Sunday, June 28, 2009

Instinctive Behaviors Also Take Practice

Lots of dogs have the instinct to trail after an interesting scent. Lots of dogs also have the instinct to push livestock from one place to another, or to retrieve. They still need practice, though, to follow their instincts well.

Need proof? For a male dog, lifting his hind leg to pee -- marking territory and indicating his great stature (or faking it) -- is instinctive. The more alpha his aspirations, the stronger the drive to do it. Bruce has now reached the hopeful age.

But does he get it right? Nope. Instead of the ballet-turnout leg hike, he simply picks his left hind foot up. His timing is often a bit off; he's been known to finish his business, walk a couple of steps, then pause to pick up the foot thoughtfully with an air of having forgotten something. Practice makes perfect. He has an older male to observe and other dogs' markings to ponder. I'm sure he'll get the hang of it all eventually. For now, though, he's entertaining me and giving himself something to think about.

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