Writer's Blog

Why Do Some Scientists Misrepresent the Cognitive Abilities of Animals?

The More We Misrepresent a Dog's Cognitive Abilities the More They Suffer. Originally published in slightly different form on April 26, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Is Everything Animals Do Based on a Mental Thought Process? In a new blog here at PsychologyToday.com—The Hidden Lives of Animals: Understanding Animal Behavior—Jonathan Balcombe, Ph. D., writes, “For much of the twentieth century, science didn’t view animals as thinking, feeling beings. Today that’s all changed. Science has emerged from what American neuroscientist Jaak Panskepp has termed its ‘terminal agnosticism’ towards animal experience.” Actually, scientists have viewed animals as “thinking beings” for quite some time. The

From Pavlov to Pauli

Confirmation Bias and How Dogs Experience Time Originally published on July 28, 2009 by Lee Charles Kelley Linear vs Cyclical Time Dogs live totally in the moment. They don’t dwell on the past and they don’t worry about the future. This may be one of the most charming and delightful things about them. But while dogs have no sense of linear time, they do have a very exact sense of cyclical time (probably related to circadian rhythms) [1], and it’s pretty amazing. Pavlov once did an experiment where he sprayed meat powder into the mouths of a dozen or so dogs at noon every day for 2 weeks in a row. Then on the 15th day, he didn’t spray the powder yet they all still salivated exactly at noon.

All Dogs Are Good Dogs at Heart!

Some Dogs Just Need a Little Push. Originally published in slightly different form on January 4, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Do All Animals Learn the Same Way? In their groundbreaking book—DOGS: A Startling New Understanding...—Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, write, “Animal psychologists and psychiatrists often work on aberrant behavior, which they describe in psychological terms. This dog has separation anxiety; that dog has a compulsive disorder. Since many of these disorders don’t respond to classical or operant conditioning, the specialist might prescribe drugs. Our complaint here is that behaviorists tend to think all animals learn the same way. And this is where the gap in understanding

Canine Communication III: Are Dogs Telepathic?

Are Dogs Fetching the Latest Breakthroughs in Science? Originally published in slightly different form on August 6, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home Have you ever answered the phone and said, “I was just thinking about you!” Have you ever had a gut reaction to someone because of their bad “vibe?” Has anyone you know experienced a sinking sensation that a child of theirs has just been in a terrible accident, which turned out to be true? These are all examples of telepathy, the ability to sense or feel things about friends and loved ones without direct contact. (Telepathy comes from the Greek for distant feeling.) I think dogs experience this type o

The Canine Mind Makes Fools of Us All

How Dogs Can Fool Even Our Smartest Scientists Originally published in slightly different form on August 12, 2009 at PsychologyToday.com. Emotions vs Thoughts In an earlier post—“From Pavlov to Pauli...“—I wrote that, scientifically speaking, all canine behavior can and should be explained from an emotional/energetic point of view rather than a mental framework. I even kind of bragged, perhaps foolishly, that I could do just that. In my most recent article—“Smart Pooches or Dumb Science?“—I critiqued a recent spate of online articles and TV news blurbs in which psychologist Stanley Coren quite wrongly states that dogs are better at math than 2-year-olds. Here’s CNN’s version of one “study

Sigmund Freud and the Art of Dog Training, Part 2.

The Curious Case of the Dog Who Licked Doorknobs Originally published in slightly different form on April 8, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. “Happiness is a warm puppy.” ---- Charles Shultz “What we call happiness comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.” ----Sigmund Freud Dogs Operate as a Natural Energy System In my last article here at Psychology Today, I made the claim that understanding some of the basic principles of Freudian psychology can help us—dog owners and dog trainers alike—understand our dogs better, and that Freud’s ideas may be more relevant to dog training than those of Konrad Lorenz, Ivan Pavlov, or B. F. Skinner. I

Sigmund Freud & the Art of Dog Training, Part I.

How Freudian Psychology Helps Us Understand Dogs Originally published in slightly different form on March 15, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Dog Training and Object Relations Theory I’m a Neo-Freudian dog trainer. It says so in my bio. I first discovered this fact while working with a Rhodesian ridgeback who had fear issues; she was scared of the construction noises in her lower Manhattan neighborhood. After one of our sessions—where we were able to get her to have fun walking past the jackhammers by using a favorite toy to build her prey drive—her owner, a psychotherapist, asked me if I’d ever studied object relations theory. “No,” I said. “Why?” “It seems to me that your ideas about

Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other?

Is It Really a “Canine Handshake?“ Originally published in slightly different form on July 13, 2009 at PsychologyToday.com. Is Sniffing Really Just a Social Gesture? It’s said that dogs sniff each other as a kind of canine equivalent to the human handshake; an otherwise meaningless “greeting ceremony” [1] which reportedly started in medieval times as a way of checking the other guy for weapons. Our canine companions are said to do this for similar reasons; it signifies that both animals are on friendly terms. But is it really just a social gesture? Does it have an adaptive purpose? Will knowing the true reason for this behavior tell us anything useful about the dog’s way of seeing the world?

Smart Pooches or Dumb Science?

Are Dogs Smarter than Toddlers? You Do the Math! Originally Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 I'm sad to have to report that AOL, MSNBC, and CNN have all proclaimed in their headlines this weekend: “Dogs Smarter than Toddlers, New Study Shows” (AOL), and “Your family dog may be smarter than your toddler!” (CNN). I'm sad because it’s been my experience, as a dog trainer, that the more that “science” tries to prove how “smart” dogs are, the more dogs suffer as a consequence. “” ’ Smart Dogs or Dumb Science? You Do the Math... Here’s the opening line from AOL: ”The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.” Really? According to what sc

Why Do Dogs Mark Their Territory?

Is it Cognitive or Purely Emotional? Originally published in slightly different form on January 11, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Why do dogs “mark“ their territories? The simplest answer is they don’t. Misunderstanding a Common Natural Behavior In his book The Intelligence of Dogs, author Stanley Coren gives us the classical explanation of this myth: “All canids use urine ... to mark the limits of their territories. In males this marking behavior is usually accompanied by leg lifting to direct the urine against large objects (trees, rocks, bushes) to place the scent at nose height for other dogs and to allow the scent to radiate over a large area. Some African wild dogs ... scrabble as high

The Siege at Druid Peak

Tuning In To Nature’s Most Developed Social Network. Originally published in slightly different form on January 18, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. “Nothing in nature is random.” – Spinoza The Valley of the Wolves This is one of the strangest and most intriguing stories I’ve ever come across. It starts simply enough with a pack of gray wolves living happily in British Columbia. Then one day, in 1995, while they were out doing ordinary wolf-like things, they were tranquilized by a group of biologists, fitted with radio collars, then transported to a new environment: the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. They were dubbed the Druid Peak pack, after a central geographic feature of the vall

Attraction & Resistance

Everything In the Universe Is Geared Toward Making Connections, This Is Especially True of Dogs. Originally published in slightly different form on April 15, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. The Universe is Geared to Seeking Out Connections For those who haven’t read my previous articles in this series, I’ve defined the 4 Quadrants of Drive Training as Attraction & Resistance, and Tension & Release. I’ve already discussed the last two in some detail. Here I’ll be discussing attraction and resistance. First of all, everything in the universe is geared toward seeking out connections with some other facet of existence. From sub-atomic particles on up to the need some of us feel to log on to Faceb

Emotional GPS, Part II.

How Do Lost Dogs Find Their Way Home? This article was originally posted on my blog at PsychologyToday.com. Cell Phones and the Need for Connection Whenever I pass someone talking on a cell phone, I usually hear one of two things: “Where are you?” or “I’m [at such-and-such a location].” True, these conversations may go on to other topics, but that’s how most of them start. That’s why it becomes clearer to me each day that human beings have a deep biological need to feel connected to one another. I think dogs are the same way. They’re not as neurotic about it but they do have a strong biological need to feel connected to us. How Do Lost Dogs Find Their Way Home? Every so often you’ll hear a s

Cathexis: Why Dogs Pull on the Leash

A Common Behavior, Seen From a Freudian Perspective Originally published in slightly different form on June 1, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Pulling On the Leash and the Drive to Connect Go to nearly any dog training website and you’ll find that a dog who pulls on the leash, or forges ahead of its owners while walking, is one of the most common behavioral problems trainers offer to solve. The most common explanations for pulling are: a) the dog he thinks he’s alpha (which is a misunderstanding about a dog’s supposed rank in a social hierarchy), or b) the dog's behavior is somehow being reinforced (the behavioral science view), or both. In fact the opposition reflex is simply a dog’s natural

Misrepresenting Their Cognitive Abilities Hurts Animals.

The more we misrepresent animals’ cognitive abilities the more they suffer. Originally published in slightly different form on April 26, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. The Hidden Lives of Animals In a new blog here at PsychologyToday.com—The Hidden Lives of Animals: Understanding Animal Behavior—Jonathan Balcombe, Ph. D., writes, “For much of the twentieth century, science didn’t view animals as thinking, feeling beings. Today that’s all changed. Science has emerged from what American neuroscientist Jaak Panskepp has termed its ‘terminal agnosticism’ towards animal experience.” Actually, scientists have viewed animals as “thinking beings” for quite some time. The literature on animal behavior

Do Dogs Use Body Language to Communicate?

If dogs communicate intentionally, why can’t they hide their feelings? Originally published in slightly different form on July 9, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Different Forms of Communication There are three ways in which dogs are said to communicate with other dogs, as well as with human beings; through their body language, vocalizations, and direct eye contact. In this article we’ll look at body language as a form of communication and try to determine whether dogs use their body language deliberately, with the intent to communicate their thoughts or feelings, or if it’s an unconscious form of communication. First I think we need to differentiate—as Daniel C. Dennett does in his book Co

Gender Roles in Dog Training

Why Are There More Female Dog Trainers Then Males? Originally published in slightly different form on June 30, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. “We invented civilization to impress our girlfriends.” —Orson Welles A Hypothetical Drive In a recent article here, “Why Dogs Pull on the Leash,” I used the behavior of dogs who pull on the leash as a forensic fulcrum, to show the ways that alpha theorists and behavioral scientists explain canine behavior, and then compare and contrast those explanations with mine, which is through an energy theory of behavior: part Kevin Behan [1], part Sigmund Freud [2]. My position was that

Women, Oxytocin & Domesticated Dogs

Could a single hormone have helped us domesticate dogs (and vice versa)? Originally published in slightly different form on December 7, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. “The primary factor that humans selected for was tameness, or low levels of aggression. The main mechanism through which this was accomplished was neotenization, or retention of juvenile low aggression into adult life. We also selected animals who paid attention to us." —Nigel Barber, Ph D. The “Love Hormone” and Canine Behavior In a previous article here, “The Love Hormone: The Key to Canine Evolution,” I proposed the idea that oxytocin probably played a ma

Can Play Help Cure PTSD in Dogs?

Dogs Can Help War Veterans Get Over Their PTSD. Can Play Help Dogs Do the Same Thing? Originally published in slightly different form on August 1, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. Dogs With PTSD In her recent blog post, “Why Dogs Heal PTSD,” Tracy Stecker beautifully describes how the canine-human bond can help war veterans overcome PTSD and start getting back to normal. We usually think of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a condition primarily afflicting such veterans. But battered children and spouses can also exhibit symptoms. Victims of automobile accidents, natural disasters, and violent crimes can too. So can abused dogs. Nicholas Dodman of Tufts, says, “There is a condition in dog

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© 2016 by Lee Charles Kelley.