Tag: the bark
What your dog sees as humpworthy may include other dogs (male and female), your child, your ottoman, your favorite pillow, your house guest, a stuffed animal, your leg, or anything else he — or even she — can latch on to.
It’s one of those canine behaviors we humans find less than endearing, downright embarassing and highly confusing; and, as a result, our reaction is usually to bow our heads in shame, holler at the offending dog, or pretend it’s not happening.
So it’s good to see somebody boldy jumping on the subject — and getting across the point, among others, that the behavior is totally normal.
Julie Hecht, who manages Alexandra Horowitz’s Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College in New York City, explores the ambiguous and often avoided topic of non-reproductive humping in the latest issue of The Bark magazine.
“From tail wagging to barking, dog behavior is riddled with nuance. A wagging tail might convey ‘I’m quite scared’ or ‘This is the best day ever!’ Like tail wagging, mounting is far more complex than it may appear, and there is not one simple explanation. But there are some likely candidates.”
Hecht holds a master’s degree in applied animal behavior and welfare from the University of Edinburgh, and she’s an adjunct professor at Canisius College. More important than any of that, she’s not afraid to tackle a subject that offends the more prim and proper among us.
So is humping sexual, or part of an instinctual urge — “must … reproduce … now” — to create offspring? Is it a display of aggression, an assertion of dominance, or just a way to relieve some pent up energy? Clearly, it’s not always and entirely motivated by sexual arousal, Hecht notes, for pillows aren’t usually that arousing.
For nearly as long as ethologists have studied dogs, they have taken note of dogs’ tendency to hump outside of reproductive contexts, she writes.
University of Colorado ethologist Marc Bekoff observed way back in the 1970s that young canids — pairs of three- to seven-week-old wolves, coyotes and dogs — were prone to pelvic thrusting, and that females also engaged in some of that behavior.
“It’s what dogs do. It’s a completely normal behavior,” explains Carolyn Walsh, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, who studies the nuances of dog behavior in dog parks. “Both males and females mount, regardless of whether [they are] sexually intact or not.”
It can come from a surge of emotion, anxiety or arousal, Walsh explains.
“Dog parks can be quite stimulating, and for those who are highly aroused physiologically, mounting behavior could easily come out. There can be such a buildup of social motivation and the desire to affiliate that some of that energy spills over into the sexual motivation system. You see sexual behavior coming out, but it’s mostly out of context.”
Hecht also interviewed Peter Borchelt, a certified applied animal behaviorist in New York City, who pointed out, “There are only so many behaviors a dog has access to, and dogs do what is part of their species-typical behavior. It is something they know how to do.”
Many dog owners equate humping to dominance and control, but it can also be a friendly and less than lecherous attempt to get another dog to play. It may be a cry for attention, a way for dogs to gauge the bond they have with other dogs, or to test just how much a play partner is willing to tolerate.
“This is the idea that dogs perform potentially annoying behaviors like mounting to test the strength of the recipient’s investment in the relationship,” said Becky Trisko, a behaviorist and owner of Unleashed in Evanston, Ill., who has studied dog-dog interactions in the dog daycare setting.
“It’s like saying, ‘How much will you put up with?’ ‘How much do you really like me?’”
Despite all the dirty connotations we humans attach to pelvic thrusting, with dogs the behavior seems — while stemming from various emotions — to be more of a celebration of life than anything else. Cooped up in houses all day, a trip to the dog park, or even just seeing the leash come out, can get dogs excited to the point that something else comes out. Humping, or even an erection, it seems to me, isn’t all about sex when it comes to dogs — that’s just how we’re prone to interpreting it.
We humans equate it with sexual lust, but, with dogs, humping might just be a natural way to celebrate, like the high-fiving or chest-bumping of frat boys, or that “woo-hoo” noise girls make when they get together.
Looking at it through a less tainted lens, one could even make the argument that the behavior — humping, not woo-hooing — is more charming than it is revolting.
For the dog, joy is joy; and embarassing as it might be for us to see any overlap between sexual pleasure and just plain happiness, dogs don’t seem to get all bogged down in what might be the appropriate expression of their various happy and excited emotions.
Is that dirty? Or is there a certain purity there? Do dogs have their emotions confused? Or do they have it right?
None of this is to say you should try it at home, at the corner bar, or anywhere else. Civilized society dictates we don’t engage in that behavior. It’s only to say we shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when our dogs hump.
Rather than punishing a dog for exhibiting glee, it makes more sense to gently redirect the behavior. Watch closely at the dog park and you’ll see that many dogs — the humpees, as opposed to the humpers – do that themselves, with a growl or snarl.
My dog Ace does not tolerate it — whether it’s him being humped, or another dog. He feels the need to break it up, and, should he see one dog mounting another, he will generally rush over and do so.
I’m not sure where that behavior comes from.
Maybe he has become too human.
(Painting by Lachlan Blair, from his father Stuart Blair’s blog)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animals, arousal, barnard college, behavior, behaviorist, boys, canines, carolyn walsh, causes, chest bump, children, civilized, control, cushions, dog, dog cognition lab, dog park, dogs, dominance, embarassing, embarassment, ethologist, excitement, female, girls, glee, happiness, high five, humans, hump, humped, humping, humps, humpworthy, instinct, interpretations, julie hecht, legs, male, marc bekoff, mounting, people, peter borchelt, pets, pillows, play, reasons, reproductive, sexual, socializing, society, the bark, urge, woo hoo
So given that today is Take Your Dog to Work Day, and given that’s the practice nearly every day in the New York studios of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, it’s not surprising that, for its 15th anniversary special issue, The Bark magazine features the dogs of the show’s staff members on its cover.
Late last year, The Daily Show — it has more than a few fans of the magazine on its staff, and vice versa – invited The Bark to come meet the many dogs that roam its workplace.
Editor-in-Chief, Claudia Kawczynska jumped at the opportunity — and the result is a 10-page exclusive on the dogs of The Daily Show in this month’s issue.
The magazine also proclaimed The Daily Show the nation’s dog-friendliest workplace.
Kawczynska reports that The Daily Show officially turned dog friendly about 15 years ago when production manager Georgia Pappas asked permission to bring her Tibetan Terrier, Cosmo, to work with her.
Given both Jon Stewart and the studio’s building manager, Adriane Truex, are big dog fans, permission was granted, opening the door for other staff members to bring their dogs along to work. Today, dogs are welcomed in Jon Stewart’s office and just about everywhere else, Kawczynska notes:
“These days, the first thing new employees, show guests and visitors notice are the dogs. Free-ranging and ubiquitous, they have become an integral part of the office landscape: roaming, playing or lying about, with toys scattered everywhere. They attend staff meetings, share office chairs, charm the celeb guests –in short, The Daily Show is pretty much dog nirvana.”
About a dozen dogs might be there on any given day — and the regulars include Parker, Kweli and Ally. (You can find a slide show featuring all of them here.)
Co-executive producer Jen Flanz said the inviting atmosphere inspired her to adopt Parker, a Lab mix, from Manhattan Animal Care & Control. The only downside, Flanz noted, is that “our dogs are used to being here, being around people all day, running around and getting attention from a hundred people. So when we have time off, she bounces off the walls. They get so much activity and stimulation here.”
Artistic coordinator, Justin Chabot got his Golden Retriever, Kweli, when he was still a student in Boston. Kweli accompanies him almost everywhere, and has been trained to stick by his side when off-leash, even in Times Square. Kweli has also mastered riding on the back of Chabot’s motorcycle.
Supervising producer Tim Greenberg’s dog, Ally, a rescued Pointer-mix, is a more recent addition. Ally had fear issues and initally he only brought her to the office on slow days. Gradually, he added more time to her “work” schedule. He thinks the office visits have helped build up her self-confidence.
Good training is essential to making the office-dog dynamic work, the article notes, and employees see it as a privilege they don’t want to lose.
“We all feel this responsibility to keep the dogs pretty well-behaved,” Flanz noted. “If someone comes in and thinks this is a free-for-all, they would be mistaken.”
Greenberg noted that ”like the show itself, there really is a strict discipline underlying what looks like a free-form.”
“From my perspective, it seemed that the office camaraderie, conviviality and general bonhomie — laughter can be heard everywhere — inspires and affects both the people and the dogs … Everyone I spoke with agrees that having dogs as co-workers may have something to do with the show’s ongoing success. Not only are they great de-stressors, good for morale, comforting and relaxing, the dogs contribute their own dose of inimitable comic relief to a group that’s focused on creating and showcasing comedy”
Some guests on the show get more excited about the dogs than others. Those who staff members said most seemed to “get-down-with-the-dogs” are Jennifer Aniston, NBC news anchor Brian Williams, designer guy Tim Gunn, Ricky Gervais, Betty White and President Obama, a senator at the time.
The only guest to ever bring a dog on the set has been Ted Koppel, who came with his granddog, a black pup named Pepper.
Kawczynska got to meet Stewart, but his two French Bulldogs, Smudge and Barkley, were not there.
(Photos: Magazine cover, a French bulldog named Zuzu, and group shot of staff and dogs; by KC Bailey, courtesy of The Bark)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, betty white, Claudia Kawczynska, comedy central, daily show, dog, dog friendly, dogs, editor, guests, interviews, jennifer aniston, john oliver, jon stewart, magazine, obama, pets, staff, studio, take your dog to work day, ted koppel, television, the bark, the daily show, tim gunn, visit, work, workplace, wyatt cenac