K9 Dyadics

Leaving aside the old adage that “a man’s best friend is his mother”, we often hear our doggy friends referred to as “man’s best friend” and we know that they hang on every word we utter. It has been shown that some dogs can understand a limited range of words in terms of names of toys that they are asked to fetch.

Empathy with their owners is also one of their strong suits, and a tolerance at being dressed up in silly clothes so they “look cute” seems to be almost limitless. I can understand why they don’t care how they look, but why don’t other dogs care?

Today I watched a young women walking briskly along with her dog wearing a jacket with a gray background sporting wide pink and yellow stripes. The colors clashed with the violet jogging pants of its walker. My first thought was that it’s just as well that dogs don’t perceive the colors at the red end of the spectrum. Their evolution sacrificed that faculty in favor of improved night vision, or so the cyber-knowledge base has it.

However, back to “walkies” and how other dogs react when they meet and become in the technical jargon of the sociologists, ‘a dyad.’ Discovery News (1) pointed up a newly published study of just this issue by Řezáč et al (2) studying almost two thousand dogs out and about in public. They report on the dyadic interaction dependence of leash state, size and gender of both the walker and the walked.

The conclusions were that dogs of similar size preferred to play together and that females were more playful than males. That last behavior is probably not species specific. When restricted by a leash, dogs were twice as likely to feel threatened in a dyadic encounter. Of course, they also noted that puppies were playful and old dogs couldn’t be bothered.

Saving the best tidbit till last though – dogs with men walking them were four times more likely to bite other dogs than when both dogs were dogs walked by women. This suggests a new study for the behaviorists. Some group needs to analyze the body language and facial expressions of dog walkers as the encounter each other.

Also, we should remember that our pheromones are dependent on testosterone levels and a dog’s nose knows you know!

  1. P. Řezáč, P. Viziová, M. Dobešová, Z. Havlíček, and D. Pospíšilová, Applied Animal Behaviour Science,  134, 170, (2011)
  2. http://news.discovery.com/animals/dog-walking-behavior-111103.html

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