Conscious & Non Conscious Communication
With the purposes of dog training in mind, communication can be broken down into two basic forms; Conscious communication, intended to convey information believed by the sender to be necessary to give to the receiver. Non Conscious communication, information that is sent without regard of the receivers need for it. Some examples of this are..
"An adult human sees a child moving near a hot stove and cautions the child to stay away."
The adult is the sender and the child is the receiver
The information is needed by the receiver and is consciously decided to be sent by the sender although the sender does not personally benefit.
Non Conscious Communication
"A puppy ventures forward to see what an adult dog is doing. The adult growls and snaps because it was chewing a juicy bone and the puppy leaves the area."
The puppy is the receiver and the adult dog is the sender
The adult dog feels the need to protect its prize regardless of the age of the puppy or what its intentions are. The puppy receives the information that there is danger but has not learned why. The adult dog is not aware of this. Without the puppy recognizing that food was involved, it cannot learn to avoid that particular situation again. Not only has the adult dog guarded its prize from an imaginary threat but has not effectively given information to the receiver.
Conscious or Non Conscious?
"A tree creaks loudly in a strong wind and a dog looks up and jumps out of the way as the tree falls."
The tree is the sender and the dog is the receiver
The tree does not know that the dog needs the information but information is gathered by the receiver from the sender. The receiver benefits greatly from the information but it was not available for that purpose.
We must be careful of our assumptions in regard to our dogs behaviours. Are the behaviours happening to tell us something, or are they the result of the environment and unconsciously driven. If we assume that the dog is consciously trying to tell us something and attribute that capacity to our dog, the dog would need to have the ability to know that it, the dog, has information that I do not have. This assigns the dog a sense of self apart from others and that all others are separate selves from each other.
This is a highly complicated way to run a mind and has, so far when tested, only shown up in four types of animals. These being, an Elephant (only one showed the ability,) the Great Apes (a group of which we humans are a part of,) Dolphins and Magpies. Dogs, when tested, do not show this ability, or at least not to any great degree. Without the ability to separate ones self from another, the argument that dogs are conscious communicators is greatly weakened.
Whether or not we attribute conscious communication to our dogs, we must be aware that their ability to see themselves and others as separate is, as shown through self awareness testing, less than ours. This means that we certainly cannot apply our level of understanding of a problem or its soloution to our dogs. Therefore, we cannot apply punishment for that lack of understanding. If there are two groups of people separated by their beliefs in conscious vs non conscious communication in dogs. There is one thing that they should agree on and that is…
“If my dog is attempting to communicate or cannot.
If you would like a more detailed explanation of the concept of Conscious and Non Conscious Communication, please come in and have a chat. We would love to meet you and your dog and even give a demonstration of the concept.