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Does Your Dog Show Allelomimetic Behavior?

Does Your Dog Show Allelomimetic Behavior?

Does your dog show allelomimetic behavior? I’m sure it does but don’t worry, it’s not dangerous, except when it is, and yes, it is contagious. Confused? Keep reading.

Allelomimetic behavior is doing the same as others do. Some behaviors have a strong probability of influencing others to show the same behavior. Animals keeping in constant contact with one another will inevitably develop allelomimetic behavior.

Dogs show various instances of allelomimetic behavior—walking, running, sitting, lying down, getting up, sleeping, barking, and howling have a strong probability of stimulating others to do the same.

Social predators increase their rate of hunting success when they function in unison. One individual setting after the prey is likely to trigger the same response in the whole group.

WomanWithDogBySunVilla

More often than we think, it is our own behavior that triggers our dog’s allelomimetic behavior (photo by SunVilla).

The wolf’s howl is allelomimetic, one more behavior our domestic dogs share with their wild cousins. Howling together functions as social bonding. When one wolf howls, the whole pack may join in, especially if a high-ranking wolf started it. I bet that if you go down on your knees, turn your head up, and howl, (provided you are a half-decent howler) your dog will join you; then, it will attempt to show its team spirit by licking your face.

Sleeping and eating are examples of allelomimetic behavior. Dogs and cats tend to sleep and eat at the same time. Barking is also contagious. One barking dog can set the whole neighborhood’s dogs barking.

Synchronizing behavior may be a lifesaver. In prey animals like the deer, zebra or wildebeest, one individual can trigger the whole herd to flee. This trait is so important for self-preservation that farm animals like sheep, cows, and horses still keep it. Grazing also occurs at the same time.

ChildPlayingPuppy

Running after a running child is more often an example of canine allelomimetic behavior than hunting or herding as many dog owners erroneously presume.

Allelomimetic behavior is not restricted to animals of the same species. Animals of different species who live together show allelomimetic behavior regularly. Dogs are able body language readers and respond to certain behaviors of their owners with no need for further instruction. An alerted owner triggers his dog’s alertness more often than the opposite.

Puppies show allelomimetic behavior at about five weeks of age. It is an intrinsic part of your dog’s behavior to adjust to the behavior of its companions. Your behavior influences your dog behavior in many more instances than you realize.

Since we have selected and bred our dogs to be highly sociable and socially promiscuous, they show extended allelomimetic behavior, not only copying the behavior of their closest companions but of others. Next time you walk in the park and your dog runs after running children, you can casually comment, “Typical instance of allelomimetic behavior.” Not that it will solve any problem, if there is one, but you’ll be right and I bet you will impress more than a few of your fellow park walkers.

Featured photo by Cynoclub. Artwork by Anton Antonsen.

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Agonistic Behavior Agonistic Behavior is all forms of aggression, threat, fear, pacifying behavior, fight or flight, arising from confrontations between individuals of the same species. This course gives you the scientific definitions and facts.

Featured Price: € 168.00 € 98.00

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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Can Animals of Different Species Bond like Conspecifics?

Can Animals of Different Species Bond like Conspecifics

Can animals of different species create relationships and bonds similar to those they have with their own conspecifics? Let me tell you a story.

One winter morning, when I still lived up north, I looked out of the window and saw a white duck right in the middle of the yard. I almost missed it, so well his white plumage faded into the snowy environment.

Daniel, then a teenager, got very excited. “He’s freezing, Daddy, we have to help him,” he exclaimed.

We got warmly dressed, and even before considering eating breakfast, out we went to tend to this stranger in distress. Our presence didn’t frighten the duck, not even when we came closer. He didn’t show either any evident appreciation for the arrival of our rescue party. He must have been tired and freezing after having spent the whole night roaming around the frozen fields. We didn’t hold his lack of courtesy against him.

We found a wooden crate, duck-sized, grabbed some straw from the horse’s stall, and made him a comfortable refuge near the old water pump. He seemed to like it right away, went inside, tidied it up a bit and lay down like all ducks do with his beak on his back. We offered him food and water, which he didn’t touch and so we left him to recover.

“Fine, so now we can grab some breakfast, don’t you think?” I commented to Daniel.

The long and the short of it is that the duck stayed day after day, showing no intention of leaving. We gave him a name, Anders. I don’t know if he also gave us names. The other animals on the farm, horse, cat, dog, took it as it was. No one bothered him and didn’t show much interest either.

I thought he might die when I first saw him, so miserable he looked, but he was a tough duck. Not only did he survive, but he looked healthier and stronger for each day that passed. He also became increasingly assertive.

If we had any apprehensions about whether the other animals would give him a hard time, our doubts quickly dissipated. In fact, it was the other way around. Anders became the king of the farm. He ate everything—horse, cat, and dog food equally—and he took what he wanted when he fancied it. He would approach Katarina the cat, from behind, would peck at her tail, and, when she moved away, he would feast on cat food as he pleased.

Indy, the horse, didn’t escape his majesty’s moods either. King Anders would peck at Indy’s hooves until he moved away, giving up his horsey pellets for yet a ducky feast.
He would walk around tending to his businesses, whatever businesses ducks have, unconcernedly and much matter-of-factly. The only concern he showed were birds of prey. He would stand silent, looking up, holding his head sideways, one eye facing the sky until he rested assured that the bird wouldn’t dive on him.

It didn’t take long, though, before we all got accustomed to Anders and him to us. I can’t say that he ever bonded with anyone. He was his own. He wasn’t needy either. At the farm, we were supportive of one another when necessary, but we didn’t intrude on the others’ lives, and we weren’t over-protective either. Milou, the dog, would charge out of the door, furiously growling if she heard that Katarina was in trouble, which she was regularly. The neighborhood tomcats apparently found her too hot and worth risking a sortie into unknown territory.

Sometimes, at night, the fox would venture too close, and Katarina would be the first to detect her, creating some commotion. Anders would quack and shed feathers all the way up to his safe spot. Milou would charge forth fiercely once again as the defender of the kingdom, barking and growling, not knowing why, just in case. Indy, the horse, on the other hand, always kept his cool thru out all ordeals. Daniel and I would come last from our rooms on each end of the farmhouse, armed with our hockey sticks, more than once meeting one another in the yard, only wearing our boxers. I’m glad we lived out in the sticks where nobody could witness our antics!

We had a good life. We didn’t bother one another, shared the space and the resources we had, and we put up with one another’s’ peculiarities. That was what served us all best, I think we all agreed, but I can’t know what the others thought. We were a family, a herd, a clowder, a pack, and a brace.

We belonged to different species, but for all intents, except reproduction, we functioned as any well-functioning group of animals of the same species. Thus, if you would ask me whether animals of different species can create relationships and bonds similar to those they have with their own conspecifics, I wouldn’t hesitate in answering yes (all going down to definitions). Did we have any hierarchy? Oh yes, you needed only to ask Anders, and it wasn’t in any way unsettling for any of us. It even felt natural and reassuring, I dare say. As long as we all knew what we were supposed to do and not to do, all was good.

I got the habit every morning, right after I got up, to look out of the window and be greeted by Anders. He would invariably stand there, in the middle of the yard, looking at my window always at the right time. It became a ritual, a reassuring one, I guess, for both of us.

One morning, Anders was nowhere. I knew right away what had happened. The fox had, at last, got the better of Anders, the king.

Featured image: If you would ask me whether animals of different species can create relationships and bonds similar to those they have with their own conspecifics, I wouldn’t hesitate in answering yes. Photo by Lifeonwhite.

Featured Course of the Week

Agonistic Behavior Agonistic Behavior is all forms of aggression, threat, fear, pacifying behavior, fight or flight, arising from confrontations between individuals of the same species. This course gives you the scientific definitions and facts.

Featured Price: € 168.00 € 98.00

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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Can Two Training Methods Be Equally Good?

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I receive many emails with questions about animal behavior. Most of them involve practical issues, but, now and then, someone poses a more complex question. Here is my answer to one of the latter, one I’d like to share with you because it deals with important issues for our understanding of animal behavior and training.

 

Dear ….,

Thanks for your comment, which gives me the opportunity to clarify a few issues. By no means, I see animals as biological robots or do I regard the Skinnerian approach as the truth, the only truth and nothing but the truth, quite the contrary (please, consider the following passages from “Mission SMAF—Bringing Scientific Precision Into Animal Training”).

“In fact, I suspect that [communication] even involves more than what science can describe with the intrinsic limitations of its key concepts and methods, no matter how stringent they are.”

“It seems to me, therefore, that our goal must not be to oppress or suppress emotions, but rather control them and use them advantageously. Emotional arousal proves to be necessary to learn and the right amount of emotional arousal even shows to increase the efficiency of learning processes.” (A very non-Skinnerian statement, I would say).

As to my own method to analyze learning processes in artificial set-ups (like in animal training), I write: “In a crude sense, SMAF is an oversimplification of complex processes […] certainly not an attempt to reduce complex mechanisms to a few formulas. In the end, [its] value depends solely on its successful application to solving practical problems; beyond that it has no value.”

Operant conditioning (when we use it correctly) is an efficient model of behavior for animal training because we control the conditionals to a certain extent (as Pavlov explains in its original writings, not the subsequent translations). Whilst operant conditioning is adequate to analyze behavior at a particular level, beyond that it is too crude a tool. To do that, we need evolutionary models and concepts like variation, selection, adaptation, fitness, function, evolutionary strategies, ESS (evolutionarily stable strategies), cost and benefit, etc. Thus, my approach to behavior is based on evolutionary biology and philosophically sound argumentation.

Greetings,

RAA

 

The core of the argument is reductionism, the view that we can reduce complex processes to the sum of its simpler parts. In a sense, all science is reductionistic. We attempt to explain complex processes with a few notions well organized in little boxes. That is a process that seems to suit our human brain particularly well.

However, we must bear in mind that our interpretations, independently of how good they are, are just our pictures of an elusive reality. They suit our particular umwelten but definitely not all. They explain parts of it from particular angles so we can make sense of it. Newton and Einstein, the classical example, are (probably) both right, only explaining reality at two different levels.

There’s nothing wrong about being a reductionist if only we do not get greedy and attempt to explain far too much with far too little as in, “That’s it, this is the way things are. Period.” Simplifying gets us often to the point, which complicating and oversimplifying, both have missed.

In animal training, one theory or one method can be as good as another depending on its foundations, approaches, what it attempts to explain and what practical purposes it intends to serve. If both are based on reliable evidence, use well-defined terms, and are logically sound, there’s little to choose between one or the other.

If only animal trainers would understand that, I believe we would forgo many senseless disputes.

Then again, we can brag about being the most emotional creatures on this big blue marble of ours, can’t we?

We Talk Too Much and Say Too Little

when you cannot improve on silence, be quiet (DogOwnerTalkingToDog).

Our dogs, I’m sure, think that we talk too much and say too little. My advice to dog owners: when you cannot improve on silence, be quiet.

The function of communication is to achieve or maintain any desired outcome. Communication—information, instruction, persuasion, control, motivation, emotional release, and information—is all about change. If we don’t want anything in particular, the best we can do is to keep silent.

Communication happens through signals with different forms, e.g., sound (verbal and non-verbal), body language, facial expression, eye contact, smell, touch. All organisms communicate, animals, plants, fungi, and even bacteria.

Talking is our primary communication means because we have developed complex language systems. That is a peculiarity of the brain of our species. Other animals also communicate with one another, though their communication is supposedly not as sophisticated as ours. Besides talking to change or maintain the behavior of others, we also engage in cozy talk, social talk, gossiping, etc.. However, cozy talk is not always that cozy, and social conversation leans more often than we care to admit to being anti-social.

If language is a useful tool to create understanding, it is also the ideal tool to create misunderstanding. In conclusion, we would be better off shutting up more often. Therefore, when you cannot improve on silence, be quiet.

Dogs don’t care for idle talk or social talk. They don’t have a keen interest in gossip or emotional bursts either. Dogs are pragmatic—if you don’t bother me and I don’t bother you, all is good. Dogs are connoisseurs of silence. Instead of so much talking, I believe your dog would value immensely more a loving glance or a little pacifying gesture. In other words: if you don’t have anything important to say to your dog, keep silent.

Have a quiet, peaceful and beautiful day!

Learn more in our course Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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Can My Dog Be Happy or Sad?

Sad-Dog-on-Hardwood-Floor

If you ask me “Can my dog be happy or sad?” I will ask you back “Can you?” and if you answer, “Yes, of course,” then I’ll say, “In that case, probably so can your dog, albeit differently from you—a difference of degree, not of kind.”

Anthropomorphism means to attribute human characteristics to (other) animals.  The argument for anthropomorphism is valid enough: if I can’t prove (verify) something, I’d better disregard it (at least scientifically)—and I can’t prove that my dog is happy, sad, or loves me.

Yet, it seems to me, that the opposite (of anthropomorphism) is as wrong. It is true that we can’t prove whether an animal can be happy or sad, but we can’t prove either that it can’t. As Carl Sagan wrote, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” We know nothing about one or the other. All we can see is behavior and the rest is guesswork.

If it is a sin to attribute human characteristics to other animals, it must also be a sin to say that because we do, they don’t, because we can, they can’t.

Bottom-line: Don’t assume that others feel the same as you do, not your fellow humans, not other animals. Don’t assume either that they don’t, because they might.

Life is a puzzle, enjoy it!

Featured image: If it is a sin to attribute human characteristics to other animals, it must also be a sin to say that because we do, they don’t, because we can, they can’t.

Learn more in our course Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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