The Unknown Scientist

An unknown scientist has a website with an article entitled, “Kevin Behan: A Legend In His Own Mind.”

The Unknown Scientist (US) purports to be a researcher and a competitive dog trainer, and I'll take them at their word since he/she is indeed very intelligent as he/she is able to take complex research and break it down into brief and easy to digest articles. (Reminds me a lot of Lee Charles’ Kelley’s skills as a writer.) I’ve bookmarked the site in order to improve my access to the latest research. Nevertheless when it comes to dogs and emotion, the Unknown Scientist is mad. I’m excerpting quotes the US has extracted from my site, along with his/her critique, for the benefit of those who may be interested and also because it gives me an opportunity to clarify some points. The US has a strategy of misrepresenting my position in order to knock it down. Moreover this is also a case study of the intellect instinctively trying to deny emotion while simultaneously taking credit for the intelligence of the heart (not that it isn’t lavish with lip service). The brain cannot control emotion and so there remains an archetypal fear of the power it holds in our minds.


Hopefully, a capacity to think for one’s self in contravention to authority has not become legendary.

He Debunked Pack Theory

“Actually, I may be the first one to discredit the “old wolf pack theory.”[1]

KB: I would challenge the Unknown Scientist to find a published example debunking the dominance paradigm before I published “Natural Dog Training” in 1992.  At the time I wrote it, Dr. David Mech was still promulgating the old view of a strict dominance hierarchy. What’s interesting is that I made the comment the US quoted above while defending myself from criticism that I was part of the old wolf-dominance paradigm. Now I didn’t just come to that opinion suddenly in 1992, it became clear to me in the late seventies that dogs don’t think, and thus, can’t be thinking about dominance. In NDT book I offered a complete model showing how the prey instinct, not dominance and not a linear learning process (CC and OC), is the organizing principle of canine social life and its capacity to adapt. Furthermore, I showed that emotion, works through the predatory/prey modality.

The closest example I can think of would be Ian Dunbar's notion of a "submissive hierarchy." But this is just another example of a control over dog model from the "positive" side of the spectrum. If Dunbar were correct, then African Wild Hunting dogs would have been domesticated into pets and working partners rather than wolves. The group hunting drive (overcoming large dangerous animals of resistance) beget the modern dog and organizes its mind to this day, just as it does human beings, which is why early man was able to communicate with proto-dogs.

His Theory is All Encompassing.

“The NDT claim of being natural is supported on every level by a consistent argument that never contradicts itself as it carries through basic physics, evolution, domestication, temperament, emotion, personality, sexuality, aggression, learning and sociability. “[2]

KB: Since emotion works on every level of behavior as an interface between the animal mind and the physical processes by which nature evolves, any viable theory of emotion would have to be all encompassing. The Unknown Scientist, whether he/she knows it or not, likewise holds a theory for emotion because their subconscious judgment against emotion/flow is unconsciously organizing the way they think about emotion, as well as the nature of animals. Either one has an energy theory or by default they will hold to a personality theory. And the problem with a personality theory is that it will constantly contradict itself. Understanding emotion as an immediate-moment flow of energy (nervous and physiological activity) is able to render a model that doesn't contradict itself. Having a model doesn't mean that everything is figured out, it simply gives us a cleaner tool for analysis.

Cognition Researchers are Wasting Their Time – dogs don’t learn.

“Quite to the contrary, the energy model I’m proposing will prove to be the only one in the marketplace that doesn’t treat the dog as either an instinctual automaton or a learning machine. I’m saying that the source of their creative adaptability is not intellectual and neither is it genetic.”[3]

KB: I did not write dogs don’t learn. Rather, dogs learn according to an emotional dynamic. Learning in animals is far better explained as a process of evolution rather than cognition. In terms of Constructal law, a behavior is a flow configuration, and learning, i.e. behavior changing over time, is the optimization of a flow configuration. And a dog knows whether or not a behavior it’s conducting is improving by virtue of how it feels. Meanwhile cognitive science takes the organism apart cell by cell, neuron by neuron, gene by gene, as if they are dealing with a machine. This however will not prove to be a waste of time if when interpreting the results, researchers refrain from immediately inserting thoughts into the dog’s mind. I applaud all research, I’m simply arguing for not jumping to a foregone conclusion.

Problem with Biology is TOO MUCH Thinking

“Evolutionary biology is “thought-centric” because it seeks reasons as to why some genes flourish while others go extinct, rather than seeing genes as an expression of natural laws, and as subordinate to these laws. “[3]

KB: The problem with biology is the projection of thoughts onto animals, and reason onto genes as in reproductive and survival “strategies.” Nature evolves by optimizing flow, and it evolves as a whole, not with one current in competition with another current. Seeing one being or species as relative to another being or species, is a thought-centric view and it is going to end up in the dustbin of history right on top of the dominance paradigm.

Behan Invented the Use of Tug Toys for Training

“In 1998 I worked with a trainer who was having difficulty teaching her dog to stay in the start position at Agility training while the other dogs were running the course… Then 12 years later I’m working with another person from the agility world and they tell me that this is now common training practice in the Agility world. Now maybe someone else thought of it on their own, but I wonder if there is any instance of it happening before 1998.”[4]

KB: In 1992 trainers and behaviorists criticized NDT book for being simplistic with my interpretation of the prey instinct as organizing principle of canine mind. And yet the trainers/behaviorists who said in the seventies and eighties that an owner should never play tug with a dog, now recommend playing tug while simultaneously calling it just another reinforcer. The market is evolving toward the model I put forward because the predator-->prey modality is how emotion moves and how the flow configuration improves. I will point this out at every instance for the betterment of dogs. I did not invent the tug toy. I discovered its value for the family dog, i.e. overcoming resistance to improve the flow of emotion between dog and owner. In NDT tug-of-war evolves into push-of-war. That is an all important distinction.

Behan has all the best answers. Just ask Behan

“The best explanation for everything canine, from the evolution of the wolf to the domestication of the dog—to the incredible emotional relationship that has emerged between the modern pet and its owner— is that dogs feel what we feel.”[5]

KB: Don’t ask me, ask your dog. How is it that thousands of years before modern learning theory, shepherds and dogs, hunters and hounds, warriors and the dogs of war, have been working together for their mutual betterment? Feelings are how nature improves. Just ask the duck swimming in the pond the beaver built -----by feel.

Charles Darwin Stole from Kevin Behan

“My theory is that dogs and humans have the same primordial emotional makeup.”[5]

KB: This one I don’t get. Darwin’s theory is that animals evolved by common descent and I'm simply saying that my emotional model is more consistent with Charles Darwin than modern Darwinian theory because emotion and feelings is HOW “we are all netted.” Modern Darwinism on the other hand argues that animals evolve as a competition between genes in a world of limited resources. Yet as the flow of emotion improves between any two individuals or species, we see that nature is tapped for an increase of resources. It is not limited, it is simply governed by the principles of thermodynamics and the laws of motion.

Pavlov’s Discoveries are Trivial

“Okay, if we cannot say that the dog salivated because of an association, because that really isn’t saying anything, why, then, does the dog salivate when he hears the bell?”[5]

KB: Indeed, saying a dog learns by association isn’t saying anything. It is a trivial statement. It’s the same as saying a car starts by the association of a turned key. Whereas I say Pavlov’s discoveries are far more fundamental than has ever been acknowledged by mainstream science. The Unknown Scientist has missed what Pavlov discovered. Pavlov’s dog tasted the food when the bell rang. This is why a dog salivates and licks its lips.

The Unknown Scientist: “In a future post I will address some of the more ridiculous claims made by Behan but I’ll leave you with one more quote that illustrates how little this man knows about dogs.”

“Meanwhile, because dogs don’t and can’t think, they do not respond to what their owner thinks, says, or even does;”[5]

KB: It doesn’t matter to a dog what we think, do or say. What matters is what we feel when we do, think or say things. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the modern dog grows snippier as social discourse becomes snarkier.
Published August 11, 2012 by Kevin Behan
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3 responses to “The Unknown Scientist”

  1. cliff says:

    At bottom, i don’t see what benefit accrues to the US from his critical analysis of KB’s theory, and, most importantly, practical applications thereof. Unless he thinks that harm will come to the dogs in his care, US might consider a trip to VT to observe and, possibly, learn.

  2. Annie says:

    I visited US site, with its exploration of rant and the occasional mention of dog. To be fair, there are many thought-provoking articles..apparently well-researched..Obviously US wants to remain US for a reason, to make stabs from his/her anonymity without fear of detection!

    “Change or the possibility of change comes with uncertainty, anxiety. In other words, it is punishing.” US blog 2/27/12

    I can understand why Kevin’s innovative way of thinking makes US anxious. (Stop punishing yourself. It’s not necessary).

    “Behan has managed to gather small, but dedicated following by marketing to an unsophisticated audience and dazzling them with gibberish. Like many snake-oil salesmen he uses scientific language to impress his reader. In reality he is saying nothing at all. The way he explains dog behavior comes down to a meaningless slogan :It’s all “energy” dude.” US blog this month

    I don’t consider myself unsophisticated, nor am I dazzled by gibberish. I’m a person who is open to new ideas. US has many fascinating topics on his/her site…worth reading, to be sure. But, US… be as fair as you are intelligent: thanks to technological advances, we are practically seeing evolution in “real time”….it is quite possible that in a few short generations that the human brain will be completely different than it is at the present. This process is being shaped by the exchange of new information and the convergence of those disciplines that have, until recently, been regarded as separate: Science and Metaphysics. Maybe through some kind of “bioconvergence” our brains will develop the capacity to connect both.

  3. kbehan says:

    I’m confident to let reasonable people judge for themselves the sophistication of the readers of this site. Many comments reach the heights of eloquence. (I wish I could write like that.) I believe that most of my readers sense that something profound is missing in the discussion on dogs, animals and emotion, and are willing to give me a fair hearing while quite rightly retaining a healthy skepticism. I’m sure there are many points of difference but folks are willing to see how things develop and whether or not pieces fall into place. Some things make perfect sense, and others may be befuddling, especially since it can be difficult for me to put it into simple terms. Basically everything I am saying can be summed up by saying that dogs live wholly in the moment, and if this is true, then certain things follow. Thanks for reading and for contributing.

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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.