Leashed dogs are likely to act more aggressively. Dogs, researchers ascertained, like to sniff other dogs, especially those of the opposite sex.
But here’s one fascinating finding that I think is worth much more research: Dogs being walked by men are four times more likely to threaten and bite other dogs.
That’s pretty stunning, and merits further investigation — into dog, into man, but even moreso into dogs’ abilities to read our emotions, better even, perhaps, than we can read our own.
The study, to be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, found that the sex of the owner had the biggest effect on whether or not a dog will threaten or bite another dog.
“We propose that the occurrence of threat and biting in dogs on a walk may have some connection with aggressive tendencies and/or impulsivity in people,” Petr Rezac and his team at Mendel University wrote.
They add: “Dogs are able to perceive subtle messages of threat emitted by another dog. Simultaneously, dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative behavior.”
Rezac is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics. He and his colleagues studied close to 2,000 dog-dog interactions on owner-led walks held in the city of Brno, according to Discovery News.
What they observed the most, as you might expect, was sniffing and peeing. And most of the researchers’ conclusions are already known by anyone with a dog:
Males sniff females more often, males and females prefer play with each other than with members of their own sex, adult males mark the most, puppies play together more than twice as often as adults, dogs prefer to play with similarly sized individuals and dogs tend to be more aggressive when restrained by a leash.
(Scientists, meanwhile, according to my own observations, are prone to sniffing, scratching their heads and marking their turf. They don’t have time to play, and tend to be aggressive when their funding is threatened. They should almost always be leashed.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in the process of trying to figure dogs out, man learned a thing or two about his own self?
I think much helpful-to-humans information is there, inside dogs, but it mostly goes untapped — because we speak different languages, because we don’t often look for it, and for reasons of focus. Scientists, like detectives building a case against a suspect, sometimes develop tunnel vision, to the extent that bigger, broader potential revelations, and sometimes ethics and boundaries, go ignored.
The Czech study, for example, leads me to wonder whether, in addition to studying the dogs, scientists might want to pay closer attention to those dog walkers, and all the baggage and pent-up hostilities they may be carrying around — whether they have those emotions on a leash, or too tight a leash, or no leash at all.
I don’t think it’s a Czech thing. And, in my experience, it’s not a gender thing. Generally, I’ve found that the most tightly wound pet owners — male or female — have the most unpredictable dogs.
Dogs, in large part, mirror their owners.
But their powers go far beyond mere reflection. Let’s go back to those pent-up hostilities. Sometimes they are undectable to psychiatrists. Sometimes they are undectable to the person they are pent-up in. Yet dogs have the power to sense them, and sometimes to calm them.
I’m not saying dogs know more than scientists — or am I? — only that dogs sense and know things we don’t. If only we could figure out a non-intrusive and polite way to ask the dogs to share with us all the things they have the power to sense — things that, even with all our scientific instruments, we humans can’t.
Maybe then — leashed or unleashed, male or female, dog or human — we could all just get along.
(Photo: By John Woestendiek)
(PS: The dogs pictured above were playing, not fighting)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animal behavior, animals, behavior, communication, conclusions, czech republic, dog, dog walking, dogs, females, findings, gender, hostile, humans, inside dogs, insights, leashed, leashes, males, mendel university, mirror, observation, peeing, perception, petr rezac, pets, playing, reading, reflect, reflection, research, science, scientists, sense, sensing, sex, sniffing, study, walker, walking