Why Every Dog and Snowflake Is Not Unique
One of the biggest bromides in dog training is that every dog is unique. On one level it’s directed at those who lock into a method and refuse to adapt to the dog. Of course there’s merit in criticizing a closed mind, we all should be willing to learn. However it extends to the idea that a good trainer borrows a little from this trainer, and that trainer, adding various techniques to their “tool kit” so that they always have the right tool for the job. And again there’s merit to borrowing from others.
However what we really should be building is a model rather than a tool kit. A method that evolves from a coherent model isn’t limited in its capacity to accommodate changing circumstances, or borrow from others as an improvement of the method. In my view every new wrinkle in behavior should be seen as a variation on a theme, not as a random wild card. A coherent model should be able to explain how new energy gets into the system and the capacity of the animal mind to generate novel approaches to problems and be able to do so in a manner that’s consistent with an overarching theory.
On the other hand the every-dog-is-an-individual mantra resists the development of a model and subsequently produces many self-contradictions that all the tools in the tool kit aren’t going to be able to fix. Many dogs are overly fixated on their owners and yet trainers teach owners to train their dogs to sustain eye contact (through a technique I invented for competitive dog trainers). They see it as just another tool. However without the benefit of a model they don’t realize that they are feeding the dog's addiction to its owner, which pushes the dog deeper into the state of fixation and subsequent overloads. A coherent model points out the error. Also, learning theorists say reinforcement theory is a comprehensive explanation for learning, but then simultaneously hold that dogs might randomly disobey a “cue.” Apparently there can be exigencies coming out of nowhere that can’t possibly be taken into account. Another example of an incongruity is the belief that intermittent rewards are more powerful than regular rewards, and yet dogs in drive never tire of predictable rewards. What gives? Some say dogs play for the fun of it, but then believe every aspect of canine social behavior is about dominance and submission.
But the main problem with the Every-Dog-Is-Unique theory is that it violates the fundamental tenets of nature, most especially, the Constructal Law. In this video, Adrian Bejan who discovered and articulated this new principle of thermodynamics (“Design In Nature”) explains the universal fundamental that determines the common structure to every snowflake.
Likewise due to the way the animal mind is configured as a flow system, as the individual develops a sense of a Self, it is simultaneously integrating its body/mind with the flow configuration within which it is immeshed. This means that it’s uniqueness is a function of its participation in the flow configuration. An animal does not develop a sense of a Self as an agency independent and in some way unique. Individual uniqueness is not a thing in and of itself, it can’t be isolated from the whole. It can't be arrived at through a principle of random variability.
I use points on a page to illustrate this point.
In the above illustration we see a random scattering of points. Because they are randomly scattered they have no uniqueness to them. Every point is exactly the same as every other point. Whereas in the illustration below, because the points are configured as a circle, each one has a unique value, a longitude and latitude in terms of the field they collectively create.
The points have no value, no unique singularity, until they achieve a network of affiliations. This network or order, will always arise due to a current. The illustration below shows the incredible complexity that evolves when there is a fundamental denominator, i.e. the center of the circle through which the current passes. The center and the current is what every point has in common. The configuration is what confers individuality.
Uniqueness is a function of flow and flow radiates and persists according to the Constructal Law.