I’m writing up this article on a topic that has interested me for a while. I have always been fascinated in the way animals communicate. Pheromones play a great part in the way animals communicate with each other. To start off with I’ll try to explain the different ways our canine friends use pheromones to converse with each other.
So what are pheromones? And why are they important to our four-legged canine friends?
Pheromones are natural substances secreted by all animals. Dogs use these pheromones to communicate with each other and send out different messages. All dogs mark their territory with their own particular secretion of pheromones and are also able to convey aggression via the secretions to warn away other dogs. Females on heat will use pheromones to attract males.
There are primary and secondary pheromones. Primary pheromones cause a slower and longer lasting response, for example the transmission of sexual pheromones. Secondary pheromones cause an immediate response. Alarm pheromones are a good example of this type, as they alert the animal allowing them to flee. Some pheromones also travel great distances as they are light and easily carried by air, whilst other secretions are heavier. They are deposited in certain areas where other dogs are able to pick up the scent as they walk by.
Pheromones are not only excreted in the urine of a dog but also in their faeces. When dogs scratch the ground with their hind legs they are in fact secreting pheromones through glands present in the skin of their feet, which helps them mark their territory.
Dogs use pheromones to also establish the hierarchy. By sniffing the pheromones a dog is able to gain a lot of information about a particular dog, such as gender, reproductive status and health. This information can then be used to ascertain which dog would be the suitable leader.
A mother dog is able to calm and comfort her puppies by releasing pheromones, which makes it easier for her to handle them. There are certain products that can replicate these pheromones. They are usually used on dogs that are stressed or anxious, as they mimic a scent that dogs normally associate with being safe.
Pheromones play a very important role in communication during a dogs greeting ritual. When dogs meet it is natural for them to sniff the bottom, genital areas or even the mouths of each other. This ritual may seem a bit disgusting to us, but in fact it is a vital part with in the dog society. By sniffing each other dog are able to differentiate between friends, enemies and even relatives.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of how your dog communicates and why they display certain unusual behaviours.