dog becomes social through our working interaction , nothing else, pretty simple really and how people who seemly understand and have widly researched dogs miss this fundemental point is beyond me

    Thanks again Kevin

  2. wetnosewarmhearts says:

    John, What a powerful recollection of your experience without the filter of books, classes etc.. It really brings NDT theory to life.

  3. If we take Hare’s statement, and change the wording ever so slightly, to this: “Natural selection favored the dogs that were most able to tune in to our emotions and desires,” wouldn’t that put us closer to the truth?

    Is it really so hard to shift from a thoughtcentric to a dogcentric point of view? And if so, why?

  4. kbehan says:

    Thank you for that testimony to how dog and man enjoin through heart; knowing what the other wants.

  5. kbehan says:

    That sums it up perfectly. And I think this is the rub, the intellect seeks to control the heart, and shifting from throughtcentric to dogcentric requires the primacy of feeling.

  6. Elektrik Skeptik says:

    You don’t understand evolution and make the kind of error a 1st year biology student would make. Should have read the extra material provided in the blog and the comments


  7. kbehan says:

    What specifically is the 1st year mistake?

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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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