Quantum Canine Episode 2 'No Such Thing as Dominance' Part II

Kevin Behan and Trisha Selbach discuss dominance in dog training and Kevin Behan’s “Immediate Moment” theory of social organization in wolf packs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS_X7JfpmYk

Continue on to Part III of this episode.

Published August 2, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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21 responses to “Quantum Canine Episode 2 'No Such Thing as Dominance' Part II”

  1. Mike McMullen says:

    I was reading a comment you left in a thread re a review of The Art of Raising a Puppy on Amazon.com and decided to read the study by Mech that everyone has been talking about. The people who cite his work claim what you also claim, namely that since wild wolves do not exhibit a pack-leader, dominance, or submission, that dog dominance trainig techniques based on wolves in captivity are inappropriate.

    After reading Mech’s 1999 article, I learned that he himself states in the introduction: “In captive packs, the unacquainted wolves formed dominance hierarchies featuring alpha, beta, omega animals, etc. With such assemblages, these dominance labels were probably appropriate, for most species thrown together in captivity would usually so arrange themselves.”

    It seems to me that a group of unrelated wolves in captivity is more similar to a couple of pet dogs living with a human family than is a pack of wild wolves. Therefore, it would follow that if you take a group of unrelated dogs and place them with a human family, that they would instinctively form a dominance heirarchy in the same way that Mech claims captive wolves would do. And so methods of dog training based on the studies of wolves in captivity seem more appropriate than any methods based on Mech’s work. I do not think it is correct to use his article to discredit those older dog training methods, as you did in your comment where you say:

    “And the fact remains that wild wolves do not form hierarchies. And the mistaken idea that they DO is the whole foundation for the idea behind dominance training in dogs.”

    Perhaps if one was attempting to train a pack of wild wolves or wild dogs, the methods of dominance training would in fact be inappropriate based on Mech’s work. However, it seems that training a pack of unrealted dogs living with humans might benefit from dominance training methods, as these are based on studies looking at wolves in a setting more akin to the dog/family pack.

  2. kbehan says:

    I have never written any book reviews so you are not referring to me. I did however in a way echo that comment when asked by Trisha on Quantum Canine so I appreciate your critique and will take more care in the future to not add to any misunderstanding of Dr. Mech’s work. At any rate, I do not believe that either wild wolves or captive wolves form a so-called dominance hierarchy and therefore my point stands that the dominance hierarchy is a mistaken idea when it comes to dog training. None of my ideas are based on anything to do with Dr. Mech but nonetheless I vividly remember in the 1970’s and 1980’s the pack model being heavily promulgated by all wolf researchers, with Mech being in the vanguard, so it is relevant that whatever he’s saying now is to some or to a great extent a retreat from the old model.
    I think the most important contribution Mech has made to our understanding of how nature works is that it is always organized as a bubble-up manner of organization. He established that in general the amount and quality of vegetation determines the health and number of prey animals, and this in turn determines the numbers and health of predators. The old model on the other hand was that predators controlled the number of prey. I think this is groundbreaking and should get the attention it deserves.
    Perhaps you would like to find a clip of video or a sequence of pictures to prove your belief that wolves care about social rank or have an idea of what rank is and we could post them here. I believe I have a better explanation for how canines self-organize and that is more consistent with a theory of evolution and does not have to read thoughts into animals or human reason into their genes.

  3. Hey, Kevin,

    Sorry for the confusion. McMullen was referring to a review I wrote on “The Art of Ruining a Puppy.”.

    Here’s the section in question, if anyone’s interested:

    …the monks are way behind the times when it comes to understanding the nature of a dog’s social instincts. HINT: There is no such thing as an alpha wolf, alpha dog, or pack leader. That is a complete myth, as has been proven by the top wolf experts in at least the last five years. These researchers don’t even like to use the word alpha anymore because “it falsely implies a hierarchical structure.” (L. David Mech, et al, Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2002).

    And how do the monks reconcile the fact that “dominance displays are uncommon” among wild wolves (Mech, Canadian Journal of Zoology, 1999) with their belief that nearly everything a puppy does, in terms of its social behavior, is either dominance or submission? If a dog’s social instincts are inherited from wild wolves and if, according to the real experts on the subject (like Mech), wild wolves almost never act dominant or submissive towards one another, where is all this dominant and submissive behavior coming from? Maybe from the way the monks treat the animals in their care?

    So while I may have taken Mech somewhat out of context, and Mike has put that context back into his argument, it still doesn’t wash. My position in 2004 (which is when I wrote my review) was that dominance and submission are not natural, instinctive behaviors in wolves, but are solely the result of captivity stress. I also made the point that they’re not natural or instinctive in dogs either, and are the result of mistreatment or a basic misunderstanding of a dog’s true social instincts for group harmony and cooperation.

    As I point out in the review, in all my years of training dogs I have only seen one instance of what could rightly be called dominant behavior, where two intact males met, and one threw his front paws over the other’s shoulder and menaced him with a low growl. (The other dog was my Dalmatian, Freddie!) The “dominant” dog’s owner came over, pulled his dog off, and beat the crap out of him, which only reinforces my position that these behaviors are not natural; they’re man-made.

    LCK

  4. Mike McMullen says:

    Sorry for the confusion; I was trying to post on one of LCK’s blogs.

    A couple of points with respect to Lee Charles Kelley’s response…

    1. Dominance training, I think, is more than simply hitting a dog and/or rolling it onto its back. I think it also relates to the notion that within a group of dogs there is a dog or human that the other dogs follow. In other words a leader and followers – that the follwers take the lead from the leader, and in a human/dog pack, the goal is to become the leader. Mech shows that in the wild wolf pack, the male/female breeding pair is the co-leader, and since other adult wolves do not live with the pack, it is pointless to say that there is a dominant wolf or pack leader. But a dog/human pack is never made up of solely a breeding pair and offspring, and so one arguing that the concept of a pack leader among dogs has been proven to be false cannot use Mech’s work to make that claim.

    2. The definition of instinct is “an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.” If forming a dominance hierarchy is a stress response, then it seems that this response is instinctual, as it appears to be “an inborn pattern of activity common to wolves”. And so I think that the stress response you speak of is actually instinctive behavior that wolves exhibit when placed into captivity or “stressed”. Therefore that stress response is a subset of instictual behavior.

    3. We have not disproven that the “stress response” of wolves in captivity isn’t analogous to what dogs experience living with other unrelated dogs in a dog/human pack. If there exists a dog in the dog/human pack that the other dogs follow, then perhaps it can be described as “dominant” without necessarily displaying the acts of aggressive dominance described by the studies of wolves in captivity.

    4. The real question here is whether or not within a pack of domesticated dogs living with humans there exists an hierarchal social structure at all (even if it is subtle) that can be exploited through trainng techniques that establish the owner as being at the top of this structure. And if so, then how to accomplish that. In lieu of any studies that directly seek to answer this question, we (those designing the dominance theory of dog training included) have been looking at behaviour displayed by grey wolves and assuming the principles governing that behavior can be applied to dogs and dog training. I will look into the literature a bit more, but I haven’t come across one yet.

    5. The reason I’m interested in all of this is that I jsut got a new german shepherd puppy and have gotten frustrated reading training books that contradict one another in such a confrontational and sometimes hostile way, and wanted to get to the bottom of what all of these techniques are based on. So far in training my dog, I have been using a combination of both; positive reward for wanted behavior, and varying degrees of correction based on the seriousness of the rule which was broken (biting the couch gets a no and a firm push away, nipping towards the face or growling while eating would get a hold until calm). So far she seems to be learning the rules and breaking them less frequently.

    Thanks a lot for your responses, as I was curious what you guys would have to say.

    Mike

  5. Jannik says:

    pack leader or leader i dont know what to say but in my world a packleader/leader is a earned position not a forced position earned via to hard correction/dominant trainning.
    I think kevins site is very interesting and learningfull.

    Here is what i think might be usefull info and is also and area where trainning a dog goes wrong and the handler becomes rough and hard to the dog.

    dogs behavior during trainning:

    1:drive
    2:instincts
    3:enviroment
    4:mimic
    5:bodylanguage
    6:stress
    —————–
    pack instinct:
    do the dog want to coop, stay in pack/group accept and respect a leader ( not fear the leader). Safety and defense (pack)

    ————————————-

    prey behavior

    promote prey behavior not killing it!
    —————-
    stress:(learn to read it)
    performance anxiety (stress)
    negative stress
    positive stress
    ————————————–
    do allow ur dog to bite a bite toy a trainner will also learn to read the dog that way.
    ————————————–

    i think the above is important and i see so many not having some understanding of it and this is really where things can go wrong and in a matter of a sec months of trainning can be ruinned and the worst case scenario is the relationship to the dog will never be good again (trusting the leader)

    Jannik

  6. kbehan says:

    Mike your confusion is understandable and you make very good points. But I want to say that the definition of an instinct you cite is a description, and in actuality it doesn’t explain anything. For example, if my car starts when I turn the key, I could call that a starting instinct and I could say that my car’s unique manner of starting is specific to that particular species of car, but I have only described rather than explained anything. So I would encourage you to challenge these definitions which are only of limited value. Also, these inborn patterns are a subset of the overarching emotion/stress dynamic, rather than the other way around.
    With this site I’m trying to promulgate a new way of understanding how leadership works in canines. Everyone is so focused on discipline and respect, and I don’t care at what end of the dominance continuum one might be, from alpha rolls/chin cuffs at one end — to calm, assertive gentle authority at the other, this all misses the rapport I’m striving for in a dog. Real discipline comes from within and needs to be cultivated, not demanded. What an owner needs to attract from their dog isn’t respect, but trust. What is the point of being a leader if not to lead, and if the point is to lead, what are we leading the dog toward? Dogs don’t follow a dominant personality; they follow the one that leads them to success. So the only question that matters is what does success mean to a dog? If you read my book this question is answered in depth.
    At any rate, ask yourself these questions, if the prey goes right and the alpha goes left, which way does the pack go? And if the omega gets a bone and the alpha wants it, which one invariably gets to keep it? Answer: the pack goes right and the omega invariably gets to keep the bone. (Mech actually documented an instance of a group reversing course across a frozen lake leaving the alpha alone and heading in the opposite direction, and then the alpha eventually subordinated itself to their collective desire when it clearly wanted to go the other way.)This is because there is no such thing as dominance, the social unit is self-organizing; it is not directed by any individual. Is there any evidence of an alpha calling an omega off a chase; commanding the pack to admit a stranger into their territory; compelling an omega to be examined by a stranger, insisting that an omega hang around the den when pleasurable distractions abound beyond? On the other hand are there natural contexts wherein wolves heel in formation, sit and wait, lay down in position for hours, resist the urge to chase game with the others and then stays behind at the den? Indeed there are. And is there any animal out there that when it summons, the wolves always come running? Indeed there is.
    So from the perspective of my model, you are putting your puppy into situations it’s not yet ready to handle and then correcting it over an innocent impulse. This energy does not go away and the dog will not thereby understand you as a leader. It will learn to not trust you with that specific desire which is now internalized. It will still love you, but it will feel that you can’t lead it to a resolution of the latent energy that is now stuck inside it and as it gets older, getting this energy unstuck and resolved will become the defining compulsion in its makeup and by definition you trained the dog to tune you out in regards to its resolution.
    So please show me in the literature any example of an alpha wolf directing subordinates to do anything?

  7. Ben says:

    Mike:

    I can only relate when it comes to being frustrated about what’s out there. I was a *huge* proponent of the dominance hierarchy and alpha theory. There were always things that didn’t add up, though, and that’s why I spent several months trying to corral all the scientific research I could regarding dominance hierarchies, specifically in canines. I was tired of opinions, and wanted something more concrete.

    What I found was that the overwhelming consensus, at least in the scientific community, is that there is no proof for dominance hierarchies in canines. I’ve got quite a collection of studies and articles on it, and they almost all reach the same conclusion, but few propose an alternative system.

    If you’re looking for a scientific study of domestic dogs alone, and a proposal for a new way of understanding their social structure, I’d recommend checking out http://www.nonlineardogs.com.

    The great thing about dogs is that they can “succeed” in almost any environment. My view is that I need to make it as easy, as natural, and as enjoyable as possible. If I can train my dog successfully without corrections, without dominance, and without confrontation– then why include those things?

  8. kbehan says:

    The nonlinear dog theory is an important addition to the discussion because it argues that there is no such thing as dominance and that canines are a self-organizing system which we humans miss because we project thoughts onto behavior. However this is where I see it falling short. If a system is self-organizing then it bubbles-up from below according to a law of energy rather than a thought or a reason, otherwise it is trickle-down and not self-organizing. So if a theory doesn’t talk about behavior as a function of energy, then by definition all that is left is thoughts and reason. And so the N-L-Dogs’ conception of learning is as a mental phenomenon and it ultimately falls victim to that same contradiction that’s wrong with the dominance hierarchy. It sees intention as fundamental with each individual a self-contained agency of intelligence guided by certain abstract rules. Even a seemingly innocuous term such as “threat” or “signaling” is predicated on the human conception of time and linear causes and effects and thereby throws us off track.
    The purpose of the why-dogs-do-what-they-do section is to piece by piece articulate an energy model, to show how a group mind organizes intelligent responses (by virtue of he laws of nature) in the various things that dogs do. These laws are physically embodied by universal emotional values (Predator/Prey polarities), that which reflects/resists movement of energy; versus that which absorbs/conducts movement of energy, and these are shared by all animals in how they perceive and experience their version of reality. In this section, by seeing the interplay of these polarities in this or that behavior, one doesn’t have to grasp the whole model, they can learn to see it here and there and eventually it will all add up to a general understanding. The number one principle of all behavior is as a function of energy and all energy works according to attraction. With this as a model, one can build a coherent model of the dog that simultaneously embraces the three predominant aspects of a dog’s makeup, to wit, dogs are the most social, sexual AND aggressive animal on earth.
    Finally, the relationship between dog and man does not fall outside the scope of the natural evolution process. Domestication is evolution on fast forward, and learning is evolution on hyper fast forward, and the emotional bond between dog and owner is evolution on hyper-hyper fast forward. In fact, the dog is the best and perhaps the only way to decode what’s going on in evolution; because the natural laws of attraction are observable, demonstrable and testable in all the things dogs learn and do even when we’re around and interacting directly because we’re part of the same energy phenomenon. All we have to do is learn to see-by-feel rather than go by thoughts.

  9. Hi, Mike,

    Since I’m the jerk that started all this with my scathing review of The Art of Ruining a Puppy, I think I should add my two cents to what Kevin and Ben have already said. (Your points have been edited and italicized.)

    1. But a dog/human pack is never made up of solely a breeding pair and offspring, and so one arguing that the concept of a pack leader among dogs has been proven to be false cannot use Mech’s work to make that claim.

    I would argue (again) that since the idea behind “being your dog’s pack leader” comes from the persistent myth that wolves “have an instinct to follow the pack leader” and attached to that is the myth that dogs have “inherited this instinct from them,” and since Mech has shown that wolves have no such instinct, I think it’s quite logical to use Mech’s work to disprove the essential tenets of the pack leader approach to dog training. Dogs cannot have inherited an instinct that doesn’t exist.

    2. I think that the stress response you speak of is actually instinctive behavior that wolves exhibit when placed into captivity or “stressed”. Therefore that stress response is a subset of instinctual behavior.

    You’re right. Their stress-related behaviors are instinctive, the question is which instincts are they a reflection of: the wolf’s survival instincts or his social instincts?

    It’s true, Mech makes the argument that when it comes to forming dominance hierarchies, captive wolves would “probably so assemble themselves.” (I think he’s framing his argument carefully so as to not upset the academic apple cart.) However, the point is that such an assemblage is not an accurate representation of the wolf’s true social instincts, which are directly linked to the need to hunt large, dangerous prey. Plus, remember: these captive wolves were essentially members of rival packs thrown together in an artificial setting. Their behaviors do not tell us much if anything about how a true pack operates.

    In other words, if wolves have social instincts (which I think they do), and if dogs have inherited those social instincts from them (which to a certain degree I think they have), then the asocial behaviors found in a non-related aggregate of wolves (again, not a true pack), tells us nothing about a dog’s true social nature. And the instincts you’re theorizing about, which are quite real, are survival-based, and have nothing to do with normal canine social behaviors.

    One key to understanding this is that “dominance aggression” in dogs is treatable with anti-anxiety medication. (It’s not “curable,” pharmacologically speaking, but it is treatable.) So if such behaviors are instinctive how would easing the dog’s anxiety have any effect?

    3. We have not disproven that the “stress response” of wolves in captivity isn’t analogous to what dogs experience living with other unrelated dogs in a dog/human pack.

    For wolves their natural habitat is the wild. For dogs, their natural habitat is living in a human household. To prove that the stress response of wolves in captivity is unrelated to the social instincts of dogs, all you have to do is examine how strange wolves and strange dogs tend to act around one another.

    Two individual wolves from rival packs who meet on neutral ground would behave quite differently from the way two dogs from different households might behave when meeting each other on the street or in the park. The wolf’s behavior is totally unrelated to the so-called pack instinct. They see each other (or feel each other) as potential enemies and would not be interested in, or even capable of, forming social bonds with one another. For dogs it’s just the opposite. From a certain perspective, they’re interested in and even committed to forming social bonds (perhaps on some level, even forming a pack) with every dog they meet. That’s quite a difference.

    As I see it, dogs have taken the social nature of wolves — which is based on the need for group harmony while hunting — and expanded it exponentially. And none of this has to do with who’s at the top of the pecking order. As Kevin writes in his most recent article here — “Why Do Dogs Fetch?” — dogs are incapable of making comparisons between one thing and another. And yet they would have to be in order to understand who’s higher or lower in a hierarchy.

    4. The real question here is whether or not within a pack of domesticated dogs living with humans there exists an hierarchal social structure at all (even if it is subtle) that can be exploited through training techniques that establish the owner as being at the top of this structure.

    There are many ways to look at this. One is that there actually is a hierarchical structure, but it’s not based on dominance but energy in the sense that dogs tend to gravitate toward anyone who’s got the means to resolving their internal tension. I wrote recently on my Facebook page (in answer to some questions about Cesar Millan) that dogs don’t follow, they gravitate. In other words, if you’re motivating your dogs to learn through being the answer to the dog’s question, “How do I resolve my inner stress?” then your dogs will seem to be following you when in reality they’re just orbiting around you.

    That’s one way of looking at it. Another way (which is consonant with the first) is that dogs don’t form social hierarchies at all, that hierarchies (of a sort) form around their individual behaviors in a self-emergent, self-organizing fashion. This is what Alexandra Semyonova proved with her 15-year study http://www.nonlineardogs.com that Ben mentioned.

    5. The reason I’m interested in all of this is that I jsut got a new german shepherd puppy and have gotten frustrated reading training books that contradict one another in such a confrontational and sometimes hostile way, and wanted to get to the bottom of what all of these techniques are based on.

    I’m with you there, Mike! That’s why when I first read Kevin’s book I was ready to lump it in with all the rest and toss it out the window. But when I tried some of the techniques he describes, something quite amazing and wonderful happened; dogs who were shut down emotionally from all the other approaches, suddenly came alive and were hanging on my every word, ready and almost desperate to do anything I wanted them to.

    If you want to be your puppy’s pack leader (or pack parent), I would get Kevin’s book and simply follow his exercises. You’ll get the result you’re looking for without all the unnecessary baggage.

    You might also want to read my PsychologyToday article, “In Praise of Aggression.” In it I describe a situation I got myself into where a 100-lb. Rottweiler jumped up on me in the doorway of her house in a friendly greeting that quickly devolved into pure aggression.

    She growled and snarled at me, with her teeth just inches from my nose.

    I broke eye contact and said, “Good girl! Good girl!” in a soft, soothing voice, and she jumped down and immediately started licking my hands.

    Who was in control? Me. And did I use dominance? Thank God, no.

  10. I would just add to what Kevin wrote about Alexandra Semyonova’s study that even she, who’s totally committed to the behavioral science paradigm unconsciously slipped in some references to behavior as an energy exchange in her paper. And she wrote it long before she and I began corresponding (and arguing) about the weaknesses inherent to the b.s. model of learning.

    LCK

  11. Mark says:

    Kevin i see somewhere else on this site that you have trained Police dogs and Schutzhund dogs? From reading your book it is inferred you are aware of some of Helmut Raisers methodologies and possibly influenced by some of Bernhard Mannels teachings? There is currently much discussion on the protection phase of training centred around prey & aggression. The gist of this is that there is a belief there has been too much breeding of prey only dogs and aggression has been forgotten or foregone in search of points. The discussion of exercises such as the hold & bark has been around a lack of aggression or lack of a powerful confident display in this phase, with many dogs demonstrating weak yippy barking. Some trainers use terms such as “active aggression”, “social aggression”, “Dominance based aggression” and “fight drive” to describe what they see and especially to differentiate from “self defense”.

    If all aggression is stress based how do you account for the differences displayed by different dogs, particularly strong ones, and also based on your energy model.

    Mark

  12. Jannik says:

    Hi mark
    I will make a comment of this, that in Denmark there is a lifted finger against breeders that put too much genes of aggresion into their dogs that they need too watch out.( in the regime of working dogs)

    If all aggression is stress based how do you account for the differences displayed by different dogs, particularly strong ones, and also based on your energy model……………. This has my interest too if you would make a comment

    Jannik

  13. kbehan says:

    Mark, at the risk of being sloppy in my choice of words by virtue of being hasty, I’m going to do a “data dump” below to address your questions. I’ll return to this from time to time to try to make it clearer.

    My background is in Police dogs and I turned to the Schutzhund world in the seventies because the model I was working with (WW2 Army Corps) had serious deficiencies and glaring inefficiencies. (Actually it was in essence the old German model.) Nothing was more frustrating than seeing months of developing a dog fall apart in an unscripted moment. Meanwhile the work of such thinkers and trainers as Mannel (Mannel told me that the human sexual drive was equivalent to canine predatory drive) and Raiser (talked about “channeling of energy” and active-versus-reactive states of aggression) was based on the manner by which canines hunt in the wild and from what I learned from them and others, I could now see why what I was doing wasn’t working.
    However since I had already come to believe by this point that all animal behavior is a function of attraction, I was then able to make the link that sexuality is a more elaborate form of prey-making. (I’ll leave it to one’s imagination to find the truth in this) I came to understand that sexuality (derivatives of which include what we categorize as dominance and submission) is an elaboration of the prey/making impulse when such energy can’t move smoothly through the body as “energy pipe.” (This is why young puppies mount other puppies and get into hubba-hubba when the puppy they were chasing stops moving and thus acting like prey.) In other words, sexuality is the processing of resistance to prey-making.
    From this understanding I came to see that there were too many drives in the German model. It was inelegant, like putting two engines in a car, one for forward motion and one for reverse. Whereas in my energy model there is only one drive “the drive to make contact” and it works through the predator/prey modality and this is universal to all animals, that then elaborates through the sexual dynamic and which then elaborates into nuanced expressions of personality. This prey/predator->sexual–>personality process of elaboration is virtually the entire basis of the domestic dog’s mind. This is why I believe only an energy model can account for the incredible sociability, sexuality and aggressiveness of the domestic dog.
    The energy I’m referring to as I’ve mentioned above, is emotion, it moves through the predator/prey conduit, and due to the principle of emotional conductivity (a predatory aspect resists the movement of emotion towards a preyful aspect) stress is produced. Adding stress into the dynamic creates focused, intense energy, i.e. “Drive.” (Stress unlike emotion is attracted to the predatory aspect, i.e. the eyes.) Because animals and individuals respond differently to stress, and because they invoke it in each other, by definition they must respond differently, and because physiological/behavioral responses to stress are the phenomenon of sexuality and personality, there is infinite variability in behavior and this therefore makes it look as if there are many drives.
    So when a wolf pack encounters a large prey animal that will resist being brought to ground, the pack will refract due to stress into a range of personalities and will orient toward the moose through a set of specialized skills so that they approach it from all cardinal points on the circle. They are just like a white light (the one drive) refracting through a prism (the predator/prey ratio of the moose.) into head/on — flanking — nipping at heels — herding range of behaviors.
    However, at the moment of the kill when they all have been released from stress since the predatory aspect of the moose is waning, the body as pure prey-making pipe is reconstituted and they all behave exactly the same, i.e. bite the moose as hard as they can, so now we no longer see personality but each member as the same one white light, just as we did when the group was chasing the prey to catch up with it. Then when the moose is dead on the ground and there is no more flow in the moment, the main predatory aspect in their mind returns to being the alpha and once again the pack refracts into a range of personalities, i.e. alphaomega but now in an emotionally paralyzed caricature of emotion as free flowing energy, i.e. dominance and submissiveness (which are really paralysis in the prey or predator polarity).
    The hold-at-bay exercise in the protection phase of Schutzhund or police work replicates this same phenomenon. If a dog has a high yippy bark, then it is ascribing an inhibiting capacity to the predatory aspect of the helper and is reacting to the helper through the lesser sexual/social orientation. It’s virtually doing an obedience exercise. It’s inhibited yet highly motivated. Whereas if the dog is actively aggressive with a deep rooted bark coming up from its gut, then the helper’s predatory aspect is serving as a mere stimulant because the dog perceives the helper as not being quite in charge of the preyful aspect (sleeve or body) and the dog can sense potential energy about to move and we see the dog wanting to crowd and bump the helper, it’s not biting and losing points for the exercise simply because it has been properly channeled through expert training, (and so the dog can feel that it is about to get the bite) and so we say of such a dog that it has strong fight drive.
    Of course there is an infinite range of possibilities between these two polarities but in the latter case of the strong dog, the energy can continue to elaborate into more and more complex expressions, with each of these demands and states of conflict increasing the dog’s feeling of energy. The dog is “in conflict” without being in conflict, i.e. it’s not experiencing any loss of emotional momentum no matter what burden is being placed on it.
    Whereas in the case of the reactive dogs, they perceive training demands as impending interruptions and sooner or later such a dog will break down if the load gets too high.
    Because of the inverse relationship of emotion to stress, this means that behaviorally the most powerful motivation is POTENTIAL ENERGY, rather than realized energy because only potential energy can turn stress (the physical memory of an object of attraction) back into emotion (a pull toward an object of attraction). So in my energy model, it’s not that the dog with “high fight drive” is fundamentally different from the “soft” dog, rather, it’s that its same drive to make contact can continue to elaborate into more and more complex states of conflict all of which is based on the same universal fundamental, a pull toward the preyful aspect. And because it takes a predatory aspect to render the feeling of potential energy, such a dog is driven to make contact with the helper no matter what the helper does. In this state, no matter what the helper does makes more energy in the strong dog’s temperament and so such a dog learns to persevere no-matter-what.
    The soft dogs have this same fundamental, because if they had no sexual orientation to helper then they leave the scene, but nevertheless the energy can’t continue to elaborate into its higher expressions which if it could run its full course would paradoxically return it to the underlying simple. I have ended up with very soft dogs from Germany on consignment, and if I create a purely conductive environment, I can elicit the same strong behaviors in the soft dog that I see in the hard dog. The soft dog still isn’t any good for police work because the range of circumstances under which this strong fight drive can manifest is too narrow. We can’t always count on the criminal to run like a scared rabbit.
    So another way of saying all this is that the dog with high fight drive, has a sexual attraction to the helper where the predatory aspect is in the way of the preyful aspect, but can’t deny it, and therefore the helper’s predatory aspect is a stimulant and the dog feels potential energy in everything the helper does, even when being struck with a stick or being stared at in the blind. The dog can feel a pull to the prey even when dealing with the predator. (This by the way is the technique by which exotic dancers make every man in the audience feel they have a chance.)

  14. Mark says:

    Kevin said “My background is in Police dogs and I turned to the Schutzhund world in the seventies”.

    My background is also in Police dogs and i also have looked at Schutzhund training to try and increase my knowledge and understanding of behaviour and training. Of late i have found bird dog training interesting and particularly the pointing aspect which has made me curious how this fits into your energy model, though that maybe a question for another time?

    Kevin said “Meanwhile the work of such thinkers and trainers as Mannel….”

    Mannel is considered the father of prey drive training in German Schutzhund training.

    Kevin said “Mannel told me that the human sexual drive was equivalent to canine predatory drive”

    The way some men behave in bars seems to have a predatory element to it, especially when we consider the predatory aspect of some sex crimes, so not that difficult a leap of possibility i suppose.

    Kevin said ” I came to see that there were too many drives in the German model.”

    I agree with that, just about everything a dog did got a drive ascribed to it.

    Kevin said ” Because animals and individuals respond differently to stress, and because they invoke it in each other, by definition they must respond differently, and because physiological/behavioral responses to stress are the phenomenon of personality and sexuality, there is infinite variability in behavior and this therefore makes it look as if there are many drives.”

    This would also appear to be a nice way of accounting for the temperament and different personalities in dogs in so far as the variations we see in hardness and softness etc, particularly when dealing with dogs in Police/Schutzhund work and how they handle stress.

    Kevin said ” So in my energy model, it’s not that the dog with “high fight drive” is fundamentally different from the “soft” dog, rather, it’s that its same drive to make contact can continue to elaborate into more and more complex states of conflict all of which is based on the same universal fundamental, a pull toward the preyful aspect.etc….

    A very interesting perspective or way of seeing it, and elegant in its simplicity yet still able to account for the various manifestations,differences or complexity seen in the expression of behaviour in differing individuals. Same basic drive but individual differences in the ability to handle and manage the predatory stress. IMO no other model i am aware of accounts for all the variations i personally have witnessed. It is intersting to watch how different dogs react to (using traditional training terminology) “switching drives from prey to defense” and other stimuli such as “cracking the whip and the helpers movements and postures”.

    Some writers have said that a dog will not bite a human purely out of prey drive and that there has to be an element of aggression to make that transition in a Police dog to bite a person for real and not just biting a sleeve. The theory is that dogs did not evolve to hunt humans and are therefore inhibited from following through to the final stage of biting.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, which i hope your answers to in some way also help further explain your model to me and the other readers. I must also add that i have found your book very useful and helpful. I must be due to order a new copy as i think i have just about worn it out!!!

    Mark

  15. I’d just like to add a couple of thoughts.

    The sex drive has two polarities: one is sexual or creative, the other is aggressive or destructive. Freud referred to these as Eros and Thanatos. And you’re right, Mark: prisons are full of men who “loved” their victims. So sex and aggression are two sides of the same coin. (And by the way, dominance and submission are sexual, not social behaviors.)

    I would also say that even in wolves the prey drive has nothing to do with the kill. From the footage I’ve seen of wolves in pursuit of elk, for example, the drive to connect with the prey seems no different, in purely observable behaviors, than the way dogs have a need to connect with one another when playing a game of chase. It’s only when the wolves get in close enough to be in mortal danger from the prey animal’s hooves and horns that their teeth come out. Strange as it seems, the killing of the prey animal (at least this is true in large, dangerous prey, anyway) is really a matter of self defense.

    I could be wrong but I think this gibes perfectly with Kevin’s views on the prey/predator dynamic in dog training.

    LCK

  16. kbehan says:

    Yes, wolves are trying to make contact with their prey. I can’t remember the name of the German trainer who said that the reward for the dog wasn’t the bite, but was the fight for the bite. In other words, it was for the chance to overcome resistance. Thus wolves don’t hunt the moose because they intend to eat the moose anymore than dogs chase cars because they intend to eat the car. They are both projecting their “self” (the emotional center-of-gravity) into the form and then they want it back. They want to bring it to ground in order to reconnect with their “self,” the fight to do so, i.e. the drive to make contact in the face of resistance which thereby drains their emotional battery leaves the wolves (unlike the car chasing dog) feel wholly satisfied.
    In my model sexuality is feeling the projected e-cog moving while the prey is moving and ultimately the intensity of the form’s vibration is digested by the hunger circuitry so as to recapitulate the original prey-making frequency of puppyhood.

  17. kbehan says:

    {Thanks to those for taking the time to read these lengthy entries and making thoughtful contributions.}

    My impression of hunting dog is that the field dog on point is in a state of emotional paralysis because the dog’s nervous system is 100% integrated with the prey animal’s vibration, and so the dog’s nervous system becomes like a tuning fork completely calibrated to the flight characteristics of the bird and thus the dog can feel when the bird is about to take flight and so it stays in arrest at just below that threshold in order to avoid the state of collapse that the bird’s flight would cause. I call it a low prey threshold since it is being governed by the flight characteristics of a small prey animal. In other words, the dog’s Big-Brain in the head is not deeply grounded into its little-brain in its gut.
    Meanwhile a dog in “dominance” mode is likewise in a state of emotional paralysis however it is of a high prey threshold variety since it is dealing with an object of high resistance value, i.e. a fellow dog or human being.
    The higher the prey threshold the temperament, the more deeply grounded the dog’s nerve energy is in its hunger circuitry. This is why bird dogs are more susceptible to epileptic seizures than Rottweillers being that the latter are at the high end of the prey threshold spectrum as they are attuned to the fight/flight characteristics of cows rather than birds.

    Mark said: The way some men behave in bars seems to have a predatory element to it, especially when we consider the predatory aspect of some sex crimes, so not that difficult a leap of possibility i suppose.

    Note that we say physical, emotional, social and sexual appetite. I believe all arise from the same hunger circuitry.

    What’s called switching drives by others, in my model reflects the dog shifting its perspective from predatory aspect of helper to preyful aspect of body or sleeve and this inflects the one drive to make contact. If the dog has a high prey threshold, then in the process of elaboration, there can be states of compression and subsequent release (and these are what the helper manipulates)that convey to the dog that there is flow going on even as it is experiencing more and more pressure from the helper. It’s exactly like pushing a child on a swing; the helper gets in sync with this loading and release dynamic of the swing going back and forth and this escalates the dog’s experience of energy ever higher. As the child begins to feel safe at one level of frequency, the adult gives stronger and stronger pushes to raise the frequency and increase the child’s thrill. As the energy gets higher and higher in the dog’s body/mind, the primal prey-making circuitry finally materializes and we observe optimal behaviors for the work.

    Mark said: Some writers have said that a dog will not bite a human purely out of prey drive and that there has to be an element of aggression to make that transition in a Police dog to bite a person for real and not just biting a sleeve. The theory is that dogs did not evolve to hunt humans and are therefore inhibited from following through to the final stage of biting.

    What inhibits a dog from biting anything is what I call the “mirror effect.” This facilitates the process of elaboration to which I’ve referred; it’s like a containment vessel so that energy can continue to build up and up until it reaches a critical threshold. As this energy escalates in intensity, the dog is being regressed into deeper and deeper regions of its emotional battery, it’s actually going back in time to its puppy hood when its prey-making urge was at is most pure and strongest. The difference being that at that age the puppy was not yet able to handle intensity and thereby manifest a sustained focus. This capacity to sustain focus in conjunction with pure prey making comes with sexual maturation which is why aggression (due to block of mirror effect) is needed for in a dog for civil protection. But aggression is really blocked attraction via the mirror effect and when intensity reaches a critical point then the earliest physical memories are triggered.
    The mirror effect is caused by the predatory aspect of an animal (its eyes) that we could label as the “projectee,” reflecting the projection of emotion back to the observing dog (the “projector”). So the projector puts out a ping, and if a ping is returned by reflecting off of the eyes of the projectee (or rigid upright body posture) the projector is made to feel as if it is the object-of-attention, and then the projector feels an intensification of pressure and its own physical memories of stress/fear are being reflected back to it. We can literally see energy building up inside the dog and resulting in an intensification of its own body posture. If on the other hand a “pong” is returned, then it feels a strengthening of the pull to the projectee due to this perception of a preyful aspect and this lessens the experience of pressure. And if it cannot perceive a preyful aspect then above a critical point we see the dog go into avoidance if not flight.
    A good helper puts out pings and pongs simultaneously and so I say he is playing ping/pong with the dog. Whereas a beginning helper puts out either one absolute signal or the other, staying in one or the other too long and the rapid contrast between them can’t thereby escalate the dog’s feeling of energy. The good helper puts out a ping (confronting, eye contact, stiff body language, leaning head forward)so as to build compression, but then almost at the same time puts out a pong (soft, rounded, rhythmic body movements, shrinking body size, side-to-side movements and vibration of prey-like props) in order to keep the dog grounded and physically rooted into his body, (Again, just like a strip-tease artist who neither takes her clothes off all at once or leaves them all on, it’s a gradual compression and release)and always with the feeling that there’s this big release of energy impending. If dog and helper become in sync, the helper can blur the line between the two and the prey value begins to outweigh the predatory value because this feels better for the dog to focus on.
    Were the mirror effect to be perfect; i.e. equally predator to prey, then no bite can happen but lots of snarls and hackles as a physiological means of dissipating the excess energy since the intensification of pressure overshadows the possibility of a release. (It is possible to provoke a bite this way by virtue of overloading the dog and not allowing it to get away, but afterwards this leaves the dog enervated rather than energized and ultimately will prove to be an unreliable working dog. I call this a static electric discharge.) However if the preyful aspect is slightly greater than the predatory aspect in the dog’s perceptions, and if the intensity generated by the helper can transcend and become even more powerful the physical memory of the humanoid template to which it was socialized, then little by little the predatory aspect in the ratio is reduced relative to the preyful aspect and then a prey-making bite directed toward a human being can happen. Therefore, aggression is a function of the drive to make contact and is not in its nature anti-social since it is based on emotion and can attune and synchronize the group to an object of resistance greater than any can attain on their own and that can satisfy their combined energies. Therefore when wolves are hunting, they are in effect fighting WITH each other in order to overcome the intense resistance of the moose and this is why their manner of hunting begets their manner of social living.
    (The way I do this in protection training is to begin without using a sleeve or prey object at all, but rather to put the training dog on a chain link fence with some give in it, and then do pushing for food. When the dog becomes very intense because my pushing is going over the edge and the urge to bite is being aroused, I start to make subtle prey actions with my arms and legs and a little too vigorous physical contact and the drive to make contact begins to morph into the primal urge to bite. So I am blocking the dog’s attraction to me but reducing my predatory value at the same time. After several sessions when it becomes too dangerous to continue with this, then a hard sleeve is introduced on a long lead and swung about from a distance to evoke a prey urge; but not too much because I don’t want to erase the feeling of attraction to the helper’s body. The first time the dog is exposed to the sleeve is when it is removed by its handler from the cable and we let the dog investigate and pick the sleeve up as it goes by and then it is induced to carry it around. At some point I grab the end of long line and make a little fight with the dog for the sleeve. The dog overcomes my resistance and when it does so, I then point and focus at the dog which induces the dog to want to carry the sleeve and the fight to me, and meanwhile I keep moving away as dog and handler approach but simultaneously making more and more vigorous body postures and movements. At some point the dog catches up and I begin to resist and push and kick at sleeve in its mouth while it’s trying to push the sleeve to me. I acclimate the dog to being rub-a-dubbed and gently body slapped and pushed around while it’s trying to push sleeve into me. If the dog starts to lose focus on sleeve, I grab the line and tug enough on the sleeve to keep dog on/line. I want the dog’s body to be supple like the fighter trying to loosen up in his corner. The next step is to allow the dog to lose the sleeve on the ground and the handler doesn’t let the dog get back to it as I begin to crowd the dog and attract all that ungrounded energy (dog unplugged from the sleeve) just as we began on the fence. If the dog’s drive to me is at a peak, then the handler starts to slowly waddle backwards and now the dog will claw toward me to maintain contact and I begin to crowd the dog very close, exposing my chest and swinging my arms as if to strike it and acting more and more intensely. I can even use the sleeve as a distraction so that the dog is more interested in focusing on my body. Then I put on sleeve or hold it between my hands and the dog is released a short distance from the handler so as to grab a bite and when dog has sleeve we repeat pushing into helper and kicking at sleeve routine.
    What I like about this approach is that the dog never gets overloaded and so ends up very responsive to direction from the handler when that phase becomes part of the training. The out training becomes automatic since the dog’s attraction to the helper is coming through the pure prey circuitry and so when the “prey goes dead,” the dog isn’t so sharp and overly adrenalized that it can’t feel it. Meanwhile the dog is working through an intense drive focus and isn’t playing with the helper or being “defensive” as a means of getting the sleeve as a reward.)
    So while it’s true that dogs did not evolve to hunt humans, nonetheless humans are just like any other animal in that we are part predator relative to part prey, (mostly predator) and so this ratio can be played with in a dog’s perception of a human. But we have to get to a very high frequency so that our predatory aspect is reduced in its capacity to inhibit the dog. Since wolves evolved to hunt large prey with pronounced predatory aspects, they are predisposed to being attracted to humans. Via domestication the sexual capacities of dogs was heightened far beyond that of wolves and so they are predisposed to feeling preyful aspects in the movement and form of a human even despite human predatory intensity. This is really what sexuality is fundamentally about, it’s about being able to apply the hunger circuitry to complex forms of high resistance. Because of sexuality, the predatory value can become a stimulant rather than an inhibitor (so the man in the bar seeks to challenge the boy friend (predator) of the pretty girl (prey) because through a sexual capacity the predatory aspect triggers the physical memory of an object of attraction in the emotional battery. (Women often complain about being sex objects to men.)So when there is grounding into the preyful aspect in an intense situation, this is a high frequency that recapitulates the puppy’s original prey-making urge.
    Revealingly, a cat training a dog does the exact opposite of the helper in that it wants to be exactly even in predator to prey value so that it can exploit the inhibiting power of the mirror effect. The overt preyful-ness of the cat gives it access to the dog’s nervous system, but it doesn’t move and by remaining still its predatory aspect passively reflects the dog’s projection of emotion back at the dog. Fear builds up in the dog and the physical memory in the dog of being the object-of-attention makes the cat seem emotionally overbearing to the dog. It’s emotional jujitsu without the cat having to do much, just as a beautiful woman can easily humiliate a man that is attracted to her. If necessary, the cat then uses its predatory aspect in a timely manner and with absolute precision to either push the dog into avoidance or to collapse the bubble of pressure outright (hiss, spit, arched back) but not in such a provocative manner so as to build up too much pressure that would risk the problem of a static electric discharge kind of bite which would be more than a cat could bear. So the cat keeps its claws retracted and for the most part bats at the air without actually touching the dog.

  18. Angelique says:

    Kevin said: Were the mirror effect to be perfect; i.e. equally predator to prey, then no bite can happen but lots of snarls and hackles as a physiological means of dissipating the excess energy since the intensification of pressure overshadows the possibility of a release. (It is possible to provoke a bite this way by virtue of overloading the dog and not allowing it to get away, but afterwards this leaves the dog enervated rather than energized and ultimately will prove to be an unreliable working dog. I call this a static electric discharge.)

    Bear with me here…
    So Kevin, are you saying that the build up of nervous energy grounds itself in a bite, and this is a different bite than the dog who is bringing prey to ground? Maybe parallel to high pitched frenzied barking compared to gutteral release barking?

  19. kbehan says:

    The mirror effect is like a containment vessel so that energy can build up in intensity and over the long term increase the capability of the individual and as a group, to overcome greater degrees of resistance. If the predatory aspect is equal to or greater than the preyful aspect, then there can only be a load/overload kind of discharge at the point of when the dog’s holding capacity is exceeded, and this is characterized by energy going the path of least resistance and leaves dog feeling enervated rather than energized. The so-called fight/flight reflex, but this also incorporates the strike-at-prey instinct/reflex which is sufficient to overwhelm a prey of inferior physical capacity, such as terrier with varmint, cat with mouse.
    If when dog A meets dog B, their perceptions of each other is slightly more prey than predator, then as intensity builds both dogs nonetheless can reference their hunger circuitry and the relationship can continue to evolve as both can play ping pong with the charge going back and forth between them given that their feeling of arousal is stronger than their fear of vulnerability, and this is also what’s going on between dog and helper in protection training. Between A and B in terms of a social interaction, their relationship continues to evolve so that their respective personalities become highly polarized specific to each other making it easy for them to fit together, like ionized electrolytes at opposite terminals of a battery. When energy gets high enough, the two dogs can ultimately fuse emotionally and then the intensity contained within each of them as an emotional battery can now only find release toward a common object of attraction that can absorb their COMBINED energies, i.e. a large dangerous prey animal, or again dog AND handler relative to a helper in protection training (this is why the handler praising their dog can increase its drive to make contact with the helper).
    Sometimes you can see the containment vessel break down when a dog yelps in pain and the other dogs in “its pack” descend on it, or when a dog is behind a gate and another dog goes past. All of a sudden its predatory aspect was devalued and all the energy came out toward preyful aspect of its body.
    So nerve energy always wants to run to ground and an act of ingestion is the prime means of grounding. However this can happen two ways, either the load/overload, (instinct) which is like a static electric build up and then a quick bite as discharge as talked about above and this is when you see a dog bite and nip, or punch with its teeth, or pin a dog down quickly with a growl, or bite an owner and then look “guilty” afterward, but in any event once contact is made the energy is dissipated just like static electricity and so the dog now has less pressure and no energy, hence the “guilty” expression. Bringing small prey to ground can be a static electric instinct discharge through the same load/overload dynamic. In instinctual load/overload mode when the prey moves it has a destabilizing effect on the dog because it is in missile lock and cannot shift its focus to accommodate a new emotional dynamic. This way of biting is not helpful for training the working dog and dog has to be helped into other mode as described below. Indeed when the dog is blocked from the load/overload discharge and so it barks, it is hysterical/un-metered and originating from the head/nasal region.
    The other way energy moves is what I call steady state (feeling) wherein the dog is increasingly energized rather than discomfited whenever the object of attraction moves. At the moment of release the bite is full and the dog stays committed to making contact given that it will have to fight and overcome resistance to bring this large prey to ground, the dog runs around with the sleeve in its mouth and its physical mechanics are loose. In steady state mode when energy is released from the battery as reservoir, the qualitative aspects of its physical memory are irrelevant, i.e. the specific details of what it has experienced. In other words the past is no longer influencing what it’s experiencing, it’s totally in the moment at hand, old energy is reduced simply to a feeling of its movement as energy, (sort of how our perception of money can shift when we’re on vacation and it begins to flow like water, you let go of an old frame of reference for how thrifty one tends to be at home and what things are supposed to cost, i.e. a ten dollar bottle of Heineken begins to seem normal. Club Med even exploits this by selling guests fake money in order to buy stuff at resort).
    During this engagement the dog’s body remains supple rather than super tensed. In such a state when blocked from making contact, the bark will be metered and originate from the deep gut, the hold-at-bay-in-blind exercise in protection work. After these exercises, the dog feels energized even though it may be physically exhausted.

  20. b... says:

    “So nerve energy always wants to run to ground and an act of ingestion is the prime means of grounding. However this can happen two ways, either the load/overload, (instinct) which is like a static electric build up and then a quick bite as discharge as talked about above and this is when you see a dog bite and nip, or punch with its teeth, or pin a dog down quickly with a growl, or bite an owner and then look “guilty” afterward, but in any event once contact is made the energy is dissipated just like static electricity and so the dog now has less pressure and no energy, hence the “guilty” expression. Bringing small prey to ground can be a static electric instinct discharge through the same load/overload dynamic. In instinctual load/overload mode when the prey moves it has a destabilizing effect on the dog because it is in missile lock and cannot shift its focus to accommodate a new emotional dynamic.”

    So in terms of NDT core exercise, should we expect a different sort of dynamic in the fully realized bite + carry with a terrier load/overload type dog (i.e., short carry, re-gripping, bite-shake)? Or are these breeds as capable of a hearty bite + carry and just require more work to get there?

  21. Kevin Behan says:

    These breeds are capable, but being bred to “go to ground” manically with the collapse, we are working against that trait. But with proper “greasing of the skids” they can do it. And also, trying to do it is therapeutic in its own right as well. That’s why when we raise dogs we want to raise their thresholds through the core exercises and not too much stimulation so that they don’t become terrier like, rather than lowering their thresholds (“leave it” —“OFF” —– hyper-stimulation) so that they become all too terrier like.

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