Eric Brad in his excellent blog has recently written about a phenomenon he thinks is a mysterious and yet a normal part of obedience training: the randomly disobedient dog. I would argue that it’s not mysterious and it’s not “normal” as in, to be expected in the natural course of living with a dog.
In my model all behavior is a function of attraction. This understanding allows us to build a coherent model for behavior. And in this model, a so-called act of disobedience is due to a dog being unable to sustain a feeling of attraction to its owner in a particular circumstance. Now were we to see such a dog’s behavior as a whole, rather than as a disconnected set of its personal idiosyncratic disposition and non-contiguous learning events, we can clearly find the signature of this weakness in each and every thing that the dog does. Therefore, when I run into a training difficulty, first of all if I had really been paying attention, I would have noticed the tell tale hallmarks well before it happened, but no matter, hindsight always gives me perfect vision with the benefit of a model. And thus informed I always recognize so-called acts of disobedience as too weak a state of attraction.
What does this mean in terms of my model? Animal consciousness as a function of attraction, arises from the confluence of two basic, primordial systems; balance and hunger. Balance = tuning, hunger = feedback. However when balance is too stimulated, the state of attraction collapses into an instinct or a habituated pattern of behavior. This is when we experience training breakdowns in our dogs. But when hunger is predominant, than the balance mechanism amplifies the feeling of attraction to its owner to greater and greater intensities until the deepest part of the dog’s emotional battery becomes released into the mix and the state of attraction becomes unstoppable and unbreakable.
Let me review my training experiences with police/protection dogs to put this into perspective and so that we can underscore the overwhelming significance of Drive, and as we shake our heads as to how it can escape the notice of people who believe that dogs learn solely in regards to consequences. This may be 99.99% true, but it is not 100% true and I don’t know about you, but I am ONLY interested in that last .01%.
One could visit any protection, Schutzhund or police dog training facility, and because these trainers select from specimens bred to produce Drive, i.e. highly focused behavioral expressions of energy—so that in the adult mind balance-feeds-hunger rather than the other way around, one will find dogs that are never dis-interested in biting the sleeve. A female dog in full estrus could be walking about the field, a field could be full of chickens running amok, the dog could have a torn ligament, but if the trainer has but a modicum of understanding about channeling Drive, the dog will go at full speed toward the sleeve no-matter-what. Is this a miracle of modern breeding? No. Drive is in the nature of an animal, however, as opposed to any other species, it is the most pronounced aspect of the canine mind. In my experience with dozens of litters, I have never known a healthy infant pup who wasn’t always interested in nursing no-matter-what. I can’t imagine a healthy wolf who isn’t always interested in an available prey no matter what. Growing up I never knew one of my father’s bird dogs to not be interested in the bird on the wing the instant my father took his shotgun out of the cabinet. Therefore, if one learns to create states of attraction so that the balance mechanism of the dog is always in service to the hunger dynamic, they will be able to cultivate their dogs internal quotient of Drive to its maximum expression so that their dog will happily invest its last .01% of reserve into the prey object of their choice, which simultaneously means that the owner will occupy the “emotional midpoint” (i.e. center of the universe, or as Constructal law would say, the headwaters of the emotional watershed) of that particular state of mind. Sheepherding dogs do it, wolves in the wild do it, and every dog owner in America can learn to do it too.