The Nature of Canine Cooperation

Wolves versus Dogs at Cooperation

This experiment is exploring the cooperative capacity of dogs relative to wolves. It ends up with a muddled result because of two interrelated biases built into the interpretation.

One, it sees the nature of cooperation as a function of cognitive capacity as opposed to emotional capacity. Are wolves smarter and more cooperative than dogs? Are dogs dumber than ravens? We end up with these kinds of irrelevant comparisons.

Secondly, the mindset behind this experiment is the supposition that mankind sits outside nature and artificially distorts nature. So if a dog is stymied by the two rope setup in the experiment and quickly turns to a human for help, this is interpreted as dependency and helplessness inculcated through domestication. Without seeing nature as a whole, this is like saying a vine is smarter than the plant it’s smothering.

So how would we interpret this experiment in terms of emotional capacity? Emotion establishes an ambient group mood. Want to experience this directly? Walk into a comedy club, then a funeral parlor, then a football stadium, then a subway car. If you pick up the ambient mood in each context, you can seamlessly fit in. If you fail to, things could get ugly.

Also embedded in a mood is a) direction of flow and b) rate of flow. If a comedian is really crackling, all eyes are drawn on stage and the air is electrified as successive punchlines raise the amplitude in the audience. These values are temperamental as they are assigned to living beings. The negative is the one who gives you access to emotional release, your laughing belly is the positive polarity.

But these values can also be environmental by which I mean they are assigned to inanimate features. In the subway the direction of flow is which way the train is facing and the rate is the intensity of sights and sounds whizzing by. But then there can be temperamental values simultaneously as in a crazed looking vagrant acting volatile at the nearest door and so you pick a “new negative,” a door in the rear of the car. The door is a negative because it grants access to being released from the subway. But the crazed man is also a negative because in this case your better judgment says look for a new negative with less resistance.

So every scenario has these values incorporated in emotionally relevant animate or inanimate features of the surroundings. Our human intellect makes a big distinction between these two classes of emotionally relevant objects, but the animal mind does not other than the fact that animated objects generate more intense rates of flow and so generate far more feedback. If our access to a positive seems assured, the ambient mood is pleasant. If access is questionable, the ambient mood is unpleasant. The point I’m making here is that every situation is precoded this way because the architecture of the animal mind is thermodynamic by nature, energy flows from the negative to the positive (high to low pressure) and there is a rate of flow that either fulfills or exceeds one’s emotional capacity. When it exceeds then either instincts (or thoughts in humans) take over.

The funniest thing about this video, and talking about comparing apples to oranges, is that two food crazed wolves are compared to two fluffy house dogs. Yes the wolves perform the exercise perfectly, but it doesn’t hold any of the characteristics of a cognitive comprehension of cooperation. If the first wolf could eat any faster he’s eat his helper’s food as well.

However let’s reconsider the two fluffy dogs. Note that one dog is far more interested in the food than the other one. Why? A high emotional capacity, they have emotionally polarized to two complementary personality traits and behavioral patterns. One is Active and Direct, the other is Reactive and Indirect. In other words, have they failed the test? Yes as it is interpreted through the self-limiting biases. But do they display a more cohesive team configuration so that were they to work at a team rather than “competing for access” as are the wolves, they will approach the problem from different perspectives that in toto are far more encompassing of the problem.

What then is domestication? It is the inculcation of a high emotional capacity that allows the animal to perceive a direction of flow and then align and synchronize with the most intense rate of flow that there is in nature, the doings of human beings. It is not building in a high cognition. It is reducing the mind to the basic thermodynamic template.

Where did this evolve from? The fact that wolves hunt a prey with a negative that is impenetrable unless they confront it through the group mind perspective as displayed by the two fluffy dogs. Now when one of the wolves is let out of his pen well after the first wolf is already on station, the wolf on station does indeed make eye contact with the oncoming wolf as his negative grants access to the positive. (The question is can he hold onto this feeling when the other wolf is close?) And also, were these wolves to have grown up imprinted on human beings, or had been born with a higher emotional capacity that would squeeze out the intensity of instinct, they too when they encountered enough resistance in a cooperation problem would look for the new negative, i.e. the human eye.

It’s also interesting that when two search and rescue dogs were tested, they performed more like the wolves although without the compressive over stimulation. I would speculate this has to do with the fact that they’re not fluffy house dogs but actually go out and hunt with their humans and have to find many new negatives during the course of a training exercise or actual mission.

Human beings do not sit outside of nature. We create a powerful ambient emotional mood, a virtual field of energy, and all animals are influenced when they are in it. Consider the following experiment:

In this experiment wild mice are put in a barn that humans frequent to leave them food. That’s the extent of the influence. There’s no selective breeding or any interactions. And yet gradually the wild field mice acquire the traits of domestication syndrome with changes in body shape and coat colors. The human activity because food was involved could reduced their perspective to its basic thermodynamic signature, negative-as-access-to-positive. This must then trigger the epigenetic phenomenon and gradually their genes shift to become basal stem cells that have the best chance to integrate with the powerful current of emotion generated by human beings.

Imagine then the level of reciprocal influence and rapport were one was actually working with an animal so that both parties could do what they love doing best? Hunting. Eventually, behavioral and genetic changes would subscribe to the overarching group mood, which in this case would contain the most intense rate of change possible, hence a high emotional capacity and a reduction of instinct.

The moral of the story? Human beings are not apart from nature, we are a part of nature.

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Published May 3, 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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