The Emperor Has No Model

An energy theory is a fantastic proposition. If an energy theory is true, then consciousness comes before the brain. Furthermore this means that genes are the result of consciousness rather than consciousness being the result of genes. In other words, animals didn’t evolve to have consciousness; they evolved in response to consciousness. Admittedly this is a difficult premise to wrap ones’ mind around. It’s far easier to think that the brain comes first and then consciousness arises on that platform.

But is such a theory more or less fantastic than other theories for the emergence of intelligent life on earth? Is it more or less fantastic than for example the theory of alien colonization, in other words, life from outer space? Is it more or less fantastic than the mainstream biological theory of natural selection by way of random mutations: in other words, life from nothing? So how can we mere mortals with our limited vantage point rate the fantasticality quotient between any given theory for the emergence of intelligent life on planet earth since really and truly all theories will boil down to something extraordinarily fantastic and possibly even beyond the powers of human comprehension?

Perhaps the only way is to ask whether or not any given theory provides a model that is observable, testable and demonstrable in the behavior of animals. I don’t mean some tantalizing clues here or there about the role of this or that hormone, brain structure or gene sequence, as valuable as these surely are, but a full-fledged model that encompasses all phenomena of consciousness with precise distinctions being made between each aspect; from learning, emotion, feelings, instincts, thinking, sexuality, personality, social structure, play, and all the “little” odds-and-ends that generally get left aside like migratory impulses, telepathy, miraculous feats of dogs homing and returning to a distant owner in unknown locations, and earthquake and seizure-in-owner predictions.

My position is that modern biology, evolutionary theory and animal psychology, does not have a model. Psychology by definition is the absence of a model because in our current understanding of individual uniqueness one must be free to think anything and then make choices based on such thoughts in order to qualify as a unique individual. The human capacity to think anything is why cognitive therapy is so successful for those whose thoughts lock them into self-destructive compulsive behavior loops. It basically teaches the afflicted person that their brain lies; it makes things up which cognitive therapy then skillfully debunks helping the patient understand that their brain is trying to “kill them” and that their mind is not their thoughts. So my belief is that psychology cannot have a model for what’s going on inside an animal’s mind if it relies on thoughts as a way of explaining complex behavior and that which we perceive as morality in the rituals and social customs of animals. If we’re going to say animals entertain thoughts, then there cannot be a model for the animal mind. And since modern behaviorism is going in the direction of thinking and intention in animal cognition then it is working itself away from developing a model and we have no way of rating the fantasticality of such a proposition as it thus becomes wholly an article of faith.

While I did not build my model by way of a logical argument but rather by observing and working with dogs hands on, I believe a logical argument makes the existence of such a model plausible and this can help one shift their perspective and challenge assumptions that at first seem self-evident. I am therefore going to proceed step by step with the logical argument for an energy theory of consciousness and slowly develop the model so that at any given point the linkages can be questioned, challenged or probed for further clarification if someone is confused. I invite both genuine student and my harshest critic to participate in a point by point highly targeted assessment of the logical argument for an energy theory of the animal mind.

(Step 1)   Any behavior that an animal performs would have to be the result of only two possibilities, intention or attraction. There is no other possibility. So before we go further and explore the implications of intention versus attraction, I invite someone to suggest or recommend any other possibilities.

Want to Learn More about Natural Dog Training?

Join the exclusive and interactive group that will allow you to ask questions and take part in discussions with the founder of the Natural Dog Training method, Kevin Behan.

Join over 65 Natural Dog trainers and owners, discussing hundreds of dog training topics with photos and videos!

We will cover such topics as natural puppy rearing, and how to properly develop your dog's drive and use it to create an emotional bond and achieve obedience as a result.

Create Your Account Today!

Published November 28, 2010 by Kevin Behan
Tags: , , , , , ,

92 responses to “The Emperor Has No Model”

  1. DaveD says:

    Sean, I indeed made attempts to read all those. You will excuse me and your fellow NDTers who cannot understand KB’s writings. a) the grammar is poor – there, it;s said, and b) his statements are inconsistent with time.

    So now, I have asked if he understands and accepts my simple example of a thought.

  2. kbehan says:

    A cruise missile has an image stored of its target that it references during final approach, what is the distinction between that and a dog’s image stored in memory. Once again you haven’t said anything, to wit: How does the dog derive value and meaning from said image stored in memory?

  3. seb says:

    “You will excuse me and your fellow NDTers who cannot understand KB’s writings. a) the grammar is poor – there, it;s said, and b) his statements are inconsistent with time.

    a) I’m sorry, but for someone who is presenting a completely new model for the behavior of dogs, aren’t you being a TAD nit-picky? I mean, really!

    b) how so? examples?

  4. DaveD says:

    Seb…still waitin’ on that consciousness is a fractal paraphrase.

    KB: Bulls**t I haven’t stated what a dog does with such a sense impression w/r value…impressions like visual camera shots, nasal potpourris, audible recordings and one at a time or simultaneously are experienced with one or more emotions.

    I’ve said, Campbell said it. You don’t hear it.

  5. DaveD says:

    Typo fixes.

    KB: Bulls**t I haven’t stated what a dog does with such a sense impression w/r value…impressions like visual camera shots, nasal potpourris, audible recordings, etc., either one at a time or simultaneously are experienced with one or more emotions. I’ve said it, Campbell said it. You don’t hear it.

    Additionally…This comples of sense data and associated emotion is stored in memory and can resurface in consciousness later to aid in dealing w/ the newest sense data.

  6. sean says:

    @daved i have a hard time believing you. you are bent on disproving something you don’t fully understand. this discredits you, imo.

  7. kbehan says:

    You’ve described that there are sensory inputs and associated “emotion” that can resurface. But without a definition of emotion, and without recognizing that this is not a thought—as in according some value to the input, this means that all of which you’ve described can similarly be said of a robot. The question remains as to what is the value system by which a dog is not an automaton? You’re avoiding taking a definitive and precise position, and by the way Campbell didn’t say it either so I see no benefit to constantly referencing him as a source. So you are arguing that dogs are smarter than we think, but are at the same time unable to put forward a thought as candidate for such, but you’re sure they think. I’m likewise saying that they are “smarter” than we think, but that this intelligence has nothing to do with thinking and I can back it up with concrete and precise explication.

  8. kbehan says:

    Another incongruity to those who say that dogs think and then don’t say what they think, is that such folks have no problem with the interpretations of various experiments that say dogs have a sense of fairness and a highly developed theory of mind. So then which is it? Take a position, you’re arguing from a constantly back and forth position, or dare I say, “flipping polarities.”

  9. DaveD says:

    A single image, scent, etc. is a thought. A memory of such is too. So is a memory of a gunshot with its associated tag to a fear emotion. The series of memories of when the leash comes out for a walk leads to a formed value/belief that at 5 p.m., I am likely to get a walk. The latter cause and effect reasoning is no different for us. So whatever it is that applies in explaining physical emotions and stored thoughts for yourself, somply conclude the same for fido. How often does this need to be rehashed. This is known to anyone with common sense.

    I take you as one w/ common sense, so what gives?

  10. seb says:

    @Dave – I did.

    It’s frustrating to have a conversation when you insist other people answer you, yet you won’t answer other people. Where are your examples for Behan’s inconsistencies? You also never addressed any of Behan’s points about Campbell. Just “Campbell is coherent” and “Campbell said it”. Which isn’t saying anything. Points can get lost in the shuffle of course, but it seems like you have a standard here that you are not adhering to yourself.

  11. sean says:

    @daved so now dogs can tell time too? oh, where oh where do they keep their wrist watches hidden?

  12. DaveD says:

    Seb, I cannot find your explanation of the consciousness is a fractal. Would you repost a cut/paste.

    When someone clearly states what is a common sense explanation as Campbell did, there is nothing that needs further explication. You can simply agree with it or not.

    I am trying to do the same now w/ KB. He can simply say I am wrong on dog epistemology or I right.

    Sean, I presume you joke, or have no dogs of your own who come to you at dinnertime or walk time.

  13. sean says:

    a joke in part, but i don’t believe that they think it’s 5 o’clock or even have a concept of time. i think KB’s interpretation (physical memory) is a more parsimonious explanation.

    using your standard of common sense logic, i suppose you believe geese migrate when they do for a reason as well… or that the migratory patterns of salmon are also the product of thought driven behavior?

    you’ve already stated that a series of images in mind composes a thought, more or less. do salmon have an image of endless open water in front of them that guides them on their journey?

    i think circumnavigating the globe and finding the exact stream in which you were spawned in is a far greater feat, than for a dog to stir and be excited when he’s hungry. do salmon have a greater capacity to think than dogs?

    *feelings, which know not time or reason, and is intimately linked to ones environment provides a better framework for informing behavior. so i think we need a model that factors out time completely in order for us to make sense of complex behaviors.

  14. kbehan says:

    Okay, so what is fear?

  15. DaveD says:

    I can wake up on schedule w/o a clock, as do many. That is not a conscious action, but a learned behavior. Not conscious awareness of thoughts.

    Fear is one of the 6 primitive animal emotions defined by Darwin. It is instinctive embodied response to an environment where a bad thing/threat is perceived.

  16. kbehan says:

    So fear you say is an emotion, it is one of six primary ones and so therefore it is irreducible, and it also instinctual. So what then is the difference between fear and for example, love, which I presume would be another primary emotion? And then what is the difference between emotion and instinct? And in order for an animal to be afraid, you say it must perceive something as either good or bad, and it must understand the distinction of things for the time being being okay in the present, but at the same time this is being called into question by a future threat, in other words, “If I do nothing I will be hurt by that bad thing.” So what then is the difference between an instinct and a thought? This is sounding a little vague so far.

  17. DaveD says:

    Darwin, Damasio, and other biological/cognitive scientists answer these questions for you. Love is not a primary emotion, AFAIK.

    We all have instincts we inherit, but we also have developed complex nervous systems and brains to help us adapt better to changes in environment. This requires non-instinctive reactions to what we are processing thru sense impressions. An alert animal might accidently notice a new behavior possibility works once, maybe throwing a rock to bring down a coconut, with several repetitions, a new cause and effect fact has been reasoned out that was not instinctive. Helps explain why an energy intensive organ like a brain ever evolved.

    Your error is in not allowing that thoughts different from yours, but thoughts nonetheless, are also a function of the brains of other animals than you. That is anthropocentric, and the scientists you choose to ignore could teach you about animals.

  18. kbehan says:

    Presumably you have studied these scientists in order to arrive at the conclusion that dogs think. So in answering my questions if you would like to quote or paraphrase such experts, or even answer in your own words, feel free. As of now, your statements, for example “this requires non-instinctive reactions” is a vague non-answer as to what is going on in a dog’s mind.

  19. christine randolph says:

    haha DaveD if they give you enough rope you WILL hang yourself…

    my instinct tells me you will not accidentally notice that KBs dog training works and works in the way he describes it and at the level of brain activity he describes…

    as you said, a new behaviour has to work at least ONCE before cause and effect become clear to us humble seekers of everything and anything that could be true.

    I can guarantee you, if you do not give it the old college try with a doggie of your choice, you are not going be in a position to argue intelligibly or with the required level of insight about the subject matter in this blog.

  20. Christine says:

    @christine r…you go girl‼

  21. DaveD says:

    KB said *As of now, your statements, for example “this requires non-instinctive reactions” is a vague non-answer as to what is going on in a dog’s mind.*

    Not vague, just not what you want to hear. Non-instinctive, non-mechanical, non-robotic, non-deterministic, non-predictable, new, novel, free.

    Dogs are like us, and we are not robots. We both have the ability to express ourselves in unique, unprecedented ways. This is the fallacy of NDT and you need to seriously question your personal motive for needing to say dogs are as deterministic as an ipad. Get over yourself.

    As for the constant sounding out that ‘NDT methods work’, I have seen many of your followers reporting problems, just as for all other trainers.

  22. Christine says:

    @DaveD, following is an example of why I trust Kevin’s observations and NDT methods:A response by KB to an inquiry – “I’m going to reread your post a few times to make sure I understand your questions, … And to your point about studies, my theories are based on personal observations, reading what others have said, and then correlating aspects with various scientific findings. In other words, you’re dealing with an amateur astronomer who has perhaps (depending on who you talk to) discovered an asteroid before the professionals have.”

    It’s his humility coupled with the ability to think and reason things out on his own all the while taking current scientific methodologies and findings into consideration. He isn’t afraid to question current thinking and he isn’t afraid of being wrong. Most of all, he is neither pretentious or pompous. A fine mix of good qualities, in my humble opinion.

    BTW and FWIW…I don’t consider my self a “follower” of Kevin Behan. It’s more along the lines of being a ‘practitioner’of NDT methods.

  23. kbehan says:

    KB said *As of now, your statements, for example “this requires non-instinctive reactions” is a vague non-answer as to what is going on in a dog’s mind.*

    DaveD: “Not vague, just not what you want to hear.”

    KB: It’s vague because the verb ‘requires’ isn’t relevant to my question. It’s like someone who has been asked how they make money responding: “In order to live I’m required to make money and so I make money.” That doesn’t explain HOW the person makes money. So to repeat, please answer if you can: HOW does a dog think?

    DaveD: “Non-instinctive, non-mechanical, non-robotic, non-deterministic, non-predictable, new, novel, free.”

    KB: Here’s my check list.
    Non-instinctive ———–(√)
    Free———————–(X) {They have to love us}
    Thinking——————-(X) {Then they wouldn’t have to love us.}

  24. DaveD says:

    Contrary to Christine’s view, I see an arrogance that prevents you from hearing something you do not want to hear. I have not at all been vague in answering you. Reread our exchange.

    I have an idea that will help your closed-minded Cartesian thinking about dog-machines: Ted Kerasote wrote a book called Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. Anyone who reads this book will surely know dogs are FREE and dogs THINK.

  25. sean says:

    @daved explain why you think ndt is deterministic?

  26. DaveD says:

    Well, by definition, KB just said so with his checks. The new/novel is merely random accident in the absence of free via use of reason (free and thinking), and emotion is rendered innate and uncontrollable.

  27. Christine says:

    @DaveD…just so’s ya know…I don’t need you to agree with me. It would, however, be very adult and polite of you to acknowledge that I’m entitled to my viewpoint, as I consider you to be.

    RE:”As for the constant sounding out that ‘NDT methods work’, I have seen many of your followers reporting problems, just as for all other trainers.”

    Is that a criticism? When has anyone, yourself included, ever learned anything on-sight without ever having to practice? When a football player “fumbles” during the game does that mean his coach sucks and ought to be fired, that his training methods don’t work? C’mon now, let’s be reasonable and play nice, shall we?

  28. christine randolph says:


    so you do love dogs and do not just want to argue for arguments’ sake ? are you really worried that KB will take away something from dogs if he says they do not think ?

    just because Merle’s eyes seem to speak to the author, is that proof that she “thinks”.

    no one disputes that dogs problem solve to variing degrees and are mostly foray and roam their environment for items that are advantageous to them as well as things that can threaten them. etc. if need be, they can do new things that no dog has ever done before.

    but theory of mind is another story and scientists that want to make us believe that dogs think like us and dolphins think about themselves and the greater mystery of their own existence because they can spot a spot on their bodies by looking at a mirror is extremely unconvincing to most of us interested in NDT.

    hence the agreement to move away from the term “thinking” in animals.

    also because Kevin has discovered that unlike humans, dogs’ actions likely are not driven by thought, but by another function of the brain allowing access to processes that in humans are considered subconscious.

    does that make any sense to you ? no one here is trying to demean dogs and treat them as robots

  29. kbehan says:

    Nice guy, great dog, but nevertheless the title of these books frequently contain self-defeating logic loops, even if metaphorically. Kerasote does not know why his dog eats-you-know-what, a trait for which the dog is named. (“Merde” being you-know-what in French) He takes on all the lofty questions and sure enough arrives at a foregone conclusion, but he could have advanced his understanding were he only to ponder why dogs do what they do, as in why his dog was good at hunting one species of bird but not another, or why his dog disobeyed him and ran into neighbor’s yard and was subsequently attacked.

  30. kbehan says:

    Every feeling is new, never been felt in that time or space before. But it is never at random.

  31. kbehan says:

    Is this the making of a model?

    DaveD “in the absence of free (will?) via use of reason, and emotion is rendered innate and uncontrollable.”

    What connection are you making here, I don’t get the linkage but I think we’re seeing the early out line of a proposal for a model.

  32. DaveD says:

    Like yourself, Kevin, I am not a cognitive scientist and have zero credentials to propose a novel theory of animal epistemology.

    I merely answered Sean, saying that reasoning (which is a huge benefit resulting from the evolved brains in the heads of higher-order animals) introduces the possibility that an organism can be free of physical determinism allowing for a novel, unprecedented act within and/or upon its environment.

  33. kbehan says:

    Okay so I’m arguing the opposite, that emotion is how an organism becomes free of physical determinism thereby allowing for a novel, unprecedented act within and/or upon its environment. Proof? The domesticated dog, the most emotional, least rational and the one and only animal to cross the species divide and fully integrate with human beings which is a pretty stunning feat of release from physical determinism thereby allowing for a novel, unprecedented manipulation of its environment and as is always the case in emotional matters when all parties go by heart; TO THE MUTUAL BENEFIT of human beings as well. In the Masson book we’re going to be looking at he argues that the domestication of the dog may very well have made early hominids fully human. And if one would like to know what emotion is, and how feelings work, then try observing the dog as a creature of the immediate-moment informed by the principles and properties of emotion. After all who are we supposed to believe, highly credentialed cognitive scientists or our lying eyes?

  34. DaveD says:

    Totally unsubstantiated notions, I’m afraid. Moreover, you have no more ability to know what it is like for a dog to feel emotion, than you have ability to know what it is like for a dog to think and reason.


  35. kbehan says:

    If you know what it is like for a dog to think and reason, what are they thinking?

  36. DaveD says:

    If you know what it is like for a dog to feel an emotion, what are they feeling?

  37. kbehan says:

    Pull/Push of attraction, flow, resistance, compression, weightlessness, weighted, deflection, attunement, acceleration, deaceleration, release, relief, expansion, welling, collapse, propagation (rising/falling/rising/falling), repulsion, whole, incomplete, induction, blocked, in other words they feel energized or enervated and in resonance or not with their surroundings.

  38. DaveD says:


  39. Russell says:

    When I play tug, I want what my dog wants. I know what that feels like. As for thinking, I’ve no idea … and nor has he.

  40. Christine says:

    Poor DaveD has no tether…he’s free-floating with no connectedness and no solid ground on which to stand; how sad and how lonely. No wonder he’s so frustrated…

  41. kbehan says:

    In order to understand something mysterious, one must take care not to ask too big a question. They can get back more information than they can process. However, occasionally our intellectual mind gives voice to our animal mind. We say things like I feel “moved.” Everyone on earth says it. Isn’t it interesting that the physical body delivers to the mind the impression of physical movement as a basis of emotional experience? It’s as if we’re dimly aware of an invisible current, sometimes we’re in it, sometimes we’re not. It seems we’re attracted to those circumstances, people, places or animals that render the experience, and then we avoid or withdraw from those circumstances and figures that preclude movement. The most important aspect of conscious awareness is invisible, ineffable, and easily denied, and yet at a cost. No thoughts can assuage its absence, in fact, they only amplify the void.

Leave a Reply

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.
%d bloggers like this: