Resource Holding Potential

In order to understand why dogs do what they do I believe that one must first realize that a profound error is made by projecting human thoughts onto animal behavior. At some point it just clicks that transposing the human intellectual capability of comparing one point-of-view to another point-of-view, or one moment-in-time to another moment-in-time (which as far as I can tell is the basis of an abstract thought) into the minds of dogs is not logical. And the best evidence that it isn’t logical is that such a manner of analysis always generates self-contradictions within its argument. Just to be clear, dogs do process information, but they don’t think. They don’t develop a sense of self that regards its self as an entity separate from its surroundings and from this frame of mind then strive to connect the dots into a rational system of causality. They process information emotionally in terms of trying to convert resistance to the expression of emotion, stress, into an actual flow of emotion, a feeling. This internal emotional mandate ends up collectivizing animal behavior because it takes two to make a wave, i.e. a feeling. Syncopated action with others is not thinking as in comparing perspectives and points of view relative to the passage of Time. The nature of information is the principle of emotional conductivity. This leads step by step to a model of the animal mind as a flow system. Otherwise, by default one will reflexively apply human reason to canine behavior and because the animal mind is a flow system which cannot be articulated through linear concepts, one will always end up contradicting themselves.

The concept of “Resource Holding Potential” (RHP) has been offered as the best explanation for the social structure of canines. This theory has gained favor because it is seemingly more resonant with the fact that the social behavior of canines is very fluid, unlike the old theory of dominance which held that canine social structure was a rigid hierarchy of rank. Eric Brad on his blog, which is a great resource for a synthesis on the latest thinking on dogs, recently explored the notion in regards to the old view of dominance.


“The trouble with the whole ‘dominant’ conversation is that it assigns a motivation to the dog. We don’t know what their motivations are. We don’t have an ability to know with any certainty what dogs are thinking when they do things. Too often this speculation comes layered with a healthy portion of the human preconceptions and bias. We act on what we think the dog is doing and we could be very wrong.”

Right on, RIGHT ON! When we project dominance onto the behavior of dogs, we assume that a dog sees its self in relief against its surroundings, as a self relative to other selves, in competition with these other selves relative to the exigencies that come up over the passage of Time. That is too complicated to be a realistic assumption.

Supporting the RHP thesis is the theory that dogs evolved from a scavenger heritage:

EB: “That scavenger nature goes a long way to explaining why our dogs don’t get any reward out of controlling things just for the sake of having power or control. There just isn’t anything in it for them. Dogs seek to control stuff for they want for themselves. Period.”

Therefore as scavengers dogs can’t possibly be motivated by something as abstract as obtaining control over others for the sake of establish a dominance hierarchy of relative ranks.

But then later EB writes:

“From the dog’s perspective, there are several things to take into account when deciding whether or not to defend or acquire a resource. Is it a rare resource? How badly do I need it? Can I win it given the competition? How badly do my competitors want it? Is the energy I need to expend to get and hold it worth the effort? There are lots of questions. And the answer to most of them is ‘it depends.’ It’s just not a hard and fast decision every time.”

But what’s the difference between this kind of reasoning and reasoning about a dominance agenda? In fact the RHP approach, which purports to be the most efficient way for dogs to sort themselves out into a reasonable living arrangement, assigns even more complex motives to dogs than does the old dominance theory of obtaining control over others for the sake of obtaining control over others. If in the RHP theory a dog can think about wanting something relative to the degree that someone else might want that same thing, and to the degree to which that resource might be rare relative to other resources, then it can think about wanting something in the present relative to the degree it might want it in the future. It would be able to think: “I might not really want it right now, not as much as that one apparently does, so he can have it now, but wait a minute, I can remember when I really, really did want it, or I can imagine that I would really, really want it once I see him enjoying it, so if I really want it later, I won’t be able to have it? And because it’s not efficient to contest another for a resource once they’ve taken possession of it because then they’re really going to fight for it, therefore dogs would tend toward becoming proactive. A dog wouldn’t wait for a contest to erupt, he would assert supremacy for no reason other than to ensure that he can have access to any given resource whenever he wants it. And what would we call this proactive tendency? Dominance.

We’ve arrived at a self-defeating logic loop. If a dog is capable of doping out a complex risk assessment that is time and contextually sensitive, then thinking about achieving dominance would automatically follow. If a dog can think about controlling a resource, or a couple of resources, then it can think about controlling ALL the resources. And thinking about controlling all the resources is the same as being dominant. Furthermore, according to Neo-Darwinian logic Nature would soon cut to the chase and just encode an instinct to achieve dominance straightaway into the nature of dogs because this is so much easier than encoding for the capacity within an animal to entertain all that strategizing necessary to track the control parameters of each particular resource relative to each rival and then having to figure out the need to be dominant on its own.

Meanwhile Eric doesn’t notice that these two paragraphs contradict themselves and this is because he’s turning to this second point in order to substantiate the notion that RHP is fluid, dynamically variable and can thus explain how individuals adapt themselves to context. Whereas were he first and foremost concerned with building a model he would have run into this contradiction as an immediate dead end. But the appeal of transposing human psychology onto animal behavior is too expedient to resist given its infinite malleability to putty over glitches as they pop up.

And it’s ironic that the RHP/Village-Scavenger-Dog theory is most aimed at Cesar Milan in order to characterize him as the most misinformed dog guy who has ever held a leash. This will prove to be ironic because the RHP thesis has to play catch up with the relatively new science of emergence, the capacity of animals to spontaneously self-organize into collectivized group action without any direction from a leader. Modern ethology now says that the term dominance can be retained in the lexicon because they now see it as an emergent quality arising from a conglomeration of relationships. So a pack of wolves each work out their individual preferences over a variety of resources relative to other individuals, and from this emerges a stable social system. Each individual relationship can be termed dominant/submissive, it’s just that there isn’t an overarching dominance template. In the emergence approach, dominance and submissiveness aren’t character traits inherent in an individual, but rather are acquired characteristics by virtue of engaging in a dynamic that works out into a dominance and submissive relationship. Individual wolves vary genetically according to a bold versus shy gradient rather than dominant versus submissive, bold ones tending to have an advantage, but it’s not hard and fast. Every dog has its day, even one who has to act submissive most of the time. Just insert a human psychology of a cost/benefit analysis and the circumstances of a particular context will give us the specifics of any given interpersonal dynamic. And so a loose kind of dominance network settles over the pack so that it more efficiently expends energy on useful pursuits rather than intramural struggles. The individual doesn’t want to attain a superior rank, it just wants to maintain access to a resource.

However this reasoning factors out into an oxymoron and the aforementioned irony. For example, Cesar Millan sees himself as a dominant pack leader and according to RHP theory this is a grievous and outdated error. But remember in the modern understanding of dominance as a hierarchy revolving around resources, the characteristic of the structure is now said to emerge from the network of relationships, and since Cesar controls a dog’s access to every resource and is universally and unfailingly consistent in this approach, then operationally he has attained the rank of Pack Leader because he believes this to be the case. He has imposed this belief as the organizing principle inherent in all the relationships he cultivates with each individual dog, and additionally that is the only way he allows them to interact as well. The only one who can show dominance is Cesar. Cesar’s Way IS a rigid pack structure, a rigid chain of command with one supreme leader, no lieutenants, captains, Sergeant’s et al., just privates. (This view strays from the nature of hierarchy as explained in “Design In Nature” as there must always be a system of progressively inferior channels serving as tributaries to the bigger ones.) Since Cesar is an omniscient holder of all resources, and since he sees himself as an alpha figure in charge, and since this is what governs all relationships, therefore according to the new definition of canine social structure as an emergent system characterized by the nature of the relationships, he’s right. His sense of a pack leader emerges from the network of relationships. So those of the emergent, RHP village scavenging dog theory have no logical beef with Cesar.

But none of these self-defeating logic loops and oxymorons are the biggest problem with the RHP approach. The main problem is that this presumed internal decision making process, that is then to be broadcast through a distinctive body language so as to communicate intent to a rival, would have had to have evolved in tandem with the equal/opposite suite of traits, mental capacities and display behaviors so that said rivals are capable of receiving the intended message and are then able to act in a complementary manner so that their signals don’t get crossed and pass futilely between them. We can’t just jump abracadabra to full blown intellectual capacity for risk/benefit analysis that is context sensitive just because this happens to be efficient. So what if it’s efficient, we can’t just invent a human psychology by way of an explanation. The signal of the signaler has to find a ready audience in the individual receiving the signal in order for this capacity to evolve. There’s no point in inventing a signal  transmitter without inventing a signal receiver while you’re at it. One half of the communication equation can’t evolve without the other half evolving at the same stage of development, neither lagging nor outstripping it, and while also yielding an immediate benefit in some way eons before it arrives at the full blown expression of cost/benefit analysis and reporting of results via behavior that we are supposedly finding exhibited by animals today. It doesn’t do an individual any good to defer to an inferior that it could have bested (especially from the species point of view which is also said to benefit from the cream of the genes rising to the top of the genome), and then it would prove dangerous to signal deference to a physically superior individual by displays of vulnerability if that physical superior doesn’t recognize the signals of deference. What if at the beginning of the evolutionary process an individual submits and then is injured or killed because the superior interprets the submission as weakness, or as being wounded and hence an invitation to be attacked? That evolutionary thread is immediately terminated.

Before we can be asked to accept such a premise, we must first be provided the  step-by-step progression by which the signals that facilitate both sides of the transaction have evolved in syncopated lock step. For example, such an explanation has been offered for the evolution of the eye with each minor advancement laid out step by step replete with its adaptive advantage for the organism at each stage of its evolution as it progresses toward the fully functional complex eye. What then is the original impulse that evolved into a signal of deference? What is the first impulse that went on to evolve into the signal that indicates an individual is prepared to compete over a resource and which at the same time gives a rival pause and the aggressor time and internal motive to hold itself back from getting entangled in an unnecessary aggressive encounter? And what about the inverse, where is the precursor to a superior being mollified and defused by an obsequious gesture? Instead we are only given human psychological treatments, fully formed, fully evolved in order to explain what’s being held as a fundamental organizing principle of canine social life, which as a matter of fact predates by many epochs the invention of language and the evolution of abstract thought.

Interestingly, if the RHP folks were to ask: What is the greatest resource for wolves (hint, large dangerous prey animal) then the body language between prey and predator would provide them with precisely these precursors and a model would follow that is hierarchal, fluidly adaptable to circumstances, resonant with the evolution from the wolf into the domesticated dog, demonstrable in the capacity for dogs to work with and live intimately in man’s world, and which explains all the things that dogs do from riding in cars, howling at sirens to patiently sitting for an errant morsel at toddler’s high chair. In NDT the emotional dynamic that step-by-step evolves into a complex social structure is provided: (prey/predator–male/female–parent/offspring–peer-to-peer) with the benefits demonstrable for each participant in any given interaction.

The easiest way to get a grasp on the animal mind as a flow system is to read “Design In Nature” by Adrian Bejan wherein he definitively shows scientifically, inarguably, that the purpose of hierarchy in nature is to facilitate flow. In each and every structure to be found in nature and even in man’s artifices, there is one main channel and a branching system of progressively finer and finer tributaries in order to saturate the field in question. In canine social life the main channel is the hunt, this is the one Big Want. Then there are subsidiary “little wants” manifested by any given dogs so-called personality. The canine nature is to be attracted to other canines with a force that is greater than can be consummated by simple social contact. The friction over these little-wants, and the capacity for these to be easily resolved without violence, reflects that dogs are attracted to each other with a force that can’t be consummated by being friendly. Thus they are driven to work together toward a common object-of-attention that can absorb their combined momentums, hence the hunt as the main channel. When we observe friction over any given resource, these are really only “excuses” for them to express the friction that exists between them in the confines of the pack. The dog that guards a resource, doesn’t really want it, it needs it. So give it what it really wants, the one Big Want, and friction over the little wants automatically dissipate.

The first question one has to ask when contemplating the source and mechanics of any design whether it be inanimate or inanimate, is: “What is the current? This question will lead one to understand emotion as that current, and the principle of emotional conductivity (E->UE->RE) as its principles of movement around which social life configures.

When interpreting behavior there are two—and only two—options, either one begins with attraction or with intention. If one opts for the latter, and I understand how on the surface that does appear reasonable, nevertheless it is still an assumption one is choosing to make. There is no actual direct evidence to support this assumption, anymore than there is direct evidence to support the notion of attraction. The case has to be made circumstantially and either way one is making an assumption. Furthermore it’s not possible to defer making one of these assumptions in the hopes of taking in as much information as possible before choosing one or the other. The human intellect by default inserts human reason into purposive systems it can’t understand. The human mind always personifies which is why the notion of intention seems immediately logical and self-evident. It is an intellectual reflex of the human mind to insert intention into intelligent action. And therefore the only way one can test any thesis predicated on intention, is to also learn to see in terms of the alternative, attraction. Only then can one follow both systems out to their logical conclusions and then objectively decide which one makes the most sense.

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Published May 10, 2013 by Kevin Behan
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10 responses to “Resource Holding Potential”

  1. Chris Fowler says:

    I find understanding NDT easier when you contrast theories like this.
    If indeed, as you write, “The friction over these little-wants, and the capacity for these to be easily resolved without violence, reflects that dogs are attracted to each other with a force that can’t be consummated by being friendly.” How does one integrate this idea into the
    world of dogs coming together as groups for short episodes in time, for example, the everyday dog park, daycare, or neighborhood
    dog walk? How does one simulate “The Big Want” without becoming a victim,( like the jogger recently killed in Calif. by a pack of dogs)?
    Thanks for continually sharing your most recent ideas,
    And Thank you for your time.

  2. kbehan says:

    You’re welcome Chris. At wolf park they let the wolves, or at least they used to, into a fenced field with bison. Now if a buffalo were able to mirror the wolves, as we do when we play with a dog, then the wolves would become bonded with that buffalo and eventually there wouldn’t be any potential for violence as they would view the buffalo as an extension of themselves. They would feel release at the sight of the buffalo (rather than an intense pressure which would activate their prey instinct) and their puppy mind would take over with a soft mouth, an inability to maintain a hard fixation, and in this state the act of aligning and synchronizing with the buffalo would become its own reward. I’ve seen dogs fall into this routine with horses and the horse hardly has to participate, the dog makes up all the steps by projecting physical memories of play onto the horse and the little feedback the horse offers in return is enough to satisfy the delusion. The ultimate object of behavior is to get to a state of weightlessness rather than obtaining a material reward. When sociable dogs get together this is what basically transpires, but occasionally there are damaged ones who are carrying trauma in the emotional battery, but also ones that have an incredibly high hunger for tactile, sensual contact and this has gotten them in trouble when it began to overwhelm other dogs and then they acquire the charge. When carrying a charge, as they begin to get stimulated by intense play, the intensity gets high enough to trigger that physical memory of a crash and that’s when the fight breaks out. So if you cultivate a dog to become in sync and aligned with you at full bore so as to induce the state of weightlessness, (which is what pushing/bite/rub-a-dub/barking does) then the merging of selves is complete and there’s no potential for violence. Even at full bore the dog can still feel the vulnerabilities of the owner and he could no more collapse into aggression than he could rip off his own tail. The dogs in California in contrast are exhibiting the charge coming out in hyper-hyper manic prey instinct. As soon as they saw the jogger, their group mood collapsed into a point of fixation–the jogger’s eyes leading to her physical center-of-gravity–and in a state of missile-lock they frenzied out and brought her to the ground. There was nobody home in their bodies. They couldn’t feel a thing.

  3. Chris Fowler says:

    Thanks Kevin
    I will go back and review all aspects of this, it is so important to understand.

  4. I think you’ve nearly nailed it. The only problem I see with this argument is that the contsructal law is a) not widely recognized, and b) probably flawed. Once you can make your argument without it, you’re set.

    Seeing the pack as a flow system is right on. The constructal law as a jumping-off point for that flow still seems iffy.

  5. kbehan says:

    Thanks Lee. My model isn’t based on the Constructal law, I developed it from the understanding of emotion as a “force” of attraction, with complex social and behavioral structure (learning over time) being a function of its principles of conductivity. I believe all the laws of physics are invoked in this interpretation, conservation of energy, laws of motion, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, etc. I heard about the Constructal law about two years ago and so far I haven’t found any weakness in how it applies to the animal mind, although of course I’m not qualified to comment on its math or engineering applications. (In that regard Bejan is one of the top cited scientists in the world.) My hope is that if people read “Design In Nature” it will make the notion of flow that much easier for them to apprehend and then they can see that modern dogdom is only giving them false dichotomies from which to choose because it doesn’t entertain the notion of flow other than letting in a little trickle about energy efficiency, (but even this is to be moderated by higher cognitive function). One school says social structure is about a strict dominance hierarchy, a trickle down phenomenon. The other school says no it’s all about learning according to reinforcements, also a trickle-down interpretation. Constructal law demonstrates that there is indeed hierarchy, but it’s based on flow, a bubble-up phenomenon, not learning as in a system of reinforcements and intention, or a leader imposing order on the unwashed masses. So I don’t see Constructal law as a jumping off point but as a jumping-in point in that it can help people make the leap to attraction rather than intention. (A flow system runs on attraction) Additionally, the Constructal law makes a concrete bridge between the inanimate and the animate world, between the evolution of organisms and the evolution of human artifice. They are all of the same design. This is a huge breakthrough understanding that I never dreamed science would back me up on when I realized that emotion was energy, that it composed a networked-intelligence and that therefore all evolution, even human contraptions such as computer and internet, is based on the same energetic predicates. So far I haven’t really gotten started in explaining these correlations. In regards to emotional projection, this passage from “Design” is especially important.

    “Geometric form is generated in natural systems that are internally “alive” with flows and driving gradients (for example, temperature and pressure). Such systems are not in equilibrium internally. They are not dead; they are on the move. In order to get from here to there, everything must create a path. People, then, are only half right when they say things seek the path of least resistance. Instead of finding these already cleared paths, flow systems construct their own flow architectures and body rhythms that enable them to move more easily.”

    Zane, J. Peder; Bejan, Adrian (2012-01-24). Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization

    In other words, before the dog can take one step forward, it must first project its sense of its p-cog forward. This is a modeling program that fast forwards the animal mind so that it will already know what it will feel like when its body catches up to its projected p-cog, or what I would call its “e-cog.” The two-brain conundrum means the dog is not in equilibrium internally. It must move but it must move toward something. An object-of-attraction is the resolution of the internal disequilibrium, the nulling out of internal tension. Emotional projection creates a path that the dog’s body will follow by projecting the p-cog into objects-of-attraction. Everything about the dog’s mind is configured around this path. What makes dogs so social, is that their capacity to project their e-cog into things, is so pronounced, like this dog with a statue, which again ties into the phenomenon of wolves evolving to feel which large, dangerous prey is feeling vulnerable. Wolves project into the prey, they then feel what they would be feeling were they in that prey’s body. When the prey’s predatory aspect isn’t strong enough to make them feel inhibited, they get the GO signal. Emotional projection is exactly akin to a quantum leap wherein the electron jumps from one state to the next without following any continuous line. One instant it’s here, the next instant it’s somewhere else. Meanwhile in the material world the dog’s body moves along such a continuous line as it travels from point A to point B, but the emotional mind has already made the connection by leaping ahead into the object of attraction/resistance. It created the path. This transfer of information is possible because deep down all organisms run according to the same emotional script. This transmission of information/energy is not otherworldly but the most down to earth transference that could be possible: internal stress being converted into physical motion. What is so incredible about the Constructal law is its insistence about incorporating objects of resistance into the configuration so as to improve the flow. So if the dog is projecting his physical memories along with his sense of his p-cog, (memories being inextricably attached to the p-cog which we can become intimately aware of when we trip in public) then emotion has solved the problem of entropy, not to mention the Unified Field problem. The dog is now equipped intuitively to want to travel the path of HIGHEST resistance and thus constantly improving the configuration by constantly adding new energy to the system. This is because emotional projection by which the path is created, simultaneously mandates “emotional fusion” and the coupling of two into one. Thus, if the object-of-resistance doesn’t act like prey, then emotion builds up an incredible charge and a process of elaboration becomes possible to avoid an overload and collapse of the state of attraction, wherein the charge is passed back and forth between each party in the interaction. The intensity of this process of elaboration regresses the individual in its physical memory banks, in the case of social interactions, to the earliest imprint of flow, the litter experiences. At this pure level, this means that the dog can’t feel good unless the object-of-resistance it is attracted to feels good as well, and this then creates an intuitive urge to deflect its energies toward a common object-of-attention that can absorb their combined energies as this is the only way both can feel good at the same time. This deflection is the only way both can turn their individual stress reservoirs into coherent action so that they don’t take on any more stress. (This is emotionally manifested as the feeling of weightlessness/resonance.) For example, because of emotional coupling, if one arbitrarily were to overpower the other, it would still end up with more charge than it began with because the other one didn’t act like prey, i.e. subscribe to the principle of emotional conductivity.
    So in this video the border collie is attracted to a massive object of resistance that triggers its physical memories of a human being, but it can’t connect of course since it’s dealing with a statue, and then finds itself autonomically deflected to the path of least resistance, the stick, in order to connect with the path of highest resistance, the curiously inert humanoid. (which is how in its many variants a dog is able to connect with its first humanoid in the first place) The stick becomes the new e-cog, or midpoint for the system and the two can align and synchronize around a common object-of-attraction and thereby form a new and improved configuration. Like Cliff said, won’t somebody please throw that poor boy a stick. We desperately want flow when our physical memories of frustration are triggered. This compels us to create a path, and the creation of a path will ultimately improve the configuration because it’s the basis of an emotional bond. Two individuals able to feel good in the same place at the same time by inducing good feelings in the other. This same phenomenon is what is happening in the hunt. The midpoint of the prey becomes the e-cog for each individual, and they align and sync up around it.

  6. All this theory is making my head hurt, but I think the idea of emotions being a force of attraction means that emotions are a type of gravity (a force that causes two particles to pull towards each other). I know that when two of my dogs were fighting, they were like magnets, or like two planets colliding. There was so much unresolved emotion, they couldn’t NOT be attracted to each other. It was the most intense attraction I had ever seen. I’d pull them apart and they’d come right back together, it was a force that could not be reckoned with. Just like when two people fall in love, they’ll do anything to be together and there’s a very real “gravity” to their attraction (think star crossed lovers). Once we realize we live in a “force” field (a field made up of many forces, or is there really just one?) we can better understand how our emotion (which is really energy) drives us to certain actions (a path through the field). Whatever this unknown field is (the fabric of spacetime?) we all live in it and we are all subject to the laws of it. Our projections of reality would determine how well we can achieve and maintain flow within the field, according to how much unresolved emotion is holding us back. I think once we overcome the gravity of our emotions and become unstuck, that unresolved emotion could perhaps be the very force driving us forward, onward to a higher level of consciousness or state of evolution. That’s why in Star Wars they say: “May the FORCE be with you,” meaning hopefully your are in flow, and whatever forces are acting upon you are helping you stay in a state of flow.

    The school of thought that teach dominance theory and the now more politically correct school which teaches “learned” behaviors are just ways of helping people cope with the fact that we really understand anything at all about the way the force works (or maybe some are just starting to). These theories are like boiling down all the mysteries in the universe to: 1. There is a hierarchy, and here is who is in charge. 2. You can train your dog, i.e. train your emotions, to do anything you want with a clicker and a cookie. These ideas are so fantastically oversimplified because all people want is a sense that there is a way to have control over their emotions (their reality). They are feeling helpless in this battle against their emotions or this fight to control/create their reality, and these ideas of structure and teaching help alleviate (or give the illusion of alleviating) their feelings of helplessness. Kevin, you could probably explain how these unresolved emotions of helplessness come from times of infancy or childhood when perhaps we weren’t cared for properly and felt afraid and yet helpless at the same time? Thus the reason some people seek order and a sense of control over the external world via the dominance or learned behavior theories, as opposed to just “going with the flow.”

    Does any of this relate to the above comment? I might be totally off on a different tangent.

  7. kbehan says:

    Sorry about the head throbbing but your comments are exactly on point. It boils down to something extremely simple. Emotion is like two individuals standing on an elastic medium, like a trampoline. Their mass distorts the surface and anytime they move, they are immutably drawn together. A simple force of attraction. But this is inherently unsettling and uncomfortable because it gets harder and harder to maintain balance and the sense of disequilibrium mounts as they get closer to each other. This discomfort means that gravity (the sense of being drawn together) has converted to electromagnetism by way of the neuro-chemical electromagnetic activity of the Central Nervous System, (the sensations of pressure in the head) as disequilibrium and hence displacement increases. Relieving this pressure is why your dogs were fighting, they were glomming onto each other like two powerful electromagnetic dynamos, like a thundercloud over a lightening rod. The gravitational pull converting into an electrostatic like pressure that they sought relief from through the most primal reflex, biting. (This is the exact same reason why we grip the steering wheel when our car starts to spin out of control even though this is the least effective way of dealing with the problem. Race car drivers don’t do this.) So what’s the solution? Enter Feelings. If the two individuals synchronize their actions, i.e. become each others’ mirror, then the actions of the other no longer are felt as destabilizing but as energizing and one can springboard off the other’s distortions of the trampoline and increase the amplitude of their own movements without any effort. It’s synergistic, more energy is returned than is being invested. This is the state of emotional suspension. And once synchronized, they then can move in alignment with each other about the trampoline and very easily and effortlessly navigate—–IN TANDEM—-wherever they want to go. So the ease of movement and capacity to move about, is a function in one of the other. Furthermore, they are now revolving around a MIDPOINT that is as a matter of fact not in any of their bodies or beings but at some mathematical point that is ever changing in the trampoline. This is emotional fusion, and the feeling and awareness of this radiates from the heart. The other is felt as being responsible for one’s ease of movement, as well as any tangible fruits that may be realized by one’s efforts. So a dog doesn’t see himself as a solitary being, but as either fused with another or not (con-fused), and this is a function of how strongly evolved the state of alignment/synchronization has developed to be in their particular relationship. Some beings are sensed and catalogued as inducing tons of pressure, other beings are sensed and catalogued as inducing tons of flow. If a dog doesn’t have a strong track record of flow, he’ll gravitate to overloads in order to experience relief from the pressure. This is the genesis of resource guarding problems. But if a dog has a strong flow imprint from proper emotional development, he’ll always CHOOSE release when confronted by pressure, he loves things rather than needs things. This is what keeps wolves from fighting over resources. He’ll work to become the other’s mirror because he can feel IN HIS HEART the potential for release toward the one Big Want. Where does this feeling of emotional displacement, fusion and suspension come from? From the emotional battery, from reliving physical memories of flow, or contrarily, their interruption. The “Mirror Dog” chooses an old memory of flow and this innately motivates and positions him to become the emotional counterbalance to the one to which he is electromagnetically attracted to, just like two kids that work out how to be opposite poles of a wave function on a trampoline. (one going up while the other going down) If the other individual is hyper, he’ll become still. If the other is guarded and still, he’ll become smaller but active. If the other is unapproachable, he’ll deflect to a midpoint (picking up a stick or rolling on the ground a discrete distance away.) So there’s a lot going on and much to say, but this is the incredibly simple template for all of animal cognition. Animal learning isn’t a function of random trial and error or even by way of material consequences to one’s actions. It’s an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic so as to turn stress into a state of emotional suspension. Hope this stops the hurting.

  8. kbehan says:

    BTW, the reason our “heads hurt” when we try to grasp the nature of the animal mind, is because our intellect doesn’t want to work that hard. It wants to run the path of least resistance and fit the unknown into patterns that are already familiar and well grooved, intellectual precepts as expedient short cuts. It’s akin to learning a formula for a math problem without first understanding the essence by which that formula works. The rational intellect doesn’t feel but one pain, confusion, and it resists going down into that void with all its “might.” So I can appreciate the struggle involved with these simple ideas. Grab one idea that feels right and hold onto it, then another, and then wait for them to one-by-one come together into a synthesis. Along the way your intellect will throw up rhetorical questions and visualizations of the way “things should be” to terminate the process, but you can train it to articulate its points of confusions into precise and finely granulated questions. When the question is small enough, there’s no room left for judgment and old habits of mind and the intellect is then able to absorb what the emotional body is digesting and formulate new mental representations for this information. As the whole model comes into view, the connection between body and brain becomes complete (at least in regards to dogs, we have to work even harder when it comes to people.) Good luck and Keep On Pushin!

  9. Sundog hmm says:

    Kevin and Leah, Thanks for the exchange above. My head does not hurt because you have helped me open my heart a bit more. Thanks again.

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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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