If you have ever taken dogs out for a walk you probably notice that when they are urinating, they’re not just relieving themselves, they’ve got some special project going on. They’re very careful about where they go. And they don’t go all at once. They go in little bits all over the place. Why do they do that?
You’ve probably heard that what they’re doing is they are marking their territory and that’s sort of true.
- Dogs mark their territory by peeing on things like letterboxes, hydrants, poles, and walls.
- And they intentionally try to pee higher on that spot to make other dogs easy to smell it.
- Female dogs in heat pee on stuff as an indication to any males that she is ready to mate.
And there’s actually a lot more going on.
Dogs use molecules in their urine as symbols to communicate. Just like we use words as symbols to communicate.
When a dog is sniffing a fire hydrant, a tree, a car tire, and peeing on it, that’s the equivalent of you checking your Twitter feed and tweeting.
Its a way of communication
Believe it or not, there is a group of scientists called signaling theorists. They are really interested in what dogs are doing when they’re urinating. It turns out that anything can be used as a symbol in a communication system.
Plants use colors that they display in their flowers to communicate to bees. Birds use songs which is fairly similar to us using words. They also flash feathers to communicate things to each other. Even bacteria communicate with one another. They use molecules. They excrete molecules from their bodies to coordinate behaviors with their fellow bacteria.
No matter how weird a communication system might be. As soon as scientists find out that one exists, they’d like to study it. They’d like to try to crack the code of that communication system. They want to know what all of the symbols mean.
Study on golden jackals
In 1971 there was a really interesting study done on the golden jackal, attempting to figure out what it is that they’re communicating with each other through urine.
Jackals are semi-monogamous species. When they’re raising pups the male and the female will do it so cooperatively. They do it together and stay with each other. And they’ll be faithful to each other while those children are being raised. If it was a big success they’ll actually stay with each other from multiple litters. Some even their entire lives.
If they’re not so successful then they’ll find other mates. But jackals are very picky about who they choose for a mate. Because once they choose a mate they’re kind of stuck with them for a while.
They put a lot of energy, effort into raising those pups. So it’s better to choose a good healthy strong mate.
Weird mating rituals
Researchers found that in order to choose a mate, what jackals do is probably the most hilarious mating ritual. When the female is mature and ready to mate and going into heat, she goes around and starts marking all over the place. She just starts urinating everywhere.
There is a molecule in her urine that the males understand as a symbol saying that whoa we have a female in the area and she is ready to mate.
When the male encounters the female, he’s fairly cautious. She urinates in front of him and then she’ll back away. He’ll come up, investigate, smell it, and if he’s interested he’ll urinate on top of it. They do this back and forth several times. Gleaning all sorts of information about each other’s health. And if all goes well, they form a bond and mate, raise puppies together.
It is fascinating enough in and of itself but it gets better.
When the female jackal comes into estrus and when she goes into heat the male with whom she is pair-bonded follows her. vigorously marking each spot upon which she has urinated. In fact, his behavior is so vigorous that he sometimes urinates simultaneously with her.
Every time the female urinates, he is right there to urinate on top of that, to mark on top of her spot. Guess why?
The reason that the male is doing this and they’re extremely vigilant about it is to communicate to all the other males in the area that, yeah my lady might be in the heat but she’s taken.
A few years back one of my friends had a pair of dogs. They were bonded together. the male would do this with the female. and it was hilarious because he was so vigorous and eager to mark that, he wouldn’t wait for her to finish. He’d actually pee on her leg a lot of times. And she’d get really angry at him.
It was really funny to watch. But if you think about this it is the equivalent of buying a wedding ring for our partner. Yeah, it’s kind of a way to mark our territory.
This is funny the way that dogs profess their love for one another by peeing on each other’s pee. But what do we do to show our love? Yes, the first thing you will think of is, we kiss. Right? But also there are a lot of reasons behind our kissing other than expressing love. DO you know why do we kiss?