I’m currently writing a book on body language so that my model can be applied to the things we see dogs do everyday. In the meantime, and in sort of a crowd-sourcing way to flesh out my argument, I would like to pose the following question to a science-based trainer or a behaviorist. After a dog performs a play bow, play often results and so this seemingly justifies the interpretation of the above position as an invitation to play. On Patricia McConnell’s website is a comprehensive post on the latest thinking on the play bow.
But an obvious question is never asked in these treatments: Why does this particular configuration of the body constitute an invitation to play? What specifically is being conveyed by a hind end held high and a front end being lowered, and with a dog curiously perched on spring loaded forelegs, that indicates as a “meta-signal” that said play-bowing dog intends to play? In other words, what specific information is the the object of a play-bow pulling from this signal so that he can be assured the sender is intending playful consequences?
Meanwhile Coppinger in “How Dogs Work” shows a sheep-killing dog play bowing before a sheep that for some reason won’t run. Bekoff in excoriating fashion has dismissed Coppinger’s argument in the overall, but has conspicuously failed to address this point.
His failure to account for this behavior is all the more curious because mainstream behaviorism has not arrived at a consensus for why there is play in the first place. One would think that in the absence of such a model the intellectually curious would be open to all kinds of possible interpretations. Bekoff may want to dismiss this as an isolated anecdote, but I’m sure there are countless examples of this among the dog owning community and after a few million anecdotes it becomes data. It’s been my experience that if we pay the most attention to the seeming incongruities rather than dismissing them, we are best able to construct a model.
Meanwhile my argument is that the play-bow is not an intentional invitation to join in play and in my model the play-bowing dog about to pounce in play on a playmate, is not inconsistent with a play-bowing dog about to prey pounce on a prey-mate. I would welcome a science based trainer or behaviorist to demonstrate what specifics of a body performing a play-bow represents a conscious intentional signal to join in a round of play so that it is received in the mind of another as a metal-signal for just that. To date I have failed to find an explanation other than the dog looks playful and play often results. But why does the dog look playful, what is it about that posture and demeanor that makes an observer “feel” something?
The best argument I can think of is the Principle of Antithesis by Darwin wherein those equal and opposite muscle patterns from one useful behavior, seem to be employed in other ways and are available simply because they are not in service to the useful behavior. But this doesn’t really address why the play bow looks playful, just that it’s the opposite of being aggressive. So if someone is not being aggressive toward me I should want to play with them? And this also presumes that the play bow is of no service in and of itself, and it also doesn’t explain why a sheep killing dog would play bow before a sheep that won’t run, perhaps it has a service in ways that have not yet been envisioned by the mainstream consensus that strives to read cognition and intention into these signals?
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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin BehanIn 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.