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the wolf-like social behaviors of the dog are not things that endear
them to us, and many have lost their original social purpose to the dog
as well. They are appendages that evolution hasn't managed to shake
yet. Like the human appendix, they range from merely useless to
The elaborate eliminatory patterns of the dog are a source of
puzzlement and grief to many a dog owner, but if it is any consolation,
they don't make a great deal of sense for the dog, either. In wolves,
both the alpha male and the alpha female generally urinate with a
raised leg; all other members of the pack merely squat.
urinations involve depositing relatively small amounts of urine in
prominent places and on conspicuous objects. This of course has almost
nothing to do with the needs of elimination and everything to do with
Many people have come to believe the frequently repeated tale that
wolves only mark the perimeter of their territory in this fashion, as a
"keep-out" signal. In fact, careful studies in Minnesota found that
wolves urine-mark throughout their territory. They do the same with
their feces (scats) which are frequently deposited on prominent spots,
too, such as snowbanks, stumps, shrubs, and even empty beer cans.
Wolf scats are also frequently found at trail junctions, especially in
the immediate vicinity of rendezvous sites where growing wolf pups are
left while the adults go off to hunt. Scent glands on either side of
the anus probably serve to add an individually distinctive odor to
scats, reinforcing their function as scent markers.
The scratching of
the ground that sometimes follows elimination by socially dominant
wolves, and which some but not all dogs exhibit, appears to be aimed at
reinforcing the scent mark with a visual mark, or possibly to reinforce
it more directly with odor from glands in the paws. (Wolves are careful
while scratching up dirt or leaves during this action not to aim the
debris directly at the site of their eliminations.)
Dogs not only have no instinct to keep such a large area clean; on the
contrary, they have a definite instinct to thoroughly mark their
immediate vicinity with both urine and feces. Wolves apparently do this
so that pack members can know at any time whether they are in their
The primary stimulus for raised-leg urination in wolves
is not, as is often said, the smell of a strange wolf's urine, but
rather the presence of the wolf's own mark: there is a strong instinct
to mark and remark sites along frequently traveled routes within the
wolf's own territory.
Indeed, it may be an almost automatic response to
the odor of urine. Laboratory studies have found that when the nasal
lining of dogs is electrically stimulated, it triggers an immediate
relaxation of the urinary sphincter muscles.
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