Mother Knows Best?

Donnie poses the following Stump A Chump question:

“In one of the Quantum Canine episodes (can’t remember which) you explain a mama dog biting her young not as a correction but as “imprinting fear” so that when they see large prey they know not to go after the strong, healthy ones. Wouldn’t this imply that mama dog is forming an intention, one that also requires her to plan for future run-ins with large prey? If mama dog ISN’T acting with intention and the fear imprint is simply a byproduct of her bite, why does she bite her puppies when they get too rowdy?”

KB: I can better appreciate from your question how a future consequence that is intelligent, can be hard to separate from the concept of intention, but this brings us to the crux of understanding the animal mind as having evolved in order to implement a networked-intelligence, rather than it being a self-contained computational capacity that apprehends change and its surroundings rationally. So let’s ask some questions that might help us deconstruct this behavior; when they’re little cubs and bopping around, the adults don’t “discipline” them, it’s only when they attain a certain age and are capable of a certain disposition that they ATTRACT the fear held within the pack. So what’s happening within the mother’s mind and what has changed in the puppies? A related question that sheds light, is why does a father who was beaten by his father, tend to beat his own son when you would think that such a man would have inordinate compassion for his son given what he experienced? But statistically we know that’s not the case. Is the abusive father motivated by an intention to do something functional, or is there a function in the dysfunction? Can you identify the consistent principle by which the very young have license with the adults, and then they lose it, and to what end? Does the mother know best; and is this something dog owners need to emulate, or understand? Of direct application to this question is the article I wrote some time ago “Why dogs bark at strangers.”

Published September 20, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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9 responses to “Mother Knows Best?”

  1. Donnie_O says:

    I’ve been wrapping my brain around this for a while and I think I understand what you’re saying but having trouble putting my own interpretation into words. Your reference to the tendency for abuse to occur over generations certainly helped me understand what is happening here. Lee has mentioned in a few of his articles how dog owners act out scenes from their childhood, with the owner in the role of their parent and the dog representing their inner-child. So, because energy can only come out the way it went in, the mama dog relives her own experience of being nipped by her own mother.

    As to when the young lose their license with adults, the only consistent principle that I can think of is that the growing puppies start to develop physical and behavioural qualities of adults. These qualities make them too much “like” the adults and the electric energy created by this attracts the fear of the pack.

    Am I on the right track with this?

  2. kbehan says:

    Brilliant, the unformed pups are pure prey embodiments so that they completely dilate their mother’s temperament and in addition, because they do indeed have a predatory aspect (i.e. unlike a real prey animal they squeal when in discomfort) they thereby control their mother’s nervous system and this is what grants them license because in nature the prey controls the predator. However as they mature and can FOCUS ENERGY then the pressure they can bring to bear on the mother, regresses her to her puppy hood via physical memory and the stress of being the OBJECT OF ATTENTION and she therefore sees and hears HER MOTHER attacking her. So from the mother’s point of view, she isn’t disciplining her pups to teach them respect and how to work together in the hunt, she’s DEFENDING herself from earlier abuse. This is why a father beats his son even though he was beaten by his father. In the wild this is a functional transmission of information because it will LIMIT THE PUP’S CAPACITY TO COOPERATE. Therefore they will become hyper sensitive to predatory aspects and will not inefficiently tax either themselves or the healthy moose by hunting an animal more dangerous than is reasonable to attempt. Their nervous systems have been tuned so that as a group they can only form a circle or wave function, relative to a vulnerable prey animal. Things work this way in the natural scheme of things because STRESS IS THE MEANS THAT EVOLVED BY WHICH INFORMATION OF AN EMOTIONAL CONTENT CAN BE TRANSMITTED THROUGH TIME. We wake up in the night stressed out rather than blissed out because we are designed as stress sponges. Joy, love, bliss, is ephemeral and cannot be reliably transmitted. This is why one gets annoyed with someone speaking in a lala lovey dovey New Agey tone, even if one agrees with such a person in the gist of what they’re saying, but are much more easily engaged by polemics and argument because it is the language of friction and stress and it is a more reliable transmitter of energy. So what’s happening in the pack is that pure emotion is being compressed into stress as physical memory so that it can be transmitted through time WITHOUT ERROR. (Note that our emails are compressed and then sent as packets that are later to be reassembled by the viewers browser. The actual information isn’t sent as text, but as compressed bytes unintelligible to the rational intellect until the file is reassembled and decompressed) Generation after generation emotion is compressed and the charge is reliably transmitted into the future and it’s left up to the moose in the immediate moment to translate the stress, compressed emotion, back into a current of emotion, only now precisely tuned to a vulnerable prey species around which the group can align, i.e. SOCIAL INFORMATION. So the infant puppy experience of alignment and full flow of energy (warm milk coursing into the gut) is recapitulated by THE MOOSE, not the mother. Meanwhile our job as dog owners is the exact opposite, everything we want our dog to do or not do represents THE PATH OF HIGHEST RESISTANCE, the absolute hardest thing to do in complete contravention to millions of years of evolved INSTINCT. Therefore we must take care to always be the moose in our dog’s life, which we were when it was a puppy, but then when the puppy gains focus, we tune ourselves out by trying to be a mommy-dearest. The Moose Knows Best.! Be The Moose.

  3. Christine says:

    Okay…it looks like it’s gonna work for me this time‼ This week’s wolf video from the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota with commentary from Curator Lori Schmidt. The topic is Wolf Aerobics. My question is this: How would these wolf behaviors be explained in NDT terms?

  4. Christine says:

    Drat! Foiled again‼ 🙁 The code showed up in the text box so I thought it would work…when I submit it disappears.

  5. john says:

    here’s one about a mother cheetah thats been rattling about in my head, why at a certain point of her cubs development does she start bringing back live prey to her cubs, whats the switch off point in her wanting to feed them to letting them do the killing themselves, if its not for them to practice with, whats going on in her motivation for this purpose,,thanks ,

  6. kbehan says:

    I have no problem conceding that the mother returning to the cubs with wounded prey allows the young “practice” so that they hit the ground running at a higher level of proficiency than otherwise; however my point is that this isn’t cognitive on her part and that the cubs aren’t learning by trial and error. The mother is motivated by the prey/predator impulse and understanding this opens a window into the animal mind (and doesn’t mean there isn’t a nurturing impulse, in fact it reveals that the nature of nature IS to nurture). Furthermore, domestic kittens that aren’t “trained” by such experiences, nonetheless grow up to be able to kill mice etc., so that the information is already on board, but they have the luxury of time in a domestic household so that their hunting capacity can be catalyzed by experience over a longer time frame whereas they might have died off in the wild if they were so naive.
    I think right away of my cat “Boone” who used to return from the hunt and leave carcasses with the heads chewed off, various organs, and on regular occasion, chipmunks that were paralyzed for about ten minutes. At first I thought the chipmunks were dead but then they’d be gone when I went to remove the body from the front step. Thereafter I noticed that they were actually paralyzed as apparently the fangs of a cat fit perfectly between the vertebrae of this sized rodent so that characteristically the chipmunk would slowly blinker back into conscious awareness, but for another five minutes it couldn’t move its hind end, and then when it returned to full functionality, it’d slip into the nearest crack in a wall to fully recover. I believe the prey was a way of Boone connecting with me like a dog fetching a stick as it was remarkably easy to rescue these paralyzed prey or remove a bloody carcass from his jaws so he wouldn’t carry it into the house. He wasn’t bothered by losing the prey because I believe the circuit ran to completion by virtue of him returning to home base with prey in jaws. My point is that there were no kittens to practice with the prey, but that would have happened were he returning to his home base in the wild, whereas this did on occasion afford my Corgi the chance to practice on chipmunks (he would roll over their limp bodies like he would roll over the plastic rind around the milk bottle cap that the kids would throw for him) thanks to Boone’s prowess in the field. So bringing back prey is completing an emotional circuit in and of itself.
    So the mother’s “self” is projected into her cubs, her attraction to her cubs is very strong via predator/prey modality, but their predatory aspect blocks her attraction from going to full strength (revealingly, cats do practice infanticide in conformance with the crude, non-elaborated predator/prey modality) and as they gain focus during maturation, their heightened predatory aspects are more destabilizing to the mother, hence more energizing, and she can consummate her even stronger attraction to them, without eating them, by bringing them paralyzed prey. Watching her young kill the prey (think mirror neurons), makes her feel whole; it completes the predator/prey attraction between mother and cub without hurting the cubs and simultaneously quickening their development for life in the wild.

  7. john says:

    i’ve often read before in regards to pups not yet fully mobile, that the more experiences they have at that age (within reason of course),been lifted ,stroked, experiencing cold through touch with cold objects, generally made uncomfortable for short intervals actually improve the adaptability of the grown dog thereafter,, any thoughts on this approach,,thanks

  8. kbehan says:

    I have to concede that that violates my sensitivities, but then again I can understand that the pup’s temperament is at its strongest, and so it’s most able to process the stress through its puppy mind, i.e. very hungry, and so it is possible that this is the time it is most easily metabolizing stress. It’s an idea that needs to be seriously entertained especially since the negative defines behavior rather than the positive. So if it is so that the puppy is processing the negative into drive this way, that’s a good thing. Having said that however, I think there are enough stresses naturally occurring in every pup’s life, being knocked over, being jostled, bumped around, stepped on and trampled by the mother and caretakers, bitten in rough housing that I don’t think we need to go out of our way to add much more. My approach is to give the pups as calm a setting as possible so they have a firm emotional foundation, on which the normal stresses will be processed with this as a strong basis. So when I used to breed litters I didn’t go out of my way to pick them up too much, I wanted them to be as autonomous as possible. But I’m certainly open to discussion on the matter and concede that there are breeders with far more experience than I.

  9. christine randolph says:

    hmm might be like people. some you can send to afghanistan iraque rwanda bosnia and then start over and…nothing. others … one tour and ptsd

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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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