Why do dogs lift their legs on fire hydrants, trees, posts, tufts of grass and all manner of upright objects?

To expose themselves, their underside in general, their genitalia in particular.

But if that’s true, why would a dog want to expose itself to an inanimate object?

First, let’s review the traditional/behavioral interpretation of leg-lifting. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas in “The Hidden Life of Dogs” noticed that the higher a stain appears on a post or wall, the next dog along would go to great lengths to hike its spray just a bit higher, the contortions being especially impressive if it was a small dog. She interprets this as a dog’s attempt not only to cover the preexisting mark with its own but to produce one somewhat higher in order to make itself appear larger than it really is and intimidate dogs that come along later. Supposedly this indicates that dogs can think ahead and that they’re thinking about territorial and social status. In this interpretation dogs hose upright objects because they serve as prominent venues for display.

Interestingly however, if leg lifting is fundamentally about competition, one rarely if ever sees two dogs fight it out after the so called contest. And this should strike us as odd because if it is true that a competition for rank is an organizing principle of canine social behavior, how could it be that once every dog’s cards are on the table they invariably agree on their relative status? That’s the opposite of competition. This would be like two people sitting down for a game of poker and were they somehow able to compare their respective winnings over the years; the one with the better record can just scoop up the money and walk away. It would be like two basketball teams eyeing each other during warm ups with both teams coming to a consensus as to which team is better and so no need to actually play the game. In human competition even when a winless team squares up against an undefeated team, the team with a losing record nonetheless contests every shot, rebound and pass. The game is played even when their respective standings won’t be affected by the game’s outcome because this is the essence of the competitive struggle. So in human competitive activities the struggle always follows the preliminaries with the struggle especially intense when there is some degree of question as to which is the stronger team.

So I return to the point that when dogs engage in scent marking, and remain focused on scent marking and are allowed the time and space to let things run their natural course, they rarely if ever fight. How then can the essential thrust of canine behavior be a competition for rank if they invariably end agreeing about their relative status once it’s been broadcast through a spray of urine? Why would dogs ever fight if the distinction between dogs is so unambiguous and easily revealed? Therefore it does not make sense to me that in the mind of the dog leg lifting has anything to do with a competition for rank or a delineation of territory.

In my view the biggest flaw with the traditional/behavioral theory is that it requires a dog to be able to think about such abstract concepts as territory and relative status and perceived future costs and benefits in regards to moving up or down the social ladder. And if a dog can think about all this as Stanley Coren would say they can, let’s then return to Elizabeth Thomas’ astute observation that dogs try to paint its mark higher than the mark of the previous dog that hit the post.

In my mind it actually demonstrates the opposite for if it is true that dogs can think about dominance and rank, why then would dogs only react to the stain of a bigger dog after they’ve encountered it, why not be proactive, why wouldn’t a little dog contort itself into an exaggerated position in order to leave the biggest possible stain before it encounters a bigger one? Why doesn’t a dog go for an impossible height on a blank slate? If it is true that a dog can think about a future consequence why not end all debate on the matter before it begins? This is how athletes compete. When I ran competitive long distance in college my coach taught us to always pass a competitor on a hill, the steeper the better and always pass your rival by a lot rather than by a little. Even better try to be talking casually as you pass by; now that was forward thinking.

Therefore if competition, rank and thinking don’t explain why dogs lift their legs, why would a dog want to expose itself, i.e. become sexually aroused to a fire hydrant, sign post or a tuft of grass? Answer: physical memory

In animal consciousness, there is the expression of energy and there is resistance to the expression of energy. Things that move conduct emotion, things that stand still resist the expression of emotion. Anything that resists the expression of energy triggers physical memory as it creates a feeling of resistance and this is the source of sexual energy.

When a dog encounters an inanimate object that stands out by virtue of being upright and apart from its surroundings, and the more tension that happens to be standing in the dog’s system, then the more it projects the physical memory of resistance onto such an object, and then it responds to it sexually, i.e. it exposes itself and relieves the feeling of resistance by urinating because it feels to the dog just as if it is encountering another dog. And the fact that there often is the scent of dog urine on such prominent objects greatly reinforces that emotional impression that arose from the emotional battery.

Finally, the higher the mark on the post, the more the dog must look up and therefore the deeper into the physical memory bank such an object of resistance triggers. In other words, upright objects and things overhead trigger deeper physical memories than smaller objects and lower things (sorry to add one more level of complexity, unless the physical memory of a little or lower thing is especially intense). And the deepest physical memories are from the earliest days of a dog’s “litter-hood” when its mother constantly licked its anal/genital area because infant puppies cannot urinate or defecate unless stimulated by their mother. So when dogs encounter objects of resistance, they feel sexually energized by virtue of physical memory and this energy is how they are equipped to either align with or overcome said object of resistance. They are exposing themselves due to that physical memory, and then they are then going to attempt to mount the object not because they are trying to dominate it or to copulate, but because they are trying to resist being rolled over.

So in the case of the very high stain, the dog isn’t trying to out do the previous mark: it’s acting just like a little dog trying to mount a bigger one. It’s just trying to get a leg up.

Published July 30, 2009 by Kevin Behan
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29 responses to “Why do dogs lift their legs on fire hydrants, trees, posts, tufts of grass and all manner of upright objects?”

  1. Ben says:

    I’m glad you wrote this article Kevin as this is something I’ve often pondered about. My dog Indy marks quite a bit on our walks, whether on leash or off. If he’s off leash, he’ll mark every 30-50ft, especially if he catches the scent of another dog’s urine. He’ll even lick their urine off the plant or tree.

    Another thing I noticed about a year ago is that he has an urge to mark when meeting another dog– after marking, he seems to be much more comfortable with socializing.

    So I started pushing with him after we passed a dog, or after he had a brief meeting with one. His urge to mark disappeared. Unfortunately I haven’t kept it up, so he has gone back to his old ways.

    Would you say the frequency of a dog marking is indicative of a large amount of stress stored in their emotional battery? Does it make sense that pushing would resolve this?

    I hope to be making the trip to VT for your seminar in August with Indy in tow!

  2. kbehan says:

    All dogs are biostatic charge machines and are storing stress all the time. So it’s not that Indy has more stress than other dogs, it’s that he is more sensitive to the stress he has. The variance in how dogs respond to stress is the basis of personality. Pushing teaches the dog to channel its stress to you, and then encouraging Indy to biting the prey object becomes the resolution of this energy. Then as you two walk together if the outing involves getting to the bite object at some point, he will feel the connection with you and won’t build up such a charge. You’ll see him start to soften about the scents of the other dogs and will start to eliminate more when he needs to eliminate rather than having to unwind all the time. Hopefully, I’ll see you and Indy in Vermont.

  3. Very interesting! I see this! I have always said dogs are emotional not logical, and it’s all emotion, but you understand that a lot better than I have. Sometimes I have seen that “avoiding getting rolled-over” move with the tree. Interesting concept, but not sure how you will ever prove it! How an this be proven? I love it! I started doing some pushing, fantastic, so I need to make sure I am doing it right, I’d like to start study with you as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your time, can’t wait to introduce you to my dogs. I do think they think, I have some evidence of that, that they can add up a couple of concepts, and on the one hand, maybe they do conceptualize environment into territory, and competition, but how exactly they are “thinking” and what they perceive, that is so open to questioning and research and trials, and so I can’t take it for granted, that’s for sure!! I can’t wait to explore that through your approach. I’m very excited to find your work!!

    Yasi

  4. kbehan says:

    At first, what we think of as thinking seems self-evident but can actually be explained far better in terms of emotion as energy. Little by little through these posts I hope to articulate this idea because it actually reveals something far more sublime and magical about nature than the idea that dogs think like we think.

  5. I was going to say I’ve never seen dogs pee on other dogs, then I remembered all the times I’ve thought, looking at a dog, “what are you standing there for? You’re gonna get peed on!” I’ve seen dogs go and practically try to stand in the stream of another dog! Curious. And I have seen dogs pee on people, twice. Once on the owner, once on a stranger.

  6. Jannik says:

    I remmember when i was a child i and my brother was out walking with our male dog, while we was talking with some people outsite a shop our dog our dog lifted hes leg upon a man

    Jannik

  7. kbehan says:

    Any secretion of the body is “prey energy” in the animal mind and so is calming because it is a ground for emotion as a virtual current of energy. The waste product then becomes an objectification of two dogs attraction for each other, they can then revolve around it and begin the process of emotional synchronization. So they first make indirect contact through this objectification of energy, and that sets them up for making direct contact.

  8. Nikki says:

    Hi, I stumbled on your article while trying to figure out the following problem: my eight year old Jack Russel male recently, surprisingly, lifted his leg against a business associate who had come to call. I was wondering if you could explain to me why now all of a sudden he would do something like that? He has never done that before, and we have had plenty of strangers visiting.

  9. kbehan says:

    An interesting behavior. Energetically speaking, your dog is more attracted to this person than to most other folks, and since he can’t express it directly, he is expressing it indirectly. Another way of saying this is that this person triggers a deeper physical memory in the dog than most other folks, and so it is acting like a little puppy being groomed because that’s the feeling triggered by the resistance engendered by an inordinately strong force of attraction. Now what intensifies a force of attraction so that it can’t be expressed directly, is an emotional charge, and this is always composed of fear. To put this in completely literal logic, which is quite close to emotional/energetic logic, it could be that this person is “pissed” off, but it is masked with very friendly behavior, or there is an emotional charge within you toward this person, especially since there’s business affiliated with the relationship. Another way of saying all of this is that people may not be acting straightforwardly in one way or another in regards to a business matter so that something is being held back, that’s the fear component. One might subsequently ask if there is an especially deep physical memory being triggered within one’s own emotional battery either by the person or the situation because in the course of living with a human, a dog’s emotional battery fuses with its owners’ so that the charge is cumulatively shared with the dog’s behavior reflecting what’s going on subconsciously within its owner. At any rate, this is how I would start to tease apart what’s going on. Hope it helps, Kevin

  10. christine randolph says:

    it is not just that the male dogs like to pee high up.

    they seem to be aversed to peeing on the ground and only do it when they have a VERY full bladder, otherwise they go the extra “mile”, cover relatively long distances even if they really have to go, so they can pee on something upright.

    of course female dogs do not pee very high up on things and are more prone to just jump out of the car and pee right there, rather than finding a shrub or something that they can lift their leg on,

    but I noticed (since i have 2 females) they will prefer to pee over each other’s fresh marks.

    also over any fresh male marks (that they can reach)

    it almost seems to be like a yawning reflex, when one dog pees, this stimulates the other dog to pee in exactly the same spot.

    Or, maybe just a little bit offset so that they achieve to mark a bit more space than was marked before, as described above.

    this might be a kind of signalling language that dogs can use to leave specific messages for each other.

    I read somewhere that dogs communicate via their scent markings

    this theory is also supported in this article about rat urine marking.

    http://www.ratbehavior.org/UrineMarking.htm#Function

    apparently rats are able to find out testosterone levels in male urine and information about recent ovulation in female urine. etc etc. it is a very interesting article.

    of course a lot of it is pure speculation. seems more likely to me though than the competition theory.

  11. caybound says:

    We just rescued a 10 month old neutered male Jack Russell who spent the past six months in the Humane Society kennel. He’s a bundle of playful energy and is as sweet as can be (mostly – he IS a JRT) He does not lift his leg, but squats. I’ve seen other males squat as well. Why?

  12. Nikki says:

    Thanks, that did help. It makes sense what you say… Dogs can be such confusing creatures. Thanks for the great explanation.

  13. kbehan says:

    Generally the happy-go-lucky ones take longer to lift their legs, whereas the really intense ones do it very early. So he’s squatting since he’s an open channel and just wants release rather than seeking instinctual relief as in hyper-scent marking.

  14. john says:

    Why will the dog move away from me when off lead to defecate, sometimes he will look for a scent which im guessing holds a charge for him, an external stimulus i guess, but at other times he just seems to want to put distance between us

  15. kbehan says:

    When a dog feels an internal movement, the force of this acts on his mind just as if a physical force is acting on his body. He is thus invested with a certain emotional momentum (which will then orient him toward a particular point of ground for grounding, preferably some place with scent) and he will simultaneously attribute the source of the pressure to the most intense variable in the moment, you, and because the system has to be open to move energy, he feels vulnerable and so wants to increase distance from his handler, preferably into some kind of cover. Don’t forget that this template was heavily imprinted during the earliest litter experiences when his mother would knock him over and lick him and this then stimulated his need to eliminate and simultaneously inculcated in him a need to move away from that kind of physical pressure.

  16. Ryan says:

    Interesting idea. However, dogs DO have a complex ability to process territory ownership and relative dog size. Marking trees or fire hydrants is a means of communicating who is in the area. Why pee higher up? Because the dog is responding directly to THAT dog’s message.

  17. Kevin Behan says:

    Appreciate the feedback and the counterpoint. I don’t see how dogs have the comprehension of territorial ownership, (and I would be interested to see the evidence) I interpret it as a dog feeling safe on familiar ground so as to express fear/aggression. When a dog is truly aggressive, i.e. high fight drive, they don’t care where they are and they manifest a uniform fight drive from one area to the next. For example if one were to select a dog for police service, a dog that exhibited “territoriality” would be washed out because it would be recognized as insecure, hence the variability in its behavior according to setting. Now this fear factor does very well serve to disperse wolf packs, and is of service to dog owners who want to keep trespassers out of their yard, but it is really an evolutionary device to saturate an area by diffusion, like osmosis, and wouldn’t constitute a comprehension of territorial ownership in the mind of the dog, simply the place wherein he feels safe to express his otherwise blocked energy. And then I would re-ask the question, why isn’t there competition after the round of leg lifting, how would that settle anything? If someone claims title to a park bench one is sitting on, that would inflame tensions not ameliorate them. And if I were going to claim territory and I recognized that bigger is better, I’d contort myself to establish the highest mark possible from the start, in the absence of any other marks, as opposed to responding slightly better to the height of the mark I encounter. This indicates to me that a dog is reacting to a stimulus by trying to “out vibrate” it. We see this same unconscious impulse in people when they clap in synchrony, they go faster and faster until it peters out in a climax. Evolution depends on this innate impulse to out-vibrate like intensities so that objects of resistance are incorporated into the configuration, I don’t see this as competition and recognize this puts me far outside the mainstream, and I don’t see it as comprehension of the purposiveness of what’s underway.

  18. Ryan says:

    As an evolutionary biologist I can tell you that Evolution doesn’t depend on an impulse to “out-vibrate” anything. Evolution happens because of a change in gene frequencies between generations. Adaptation happens because of variation in survival and reproductive success, that might be what you’re referring to. But this is all beside the point. There isn’t competition after the urination because the urination IS the competition. Animals find all sorts of ways to avoid escalating to physical contact. Dogs use urine, body language, growling, barking, etc…before they ever fight. The peeing is a way to establish a home-range or is used as a calling card. Its not the expression of blocked energy.

  19. Kevin Behan says:

    Putting aside the most logical interpretation of how evolution might proceed, I would drill down on what’s going on inside the dog’s mind and only make an assessment by way of concentrating on What the dog is doing, rather than the Why in what they’re doing. For example, if we want to understand the nature of electricity we ask What is going on? — not — Why is there electricity? So my complain with current analysis is that it starts with the Why of behavior, i.e. to replicate genes, and this leads inevitably to transposing human logical rationales into the mind of the dog as in the comprehension of territorial rights or the notion of a calling card; “Here I am, where are you? These are human thoughts. My suggestion is to bypass the Why question.
    So if we look just at the behavior we observe completely setting aside why are they doing that, using just the most rudimentary things we know about physiology, we can say with a far more precise accuracy that a dog lifting his leg is sexually aroused because this is the same behavior he employs when sexually aroused. And then he experiences relief as he passes urine because we know that less urine in bladder is associated with a reduction of an internal, physical pressure. We see that this is what the mother does with the newborn pup, sensualize their anal/genital area so that they can relieve themselves. This is an imprint acquired before they are sentient about their surroundings and is inextricably linked with their capacity to form emotional bonds. And we know there are nerves that sense bladder pressure. So we see arousal which is an increase of internal pressure, and then a release from pressure through the act of urination. We witness a tension between individuals before the leg lifting ritual that is significantly reduced (and observable in a relaxed body state) after the leg lifting ritual. We see that the individual is trying to raise its hind end over the center mass of the post anointed with a stain. That the dogs begin taking turns and circle in a synchronized way around the scent post, and so the most logical conclusion is that scent marking is not about territoriality or calling card, but rather is an emotionally synchronizing phenomenon happening in real time on a hyper fast track through an intimate interface of the endocrine and immune systems as well as visceral emotional affects. Smelling is first and foremost an act of ingestion, the internalization of another beings’ biochemistry. Some dogs will actually lap up another dog’s urine (to the horror of its owner). Meanwhile we see that even human beings experience physiological synchronization as in menstrual cycles of women that live together.
    The idea that leg lifting is a competition, a peaceful means of resolving territorial matters, doesn’t make sense to me or end up being an elegant resolution of observed behavior. If it’s about settling scores without violence, why not an urge to lower the stain height as opposed to “I’ll see your five and raise you five.” In the one species that definitely does have a mental comprehension of territorial rights we see that ritual or even the rule of law isn’t enough to constrain the desire to acquire ever more territory, thus we need armed police and standing armies. Some might think the notion of “raising vibration” to be an obscure or new age abstraction, but consider a game of poker, investors maximizing returns, the need to occupy the high moral ground, looking down one’s nose, etc., etc., as these are everyday manifestations of the phenomenon. And again, it’s not about competition but rather it is the only way synchronization can persist in a world confronted with entropy. The list is endless because it speaks to a basic impulse to position one’s center-of-gravity over objects of resistance so as to leverage one’s force, like trying to pry a rock out of a garden by positioning a lever over a fulcrum. This is the most basic impulse in the makeup of every animal because it’s how the organism must adapt to the natural world wherein entropy, not reproduction is the fundamental problem they face.

  20. Ryan says:

    Well its certainly a fascinating alternative theory. I suppose its partly a matter of perspective. You suggest getting rid of the why questions, but then subtly replace them with other “whys”. From my perspective, much of what you’re refuting is pretty well-supported by data from other animal systems. That said, I am certainly interested in the perspective. I’m curious to know whether you think this is general. Would you assert that animals that we know to be territorial do the same thing? Or are you simply saying that dogs aren’t territorial?

  21. Kevin Behan says:

    I appreciate your openness. It should be enjoyable to debate such matters even if our differing perspectives don’t end up reconciled. My hope is that others are able to repeat my argument as opposed to not entertaining it in the first place. As per the new Why’s I’ve introduced, I would liken the entropy point for example, and using the electricity/physics analogy, this way: by asking the how does electricity work, we’re able to trace the phenomenon back to the Big Bang, and then this could be a closer approximation of the Why question, a better formulation of it from an improved perspective. So we can say electricity runs to ground because of the physics of the Big Bang. That’s the Why in the How. However, physicists then immediately move right back into the How does the Big Bang work? and thus go on to build high energy particle accelerators to plumb that domain and end up with a new Why, the Higgs particle. And then they ask: How does the Higgs’ particle work and so on. So in physics the focus is always on the How rather than the Why, that’s what I’m suggesting for interpreting behavior as well. This will lead us to some new Why’s but we’re not distracted by these, we always remain focused on the How and in principle leave the Ultimate Why to philosophy and religion. In general, I believe that territoriality in animals that exhibit a highly constrained limit on where they feel safe, is part of an even larger synchronizing agency, that of syncing the movements of other species with each other. So dogs are the base code of animal consciousness made most bare through evolution and domestication, as much of a non-niche player as there can be because their synchronizing capacity has been amplified through canine evolution and domestication, whereas the vast majority of animals are niche-players, synchronized by how, when and where they feel safe enough to display their pent-up energy, i.e. aggressive tendencies. This speaks to me of a diffusion like nature to behavior, so that things spread out and saturate the medium so that synchronization and optimization of flow is always improving in deference to entropy, as opposed to fundamentally being competitive at its root. I believe this will lead to a more elegant and parsimonious explanation for the evolution of sociability and cooperative impulses, i.e. it’s in the base code of consciousness, rather than that these cooperative capacities emerged from a competitive struggle through a kinship selection.

  22. b... says:

    It seems to me that the argument that urination height is hierarchical indication is just as misguided as the discredited dominance argument. Saying that the higher urinator is superior is akin to saying that the “dominant” player in an interaction is superior, even though the “winner” in interactions is often the “submissive” player that assumes the seeming supplicant role only to wrest the prey, etc. from the other.
    Is there any reason other than anthropomorphic presumption to assume that a lower urinator wouldn’t similarly be the potential “winner” in a urination contest?

    I think the trap of viewing behavior from the biological perspective is the same as viewing it from the psychological perspective – it’s built on an unproven presumption of intent (which, until proven in animals, is from a data standpoint a purely human construct). The very idea of superiority, competition, etc. are all built on this unproven foundation. From the bio/psychological point of view, any hypothesis that neglects intent is automatically discredited as unscientific when in fact it’s only un-biological and un-psychological. Taken to its extreme, by these standards much of physics could be discredited as mysticism.

  23. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes the current models are intent-centric as this is the only way biology/behaviorism can envision purposiveness in nature. It all boils down to what one views as the nature of information. In the current reductionist, materialist approach information of value to the animal mind is something that emerges from genes. However an immediate-moment manner of analysis reveals this to be an error, that flow, or a principle of conductivity is the nature of information. This is confirmed by the Constructal Law which inarguably demonstrates that there is only one Design in nature for both animate and inanimate systems. Therefore information precedes genes because inanimate systems manifest the same design as social systems. In other words animals recognize whether or not whatever systems they contrive to be but elaborations upon this basic design. Everything an animal does must conform to this design criteria. As hard as this may be to get one’s mind around it, information precedes genes.

  24. Ryan says:

    If this isn’t a form of communication (be it dominance or calling card or whatever) then why does a pair of dogs always urinate in order? For example, why does my more dominant dog urinate over top of his brothers pee place but not vice versa? If they’re both just “releasing pent up energy” then they should both get caught up in the same game.

  25. Kevin Behan says:

    I began in dogdom looking at behavior through the dominance lens and so I’m fully versed in that perspective and I can appreciate that it would seem non-sensical to suggest there is no such thing as dominance. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying there is not a highly defined social structure. My argument is that there is indeed order but it reflects a flow system wherein its constituents are emotionally polarized so that they act as a concerted team. They emotionally “vibrate” (arousal relative to sensitivity) at different levels of intensity, and this is so that they will engage their major prey, which is physically superior to them even when they are in numbers, in a concerted manner. This became clear to me in the seventies by working police and protection dogs and seeing how they responded to agitation in a varied way that was the grist for a syncopated group manner. So during that era when the leading scientists were maintaining that there was a strict, autocratic dominance hierarchy, a complex version of a pecking order, I was arguing the opposite. That the hunting begat the social, not the other way around. (Note the recent findings of Pat Shipman relative to mammoth megasites)
    http://www.amazon.com/Invaders-Humans-Their-Neanderthals-Extinction/dp/0674736761/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425846826&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=thi+invaders%3A+how+humans+and+their+dogs+drove+neanderthatls+to+extinction

    Additionally it became clear to me that there is no leader and that there is no communication of intent in the hunt. Just recently the hunting style of wolves has been successfully modeled mathematically and the researchers have arrived at the same conclusion the immediate-moment flow system of analysis revealed in the seventies.

    http://www.aepa-euskadi.org/escobedo/wolf/wolf.htm

    So when your dogs are lifting their legs they are more slightly more aroused then sensitive, the one who is more aroused will lift his leg higher, the one more sensitive will be more guarded about exposing his genitalia in the presence of the other. So they are becoming emotionally synchronized and this is what limits a propensity for violence. There is no ritual so to speak. So I liken the social structure to a choir with each individual sorting out to their natural pitch. The sopranos aren’t trying to dominate the tenors, aren’t trying to dominate the bass, they’re all migrating to their natural pitch in order to make a harmony that they can’t attain on their own. This variability between them is not random, but is sorted out through a principle of conductivity which factors out traits that will always complement each other, like colors on a spectrum. I believe genes subscribe to this dynamic, they are not the cause of the variability even though they are necessary to its execution.

  26. b... says:

    Appreciate the exchange here as it helps me understand the nature of the resistance to change in “dogdom” as you’ve called it. It’s interesting that when it comes to our dogs, even the scientifically trained mind may reduce the conclusive sample size to n=1 or n=2. And so observations of our own single dog’s behavior is weighted over the observation of 10,000’s of dogs by someone who has devoted their lives to their study. Granted, interpretation also plays a major role, but still notable.

    I mention it not to discredit anyone but as a point of fascination about just how delicate the issue of dog behavior is in our culture. I think academics would have a much richer area of study if they relegated the dog “cognition” labs to the sociology department.

  27. Ryan says:

    a legitimate point. I would only add that as a scientist I don’t attribute an N=1 as more important than Kevin’s history with many more dogs, but it IS a legitimate point of reference that I think is repeatable across most dogs that I’ve heard of/known.

  28. Kevin Behan says:

    My answers might seem jargony given that we’re jumping into a complex discussion rather than beginning at the beginning, and many may not be familiar with my overall model, but I’ll leap ahead nonetheless and ask for the readers’ indulgence. To return to the original point as to what is being “communicated” I would say “emotional momentum” is being communicated and the exchange of emotional momentum successfully being executed is what leads two individuals to move in concert around a common object of attraction. (Whenever an animal is stimulated it wants to move. Thus in its mind, emotion and physical momentum are synonymous, i.e. = emotional momentum. Emotional momentum given the body’s involuntary visceral entrainment with emotion, is a very real energy. It is measurable, the mass of the body put into motion equals a quantifiable force. This chain of logic is unbreakable and is the only system of interoperation in total accord with the latest incursions physics is beginning to make into the cognitive realm of animal behavior.) The disposition of emotional momentum provides a universal pattern to everything that dogs do, it doesn’t operate in a separate compartment, or context, independent and detached from other areas. Furthermore using an exchange of emotional momentum as our template, and which is predicated on the same mechanics by which a physical momentum is exchanged, we can trace the evolution of the behavior all the way back to its primordial basis. Whereas if we use intention as that which is being communicated between dogs during leg lifting, or any behavior for that matter, we must leap immediately to a full blown human psychology. And then when one looks for evolutionary precursor, what one says is that some unrelated reflex randomly appeared and found an instance of fortuitous service and then this was repeatedly reinforced by external conditions until it became more frequent in the gene pool. So we’re routed back to the Why question: i.e. because random variations accord some benefit and then become more frequent in the gene pool. We all agree that something is going on inside the dog’s mind and yet it cannot be verbal, it is of a pre-verbal, a non-verbal nature since it evolved many millions of years before any organism had any verbal capacity whatsoever. This is what Pankseeps’ neurological research on emotion has demonstrated. And it’s a path I’ve been pursuing since the seventies because it became clear that dog behavior as a function of emotion was preverbal. The dynamics of emotional momentum is vividly displayed in Darwin’s principle of antithesis, in the very illustrations he uses of a dog fearful of an approaching stranger who then turns out to be his master. The drawings dramatically illustrate an exchange of emotional momentum, intensified by fear. Emotional momentum will prove to be a far more precise term for the principle of antithesis.

    https://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Darwin/Darwin_1872_02.html

    In the first instance the dog is projecting emotion, i.e. occupying the Predator Polarity. In the next frame the same dog is absorbing emotion, i.e. occupying the Prey Polarity. The dog is responding to the advance of his owner just as if he is being acted upon by a physical force. He is quite literally absorbing the blow while simultaneously feeling emotionally rooted or attached to the oncoming stimulus. Without that emotional root, which the dog perceives of as a tangible, concrete physical attachment (given emotion and viscera), the animal would flee because it cannot absorb the force.

  29. b... says:

    Came across this quote from Bejan that seemed a poignant assessment of intent-based science (i.e., the designer):

    “The Constructal Law of design in nature is not about the designer… Science is the search for the laws that govern natural phenomena. Science is not the search for the designer, one or many. The latter is a much older search called religion.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/02/29/theres-a-new-law-in-physics-and-it-changes-everything/2/

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