February 23, 2006


The Hankenberg Principle

Somewhere around 5 o'clock every day, I go into Mike's office. I don't do anything special, mind you, just stand there and observe. Now, a lot of homo sapiens don't truly fully appreciate the power of the stare (as opposed to staring at screens, which they're all too good at). Humans are prejudiced toward flipping switches, pressing buttons, pushing pedals, wielding tools. In short, they're all about action and view the rest of the world as that which reacts. That's why all their films, video games and even best-selling novels are packed with what they call "action heroes." It's also why they say the world is their "oyster," something to be pried open.

Dogs also love action, of course, but we have a deep and abiding understanding of inaction, which is why we spend such large parts of our days in droopy-eyed meditation. We have an instinctual knowledge of what I modestly call the Hankenberg Principle, which states that the very act of observing an event changes that event. So we watch our humans, not just to keep tabs on them, but knowing that our observation will eventually lead to a change in their behavior.

Mike, for example, can usually be driven off his computer after no more than a five-minute stare, if I time it right. If he goes longer or tells me to go lie down, I usually sigh loudly and throw myself down onto the uncomfortable hardwood floor next to him, my eyes drooping. This, I've found, is really applying the pressure, an act of such audacious self-denial that it's almost certain to elicit much fidgeting and finally a sigh from the humans. Again, the power of inaction. Water beats rock, Beta overrides Alpha. I'd draw you a Venn Diagram but it's sometimes hard for humans to grasp the deep metaphysics of canine science.

All we can say,Is what an wonderful picture of you ..
Hey Hank,

"The Hankenberg Principle". So that's what you call it. I have practiced it for years but did not know its proper nomenclature. I am a firm believer in its power. Occasionally, I add N squared (Nose Nudge) to initiate particular activities.

I have observed a gradual diminishin' of my humans' observational activities. They have canceled the ubiquitous SAT and obtained a rabbit that now sits near our magic window. To observe activity in the magic window, the rabbit's ears are adjusted and readjusted and its nostrils are tweaked. This apparently recalibrates the signal found in the big ether. Thus they are occularly less dependent on the "action figures", as you call them, than they were in the past.

The availibilty of visual stimuli has been drastically reduced. From 120+ inputs to five inputs. This has caused a behavioral change in my humans. Longer periods of time are now spent perusing printed matter and attemptin' to solve a puzzle referred to as "Sudoku".

"Retro" has been mentioned as a label that may be loosely attached to such regression in the visual communicative activities of my humans. A magic window with the neighborin' rabbit IS rather reminiscent of the 1950s. On the other hand, they have increased their use of the magic typer. A conundrum I fear.


Hank, you hit the nail on the head with the stare tatics. Our mama does something called transcription for hours that causes her to stare and no matter how many times we paw at her she tells us "not right now." Then we go to the living room and bark like crazy to get her to get up. That little squirrel in the picture with you is begging for a whipping...know what we mean?
You've got that right Hank!
Spot on hank!

Bro Mark does that all too often to Mom and Dad for practically everything. Belly rubs, ear scratches, pats on head, food - you name it - and it works everytime. But they say it's only because he's so old now that we should let him be.

Bah, spoilt!
Fabulous post, fabulous picture! I've never heard the principle of change under observation explained so clearly!
wow hank, thanks for the tip. i haf to try that out on my peepol.
Ah yes, the Hankenberg Principle. Now I know what to call it when my yellow lab Sampson does nothing yet still manages to get a treat. :)
"The Hankenberg Principle!" Put it in equation form so the humans understand. Something like E=mc2 where E is energy spent by staring, m is mud to dig in, and c is lots of belly rubs.
I want to visit the hillside Hank Center, buy your books, and sit in your meditation center. --endo
Nice post, Hank. I congratulate you on your patience. You've discovered that it can be a pretty powerful tool.

BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog. Your comments are always appreciated.
This is great stuff. It really does make my blogging about cheese purchases at Publix seem even more meaningless and sad. Bite me, Hank
Hi Sam,

Thanks. Semi-attentive but not entirely happy. A hard mood to capture.

Hi Freda,

Good for your humans. That 120 channel universe is a killer.


That squirrel gets a whipping on a regular basis.

Hi Kimmy,


Hi Cream,

My feeling is that older dogs are just very good at it, having had lots of experience.

Hi Kimananda,

Thanks. I once read that Labradors are the scientists of the dog world, but I think this principle is pretty well understood among all breeds.

Hi Ivy,

Yes, check it out. I think you'll find it's fairly effective.

Hi Katherine,

Doing nothing and yet being fed...it's the ultimate goal of Lab efficiency and effectiveness.

Hi Endo,

The Hillside Hank Center...hmm, sounds like a viable business opportunity. I'll let you know and will welcome you as Visiter #1.

Hi Gary,

And you are always welcome here as well. Of course, being a dog, patience isn't only a virtue but a necessity.

Hi Anon,

Hey, cheese can be most interesting. It very often fixes my attention. Write what you know, whether it be cheese or floppy discs or international politics. Viva la blogging difference, and just have fun.
Wagging a 'Hi!' from Rudy n Robin. We're Labs too n we understand just how you feel. Let's blog together.
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