Friday, March 12, 2010

Complex Social Behavior in Dogs

Another night spent listening to the dogs bark has helped me understand the complex social structure of dogs here in Lake Guajataca.
I've known for a long time, as I'm sure many of you know dogs are smarter, more complex than the scientists in general give them credit for being.
Last night I finally put another piece of the puzzle together.

First let's recap a little terminology: a spot is the physical location/address where a sato/ puerto rican island dog lives.

Territory is barking distance, so territories are fluid and relative to each dog.

In a stable canine community, these dogs all know each other. I can tell when new dogs enter the territory by the barking.
Dogs do not defend territory the way a pack of wolves does or perhaps the way the wild Cape of Good Hope Dogs do. Some hunt together as a social activity, but their main source of food is the humans who live around their spot.
People here will feed the stray dogs because keeping a lid for the garbage can is difficult(strong winds) etc. and rats will eat whats in the can. Each canine spot has a limited food source, that's what makes it worth defending.
People here will quiet their own dogs barking, but rarely if ever interfere with the street dog barking, so I've been listening to some interesting dog talk.
Stormy, the 6 year old male at this spot did his social barking last night. Most of Stormy's barking is intruder alert sort of barks. Every once in a while, my next visit I'll work on the frequency pattern, Storm does this "woowoow', "woowwoowoo". Other dogs repond to this. First there was a few, four to six canine voices could be heard. Storm would bark they bark back, then he "talked" to three voices, then he "talked" to two, then one.
This is the way his social barking goes. I don't think the last dog to reply is always the same. It is during the social barking or chatter, Stormy sometimes gives the here I come bark after this bark he always takes off.
Intact males here do a thing I call the nose to butt. They stand parallel to each other one dogs head would face east the other dogs head faces west. The distance they stand apart indicates the comfort or tension between the two males.
Gotta go to a meeting of the sterilization committee, more later. I hope you find this stuff as interesting as I do. It's taken me a long time to put this together. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. "This morning as Kirt, my husband & I were having coffee on the veranda; he asked why it was so important for me to learn about what these dogs were doing and write about it. My dear most patient man would prefer more time at the beach or taking photos of plazas."
    I am having a problem with my computer, this was in the next post. I couldn't comment there for some reason. First, you are so blessed to have Kirt. I just love him. I hope someday, Scott and I come to visit you two in PR and you and I can talk dog all day, while the boys, talk about what boys talk about. I think Scott and Kirt would get along quite well wondering what their "crazy" women are doing with these dogs anyway. I have never met a man that seems to truly love dogs as much as Kirt. Even if he doesn't care about what they are doing and how they are figuring it out. :)

    One question I have been pondering for so long but can't seem to quite articulate: What is a "natural" environment for a dog? They are not wolves, they are a domestic species. Man made so to speak, so "wild" wouldn't be natural. Reliant on man??? I think so, but I don't know. In a home? Probably an extreme. With many or it's own kind or a limited group. It seems the indians kept dogs, they kind of free ranged as a group right? What is their "natural" surrounding? How is the best way to study their "normal" behavior? In a controlled environment? In a free for all? In a home environment? I think so much in canine behavior is dependent on human influence. I don't think it would ever be possible to neutralize this stimulus and really see dogs be dogs. Any thoughts???