The Mind and Body Connection
By Dale McCluskey
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it is tied to everything else in the universe."
John Muir (1838-1914) U. S. naturalist, explorer.
Dogs are pack animals. The depth of this pack connection goes further than most people comprehend or understand as it links with mind, body and nature. How dogs communicate with each other through this mind and body connection provides the snapshot for assessing strength and weakness. Dogs know the overall path, intent and characteristics of the owner' mind within this strength and weakness, body and mind connection and framework. This connection is both a proximity one and main influencing agent based on who spends the most time with the dog. This connection begins to take hold and intensify with any dog or human within a few feet. The interplay and reactions are based on the psychological path of the human and level of influence and role of the dog within its pack.
Just like how nature is intertwined so are both mind and body. This is where physical strength blends into the will and strength of the mind. It is this intent, character and seriousness of the mind, which represents strength. Physical responses, which are aggressive may not create meaningful influence based on how the overall mind is framed. Often a dog owner reacts from a buildup of frustration through an emotional response. This is where a disconnect happens from how the owner perceives their own psychology and how the dog perceives it based on nature's standard. Through this interwoven mind and body connection a dog knows the mind of the owner, its current path and intent. A dog quickly creates a personality assessment based on these characteristics. To see the unseen and the depth of this pack connection it is only revealed by direct interaction without separation from this pack influence. Recent studies which focus on this intertwined relationship and connection confirm that more is happening than what is seen from the surface.
Taken together, the current results show that dogs were highly sensitive to the experimenter’s attentional state. There are still many unanswered questions, and future research on animal social cognition should thus be explicitly comparative and should attempt to establish the full range of social–cognitive skills for a wide range of animal species.
Only recently it has been discovered that dogs are interesting to science for another reason. It appears that dogs have evolved specialized skills for reading human social and communicative behavior. (Hare 2005)
It is conceivable that dogs may have evolved some special predisposition for interacting with and communicating with humans (Lorenz, 1964; Miklo´si, Polga´rdi, Topa´l, & Csa´nyi, 1998; Mitchell & Thompson, 1986).
While recent scientific studies of dog and human interactions hint that a more complex level of communication is happening between dogs and humans the break through moment remains in doubt based on this behaviorist way of thinking being deeply embedded into our scientific studies and academic institutions. (Lee 2009)
Modern researchers in animal cognition are in most cases firmly behaviorist in methodology, even though they differ sharply from the behaviorist philosophy. (Hare 2005)
While many have been indoctrinated to this behaviorist way of thinking others are starting to question if behavioral science can provide the answers and resolve the discourse happening within the dog training world.
Many non-experts in the field, and a small minority of experts, find the scientific approach too cautious, and feel that it tends to underrate the intellectual achievements of animals by insisting on behavioral evidence. (Cognition 2011)
One of the main stumbling blocks to this pack connection being revealed fully is associated with behavioral science and more specifically conditioning.
Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. (Cherry 2008)
Through the framework created by Watson, Skinner and Pavlov the focus of research shifted almost entirely on how dogs, and humans, reacted to various stimuli based on biology and physical response. (Demar 1989) The decision to rely on the observable was reconciled at the time by the question of whether psychology could be used as reliable science.
But if we attempt an approach from this science of psychology to the problem confronting us we shall be building our superstructure on a science which has no claim to exactness as compared even with physiology. In fact it is still open to discussion whether psychology is a natural science, or whether it can be regarded as a science at all. (Pavlov 1927)
These ideas and concepts attempted to focus entirely on observable behaviors which makes it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research. (Cherry 2008)
It is clear these ideas and concepts dumb-ed down nature at a level which focused on the body and not the mind. When viewed from the perspective of Nature and how a dog's mind is governed and pulled by the influence of the pack it becomes clear why Pavlov was having difficulty with controlling the dog's reactions to human presence.
It was thought at the beginning of our research that it would be sufficient simply to isolate the experimenter in the research chamber with the dog on its stand, and to refuse admission to anyone else during the course of an experiment. But this precaution was found to be wholly inadequate, since the experimenter, however still he might try to be, was himself a constant source of a large number of stimuli. (Pavlov 1923)
Dogs are pulled to other dogs and people, it is the pivoting point of how a dog's mind is influenced through nature and the pack connection. Pavlov's difficulties and concerns during his experiments with studying dogs came from this separation.
Unless we are careful to take special precautions the success of the whole investigation may be jeopardized, and we should get hopelessly lost as soon as we began to seek for cause and effect among so many and various influences, so intertwined and entangled as to form a veritable chaos. (Pavlov 1927)
Whatever was to come from this study based on separation of the dog from pack influence would not be a reliable standard with how a dog's mind is really influenced and governed. The foundation that behaviorists have attempted to build based on conditioning methodology has proven unreliable and inconsistent as a result.
Unfortunately this behaviorist indoctrination has contaminated studies, which attempt to push beyond the boundaries of behavioral science to grasp the meaning and depth of this mind and body connection. Many continue to flounder and fixate on what is seen from the surface as it links to devices, conditioning and what is observable. The issue of emotion with how information is filtered and sifted through our cognitive processes only further binds our ability to see beyond the surface. The mind is influenced by emotions and feelings which makes the persons mind susceptible to a certain bias which impacts the persons ability to be objective. Our cognitive process could best be described as the tree from which all truth comes. We all filter information differently based on our beliefs. With the study of living things our cognitive framework is intertwined with certain emotions and feelings which can interfere in our ability to remain objective. What motivates the search for truth or halts its pursuit is determined by the character of the individual.
Emotions such as interest, curiosity, wonder, and surprise are inextricable from the cognitive processes of scientific investigation, guiding researchers to generate important questions and to try to produce acceptable answers to them. (Thagood 2006)
When our emotions and feelings collide with objective reasoning than critical thinking is not able to move us in the right direction with finding answers.
When we feel good about how well our beliefs fit together, there is no way for us to tell whether in fact the coherence is really a matter of the goodness of fit of hypotheses with the evidence, or instead a matter of goodness of fit of hypotheses with our personal goals. (Thagood 2006)
A level of bias would explain why many are holding fast onto behavioral science as a means to build bridges within nature, which cannot be built. The agenda of exploitation has allowed the smoke and mirror behaviorist sideshow to remain opened for business. When you consider how conditioning is used combined with the domino effect when meaningful influence grabs hold the behaviorist model appears to make sense from the surface. When you begin testing the waters of the behaviorist model of training with high drive dogs the psychology attached as a life preserver begins to rise to the surface. Unresolved behavior issues get humanized and treated with medications while vets make profit from this self-fueling framework. In the end the real losers in this deal are the dogs and owners.
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