Writer's Blog

Loving a Narcissistic Dog

Is Your Dog a Narcissist? Look In the Mirror! Originally published in slightly different form on August 19, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. Can Dogs Be Narcissistic? The term narcissism was first introduced in 1887 by Alfred Binet. Today’s usage stems primarily from Sigmund Freud’s 1914 essay, “On Narcissism.” Freud felt that a certain amount of healthy narcissism—regularly engaging in self-reflection—was necessary for good mental health. (Some might say that Freud himself was a narcissist.) Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, most narcissists aren’t very good at true self-reflection because their own self-image is, for the most part, quite different from reality. In Greek myth, Narcissus was a be

The Truth About Cats & Dogs.

Why Do Dogs Love Us Unconditionally and Cats ... Eh? Originally published in slightly different form on August 10, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. The Neighborhood Kitty There’s a cat in my neighborhood who gets taken for a walk every night. He’s a very nice cat. His owners are nice too. And the cat does pretty well walking on a leash. But there’s a substantial difference between the way the cat relates to the people and dogs he meets on his section of the block, and the way most dogs relate to the people and dogs they meet. There’s also a substantial difference between the way the cat relates to his owners and the way most dogs relate to theirs. I think it has to do with how much energy and at

Do Cell Phones Affect Canine Behavior?

Are Dogs Harder to Train Than They Used to Be? Originally published in slightly different form on November 15, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. “In recent years, there has been a massive introduction of equipment that emits electromagnetic fields in an enormous range of new frequencies, modulations and intensities. Since living organisms have only recently found themselves immersed in this new and increasingly ubiquitous environment, they have not had an opportunity to adapt to it.” — Allan Frey, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 1993. Puppy ADHD or Electromagnetic Fields? A few weeks ago I was speaking to a client of mine about some of the problems he’

Dominance & the Social Bond

Does Dominance Training Harm the Dog/Human Bond? Originally published in slightly different form on May 23, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. “All animals learn best through play.” —Konrad Lorenz Biological Imperatives One of the most amazing things about dogs is their ability to form strong, lasting social bonds. Dog lore is rife with stories about dogs who’ve sacrificed their own personal needs—in some cases, their own lives—for the benefit of their owners, even other animals. Cats may alert their owners to a house fire, but only a dog will risk his life to save others. This seems to violate one of the principal tenets of evolution, that the survival of the individual organism is always the fir

Coren’s Turnaround on Dominance?

Has Stanley Coren Made a Turnaround on the Alpha Theory? Originally published in slightly different form on July 22, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Coren’s Turnaround? In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, Stanley Coren was, to all intents and purposes, a firm believer in the alpha theory. In one section of the book he recommends doing a gentler version of the alpha roll (much gentler than the one currently favored by Cesar Millan), because by rolling a dog over on her back you’re ostensibly putting her in a position “that signifies submission to the authority of a dominant member of the pack.” His latest article here seems to show a complete turnaround. However, I don’t think Coren goes f

Treating Separation Anxiety, Part 4.

Is it Time to Add Pushing and Collecting to Your Separation Anxiety Protocols? “Fear is the collapse of a state of attraction. And because a dog doesn’t discriminate between physical and emotional equilibrium [feelings of] territoriality, phobias, possessiveness, owner addiction, separation anxiety, dominance, submission, all invoke the fear of falling.” —Kevin Behan The Anxious Angelino A few years ago a woman who had just moved to New York from Los Angeles, called to ask if I could provide doggie day care for her intact seven-year old bichon frise, Kobe. She was studying at NYU and had a very full schedule. Since the dog had a tendency to cry a lot when left alone, she wondered if b

Treating Separation Anxiety, Part 3.

Desensitization? Or Providing a Release From Tension & Stress? Helping Otis Let Off Steam The first real severe case of separation anxiety I had was in 1994. It involved a nine-month old vizsla named Otis. His owner worked a nine-to-five job in the financial sector. She took Otis to the dog run twice a day for at least an hour, sometimes two. She also had a dog walking service take him out for two hours while she was at work. However, they were “pack walkers,” so Otis spent most of his time going from one apartment building to the next, or just standing around on the sidewalk while one walker held onto the leashes and the other went inside to pick up a new dog. And while Otis had a few probl

Treating Separation Anxiety, Part 2.

Curing Separation Anxiety by Understanding Attraction & Resistance. Making Connections 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 Facebook each morning, the entire universe is about making connections. The underlying theme of how these connections get made - whether it’s the way sodium and chlorine atoms hook up to produce salt, how a bloodhound sniffs a criminal’s trail, or how two people find each other across a crowded room – it’s about physical, chemical, magnetic, or emotional attraction. Things can’t form connections without experiencing some form of att

Treating Separation Anxiety, Part 1.

What Causes Separation Anxiety? How Do You Cure It? Sublimating the Urge to Bite Dogs learn to navigate their lives with their owners by sublimating some of their instinctual urges and energies, particularly the urge to bite. Sublimation is a concept borrowed from chemistry where a substance like dry ice, goes directly from solid to a gaseous state without first becoming a liquid the way water does. When used by psychologists, the term refers to the ability that social beings have to change unacceptable behaviors like aggression into more harmonious interactions. Dogs and wolves are also able to do this because maintaining social harmony is one of Nature’s primary directives for them. Howeve

Getting Back to Basics: Pavlov and Freud.

Let’s Be Realistic About the Problems With Learning Theory Originally published in slightly different form on January 28, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. Back to Basics Patricia McConnell—a figurehead of the “positive training” movement—recently wrote a rebuttal to one of my PsychologyToday.com articles (about the dangers to teaching formal obedience skills to puppies before their brains, bodies, and emotions are ready). My Unified Dog Theory series is an attempt to help end the divisiveness in the training world, and also to help educate dog owners and trainers that there aren’t just two training methods: the pack leader model and positive reinforcement. There’s a third, called drive training,

Understanding Dogs and Doorways 2

Canine Greeting Behaviors at Doorways Explained. Originally published in slightly different form on March 19, 2012 at PsychologyToday.com. Niko Tinbergen and the Four Different Explanations of Behavior In a recent blog post here at PsychToday.com, Lee Alan Dugatkin, Ph.D. tells us that “Back in 1963, Niko Tinbergen, who would win a Nobel Prize a decade later, wrote a classic paper entitled “On Aims and Methods in Ethology.” Tinbergen distinguished among four different types of explanations when dealing with behavior.” (The following list is paraphrased slightly from the original.) Proximate explanations address the immediate, real-time mechanism that precipitated a particular behavior. Devel

Are Dominance & Submission, Stress Related?

Does Dominance Really Foster Calm Behavior in Dogs? No! Originally published in slightly different form on May 25, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. Striving For Social Status? First I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning for writing her response to my previous post. She’s done a great deal to help me prove my thesis that dominant behaviors are not normal in dogs, but are symptoms of anxiety and stress. Before I get to the ways that Dr. Graziano Bruening (hereafter, LGB) has helped prove my thesis, I’d like to counter a few of the statements she made in her reply to my most recent post. LGB: “City folk are curiously uncomfortable with the striving for social status that’s

3 Simple Questions About Dominance

Is the Wolf Pack a Self-Organizing System? Originally published in slightly different form on May 29, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. I would once again like to thank Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning (hereinafter, LGB) for her reply to my latest post. Although we disagree, much of what she says is correct, or would be if we’d been having this discussion 20 years ago. The difference is that science now has a more complete understanding of how a wolf pack operates. However, to prevent this discussion from becoming a continuous circle of “wolves form dominance hierarchies” and “no they don’t” I’ll focus on three main issues. The Wolf Pack as Totalitarian Despotism LGB has painted the wolf pack as a “

How to Cure “Dominance” in Dogs

3 Simple Steps to Solving Stress-Related Problems in Dogs Originally published in slightly different form on March 9, 2012 at PsychologyToday.com. Social Dominance Is Not a Myth? In a recent post in his blog Games Primates Play, Dario Maestripieri has responded to Dr. Marc Bekoff’s recent article, “Social Dominance is Not a Myth“ (a response to my blog post, “Deconstructing the Concept of Dominance“). Dr. Maestripieri says he agrees with Bekoff’s position that dominance is real, but disagrees when Bekoff claims that it’s a slippery concept, and that we need to use caution when discussing these issues. “In my view,” says Maestripieri, “there is nothing slippery about the concept of dominance,

Do Dogs Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves?

Dogs Ignore Sensory Information in Favor of Emotional Bonds Originally published in slightly different form on March 4, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. “Everything Americans feel about our dogs is right. But everything we think we know about dogs is wrong.” —Kevin Behan Dog Sense Things have changed a lot since veteran police dog trainer and natural philosopher Kevin Behan wrote those words in 1992. Yet strangely enough (or perhaps not so strangely), most of the ideas Behan first proposed—that pack formation is a function of prey size, that the wolf pack is a self-emergent system, and that emotion is the key to learning—have been validated by modern research. Be

Do Puppy Classes Cause Learning Deficits?

Should Young Puppies Learn Obedience? Originally published in slightly different form on February 9, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. “Nature is never wrong.”—Jean Jacques Rousseau “Genies don’t grant just two wishes. Nobody talks about the Two Musketeers. And you never hear anybody say, ‘Second time’s the charm!’“ —Jeff Bridges (Hyundai ad) Good Things Come in Threes The message of the ad copy above is that all good things come in threes. This is true even in chemistry, where in order for most chemical reactions to take place there has to be a catalyst, facilitating the process. This series of Unified Dog Theory articles—which involves me attempting to be s

Drive Training Satisfies a Dog's Desires

Survival Feelings Aren't the Best Way to Promote Learning Originally published in slightly different form on March 18, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. Pent Up Energy I previously discussed what I’ve called the 4 Quadrants of Drive Training, which are similar to the quadrants of learning theory (+ and - reinforcement, and + and - punishment) in that they also come in pairs of opposites: Attraction & Resistance and Tension & Release. Unlike the quadrants of learning theory—which are statistical probabilities that can only be measured after the fact—attraction & resistance, and tension & release are properties of energy, all of which can be measured physiologically (i.e., in the brain and body), i

Kevin Behan: Distractability and Time.

Dec 04, 2012 The Unsure, Unknown Scientist There are several dog blogs I check into from time to time to see how others think about dogs. I used to make comments on them but they don’t seem particularly productive. People project so much onto dogs, that they think they know what I’m saying without actually taking the time and trouble to understand what I’m actually saying. For example, any talk of energy is misconstrued as mysticism. There’s one particular blog written by an apparent scientist, he or she thinks they are debunking my model in a post explaining how a simple algorithm in a computer model successfully duplicated the hunting pattern of wolves. He thinks he’s undermining my theory

Dogtogeny Recapitulates Wolflogeny

Does a Dog’s Genetic Diversity Come from the Wolf’s DNA? Originally published in slightly different form on October 14, 2010 at PsychologyToday.com. Physical and Behavioral Diversity Dogs are the most diverse species of animal on earth. According to zoologist Desmond Morris, there are over 1,000 breeds, each with its own specific body type and character traits. Meanwhile, even though the latest genetic tests show that dogs evolved from wolves, there is nothing in the behavior or morphology of the domesticated dog’s wild cousins to account for the dog’s incredible physical and behavioral diversity. So where did it come from? Up until recently it was thought that when our ancestors bred dogs f

Dogs Have Colonized Our Unconscious

Our Brains Are Hard-Wired to Pay Attention to Animals. Does It Work Both Ways? Originally published in slightly different form on September 23, 2011 at PsychologyToday.com. The Human-Dog Connection I’ve written on numerous occasions about how dogs get under our skin, and seem to hi-jack our brains. In this article I’ll present three ideas. 1) That there’s a part of the human brain designed to make us pay attention to all animals. 2) That dogs may have a similar cognitive function hard-wired into their brains that makes them pay attention to us. And 3) that a new tool, now available to cognitive researchers, may be able to show us ways that the human and dog brain sometimes act in concert.

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© 2016 by Lee Charles Kelley.