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7 Ground Scratching by Male Domestic Dogs A Composite Signal? WHILE MAMMALIAN SCENT marking and the significance of various chemical deposits (e.g., urine, feces, saliva, glandular secretions) in social communication has generated considerable interest (Birch, 1974; Eisenberg and Kleiman, 1972; Johnson, 1973; Müller-Schwarze and Mozell, 1977), much less emphasis has been placed on visual components of behaviors used to deposit scent. Hediger (1949) coined the term “demonstration marking” to refer to conspicuous marking behaviors that also might function as visual social displays. However, that a particular behavior associated with scent (urine) deposition also might have evolved to serve as a visual display has been demonstrated only once. In male domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), raised leg urination (RLU) (Peters and Mech, 1975) postures occurred in the absence of urine expulsion as a raised leg display (RLD) (Bekoff, 1979). Data were collected that support the idea that the raised leg posture might function as a visual display and that the motor patterns of leg lifting and urine expulsion were separate acts.Another aspect of scent marking sequences performed by a variety of mammals is ground scratching (GS), during which the individual slashes at the ground with one or more paws and usually leaves a visible sign (Bekoff, 1979; Peters and Mech, 1975; Seidensticker et al., 1973; Sprague and Anisko, 1973; von Uexküll and Sarris, 1931). Ground scratching might result in dispersing scent (von Uexküll and Sarris, 1931). However, scent dispersion does not seem to have played a significant role in the evolution of GS because the deposited substance (at least in dogs and wolves, C. lupus) rarely is hit directly (Bekoff, 1979; Peters and Mech, 1975). Additional scent from interdigital glands may be deposited by GS (Ewer, 1973; Mykytowycz, 1972; Peters, 1974; Peters and Mech, 1975). Yet another function of GS may involve the visual, rather than the olfactory, aspects of the behavior. Two visual effects are possible: 1) visible scratches on the substrate may convey some message; 2) the act of GS might serve as visual display to other individuals who see it performed. Male dogs in the act of GS are frequently avoided by other dogs during and shortly thereafter, but a urine deposit (Bekoff, 1979; Scott, 1967) or a slash on the ground does not necessarily repel other individuals. In the present study, the hypothesis that GS by male domestic dogs might serve as a visual display was tested. Specifically, I determined if GS was performed more frequently when it could be observed by other dogs. Reprinted from Bekoff, M. 1979. Ground Scratching by Male Domestic Dogs: A Composite Signal? Journal of Mammalogy 60, 847–848, by permission of Alliance Communications Group. Thirteen free-ranging, individually identified male dogs were observed either on the campus of Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri) or in the vicinity of Nederland, Colorado from 1971 to 1976. The frequencies of occurrence of marking by RLUs, the performance of the RLD (the dog assumed the RLU posture but no detectable urine was expelled), and simple urination (Bekoff, 1979; Kleiman, 1966) were noted as was the occurrence of GS either preceding, following, or in the absence of one of these behaviors. In addition, I noted whether other dogs (1) could be seen by the individual doing the GS and (2) could see the GS as well (the dogs clearly were in one another’s visual field). This situation was referred to as “dog in sight.” All data were recorded by hand or dictated directly into a cassette audio recorder and later transcribed. Urine marking (n = 361), the RLD (n = 180), and simple elimination of urine (n = 251) occurred 792 times. GS occurred 121 times, 52 times after marking (14.4%), 30 times after the RLD (16.7%), and 39 times after simple elimination (15.5%). Sprague and Anisko (1973) also reported relatively low frequencies of GS in dogs. Females (n = 11) performed GS at approximately the same relative percentage as males (9.13%) but only 38 scratches were observed. There were no significant differences among the relative frequencies of occurrence of GS after RLU marking, RLD’s, or simple urination (H2 = 0.54, d.f. = 2, P > 0.05) (Snedecor, 1956:227). GS occurred only once before and three times in the absence of these behaviors. Dogs scratched only on grass or dirt. There was no relationship between GS and prior sniffing of the ground or of a known (to the observer) urine deposit. A 2 × 2 analysis indicated that GS...


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