Yesterday some neighbors were treated, if that’s the right word, to a display of our dog’s kinky sexual behavior. Well, probably “kinky” isn’t the right word either. It was just instinctual sexual behavior.
Heck, leave out “sexual” too, because it seems that female dogs who hump other dogs (male or female) are motivated by a desire for dominance, not sex.
Regardless, it still was disconcerting to be talking to a man and his pre-teen daughter while our dog and their yellow Lab calmly sniffed each other at first, then to look down and see that Serena had mounted Ginger and was pumping away with a sailor-on-shore-leave exuberance.
I muttered, “Ha, ha, got a little dominance thing going on here, I guess” and yanked Serena off of the considerably smaller and younger Ginger. Then I did the exact same thing three more times, feeling increasingly embarrassed as the neighbor girl watched our Shepherd/Lab mix climb on top of her sweet little pet.
Ginger eventually snapped, literally. That led to some growling and “Oh yeah! Let’s see who’s Top Dog!” posturing from Serena, which spurred me to head on down the trail toward home. Somewhat strangely, Ginger ran after us, tail wagging, seemingly now ready to play after having asserted herself.
The whole Serena-Ginger episode was largely a play of animal instinctual behavior. Serena is a spayed female. So far as I know, she has never seen a male dog mate with a female (unless she has some doggie porn stashed under her pad that she looks at after we’ve gone to sleep).
How does she know what to do? Serena has the sex act down pretty well, as you can see from this photo I took of a previous neighborhood escapade. Also, Serena was raised in Portland for the first year of her life. Yet she is expert at stalking field mice like a coyote, doing the “Gotcha!” leap from above just like I remember seeing on “Living Desert” Walt Disney shows.
Instinct. It’s a mystery. I thought I’d get some good answers from Google this morning, but I was surprised to find that solid scientific explanations were lacking about how animals act out complex instinctual behaviors. To say that these are genetic doesn’t explain much.
How the heck does DNA enable an arctic tern to make its way from near the north pole to near the south pole, and then back again? Some fledgling migrating birds leave before their parents do, yet somehow they get to the same place.
The mystery of bird migration has been somewhat unraveled by science, but to my mind learning some of the secrets of how birds navigate doesn’t begin to explain how that “how” is implanted in their instinctual repertoire. Yes, birds apparently use the sun, stars, moon, magnetic fields, and such to keep on track. Yet, how do genes make that happen?
I can understand how DNA produces a physical bird body. How, though, does DNA lead that body to perform amazingly complex instinctual behavior? Not to take away anything from dogs, but dog humping is nothing compared to bird navigating (still, it’s fascinating that Labrador Retrievers who haven’t had anything to do with hunting will spontaneously point completely on their own).
Some people get all mystical when they marvel at bird migration and other “How do they do that?!” animal behaviors. A woman finds Allah behind it all, while genetic memory that could explain past life regression also has been hypothesized. Me, I don’t know. As Isaac Armour says, every answer concerning the nature of life leads to more questions that take you all the way back to the beginning of time.
Go figure. When you get down to it, that’s my basic response.
This afternoon a heron paid our little pond a visit, the first time this has happened. We have a metal sculpture of a heron stuck in the ground. The real heron stood for quite a while looking at it. I hope it wasn’t falling in love. Eventually it flew away, perhaps to puzzle out the meaning of a two-dimensional member of his species who bore just a passing resemblance to the herons he’s used to.
Crazy animals. Instinct makes them do such bizarre things. I was expressing these sentiments to someone once, complaining about a robin who was pecking on our bedroom window every morning, believing that the bird he saw reflected in the glass was the real thing.
The guy listened to my rant, then said, “How is that different from Playboy magazine?” That shut me up. Hit too close to home.
People are animals too. We just are able to make up explanations for our animal instincts. Those explanations could be instinctual too, of course.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this weblog post was written by an animal who was driven by instinct to write about instinct. And you’ve been driven to read about it.