Chapter 3: What the Woof Do We Know?


This chapter introduces a discussion on the evolution of the dog and cites varying theories on how the wolf or proto-dog evolved into the domesticated dog. This begs the question: what the woof do we know? There are many holes in scientific theories on wolf/dog evolution, many of which have lead to the mainstream, “scientific” ideas of dominance and pack hierarchy and the traditional mode of behaviorist thinking. So much time and energy is spent trying to figure out the origin of dogs in order to explain their behavior, but what about the notion that dogs “know” more about us than we do them? Behan proposes a two-fold model for the way a dog sees a human: the feeling of desire is shared, whether its while human and dog are aligned or are positioned in an “equal-opposite” state. Mathematically speaking, for instance, human+food/toy/other electromagnetic object+dog= one feeling (want/desire). The common factor, or object of desire, being the food or toy, etc. This refers to having polarity: a north/south, yin/yang “fitting” with a dog. This then creates a “group mind” which can then direct communication. This is paralleled with wolves and how the hunt is directed by FEEL, as opposed to the idea that they operate at higher levels of cognitive functioning.


This chapter has inspired me to plan a trip to Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana (just about 63 miles north of Greencastle, near Purdue).

Disclaimer, I have nothing against science. I am technically a “scientist” myself given the work that I do, but I operate from a more holistic viewpoint.

Anyway, this might be a little off topic but as I read this chapter I took myself back to graduate school. There I was sitting in Theories of Counseling class learning about Aristotle’s four causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. Here’s a good explanation from

The material cause refers to “that out of which a thing comes to be and persists.” In this sense, for example, the steel and concrete and glass—the materials—are the cause of a building.

The formal cause refers to the form—or plan, or pattern—by which the essence of something is stated. In this sense, the design and blueprints are the cause of a building.

The efficient cause refers to “the primary source of the change or coming to rest.” In this sense, the construction company is the cause of a building.

The final cause refers to “that for the sake of which” a thing is done. In this sense, corporate business profit is the cause of a building.

We studied the many theories of counseling and we were to determine by the end of the semester whether we were behaviorists, cognitive-behaviorists, psychoanalytics, social constructivists, other psychological theories or eclectic (for those who had no idea what to choose!). But first we were to determine which Aristocratic cause (or combination of causes) we identified with most. Bottom line: every psychological theory, on humans and animals, assumes at least one cause. For instance, the behaviorist model, that originating from John Watson and B.F Skinner implies, a material cause; that is, behavior is based solely on biology, or substance. However, with psychodynamic theory, depending on if you follow Freud, Jung, or Adler, you will get a variety. With Freud, his theory is based mostly on material (eg, our behavior is caused by unconscious desires of the Id), whereas someone like Alfred Adler, who proposed the concepts of fictional-finalism and social interest (a topic I plan to parallel with group consciousness between dogs and humans) created his theory based on final cause (i.e., behavior is caused by subjective ideals that we strive to live for; “the end determines the means”). You might say, my desire or “final goal” to be a dog trainer influences my behavior to get there.

So what does this have to do with dog training? In my opinion it has everything to do with it: so many people adhere to the scientific/experimental method, especially when it comes to dogs and where they come from and why they do what they do, and they don’t open their minds to the outside of the box. I sometimes question why people “hide” behind science. Is it possible that some people feel insecure about the idea that it doesn’t always explain what causes any particular thing to exist? I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes but I will steal the words of one of my counseling professor’s: science is every bit theory in and of itself. But I’m not here to bash science, because I think it can be a valuable tool. At the same time, as thinkers and processors, we must be careful how we reduce something with our reason, especially dogs. I’ll stop there because this post would just keep going on!

In relation to causality and dogs, we may never know, but I think the ideas that come from NDT are the closest we are going to get. And here’s the catch: humans have the ability to understand causality, dogs don’t. They are an extension of the ground they walk on, merely a part of the larger whole that is nature. And let’s not forget, we humans are also part of that natural network, regardless of our viewpoint on what drives animal behavior. I think what NDT can offer to us, while it may appear to be a complex model, it is really quite simple especially when you put it into practice. If we do that, our dogs will be our professors.

So what is your opinion about causality, not just with humans, but all living creatures?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nellie says:

    Hi again,

    Forgot to mention in first email that I am a clinical psychologist, a Kohutian.


    1. Scott says:

      Its nice to know another mental health professional is using this model. Traditionally, I am an Adlerian, but in recent years I have branched out into acceptance and mindfulness-based practices.

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