Study Suggests Little Dogs Are Dishonest About Size When Dog Marking

PetMD Editorial
Published: August 09, 2018
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Researchers at Cornell University just published a paper in the Journal of Zoology that shows evidence that smaller dogs will lift their legs higher to create the illusion that they are bigger.

Dog marking is a common dog behavior, especially amongst males, and research in the past has found that it is done as a means of communication. Phys Org explains, “By sniffing the pee left by another dog, dogs can learn a lot about the dog that did the peeing—such as its gender, age, fertility and some aspects of its health. These communications occur as a means for dogs to learn more about other dogs in the area, both male and female.”

As stated in the published study, “Urine marking in male domestic dogs: honest or dishonest?,” McGuire, Olsen, Bemis and Orantes report, “However, new data suggest that scent marking can be dishonest in certain circumstances.”

It seems that dogs cannot determine the size of the dog who marked an object by merely smelling their urine, because small dogs are lifting their legs high in order to mark further up. This might be the way that other dogs can tell how big the dog is who left their mark.

The researchers explain that, “Via two studies, we tested the hypothesis that urine marking is a dishonest signal in adult male domestic dogs, which raise a hindlimb when marking vertical objects.” The first study tested to see if the angle at which a dog urinates is a proxy for urine mark height, and the second study looked into whether small dogs raise their legs at a higher angle than big dogs.

The study’s results suggest, “Assuming body size is a proxy for competitive ability, small adult male dogs may place urine marks higher, relative to their own body size, than larger adult male dogs to exaggerate their competitive ability.”

So it turns out that “litte dog syndrome” might not be so far-fetched after all!

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