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Coital Behaviour in Dogs. VIII. Social Affinity, Dominance and Sexual Preference in the Bitch

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Six male and 5 female dogs were reared together in an outdoor compound (20.5 m2) from the time they were 12-14 weeks old until the females had their first estrous period at 28-36 weeks of age. During this time all animals were observed in 3 tests designed to measure social affinity or attraction between males and females, a test for social dominance and a test which revealed each female's tendency to accept or reject each of the males in copulation. In Free Play Tests all 11 dogs werc released in the living area and records were made of the frequency of social interaction between every female and every male. Dyadic Roving Tests involved observations of one male and one female at a time while they were free to move about the living area in the absence of other dogs. The frequency and amount of time each female interacted with every male were recorded. In the Tethered Male Tests one male was chained to a stake in the center of the living area and females were released in the area one at a time. Notes were made of the amount of time each female spent "visiting" each male. Results of these 3 tests of social affinity showed that females differed from one another with respect to their tendency to interact with any male, some bitches being much more "social" than others. Each female displayed a pattern of preferences, spending more time with some males than with others. There was some tendency for females to respond more frequently to their brothers than to unrelated males. Comparing the results of the 3 tests revealed a definite though fairly low degree of inter-test consistency in the social preferences of the 5 females. During the Bone Possession Tests one male and one female were given simultaneous access to a large bone and records were made of the amount of time each dog maintained possession. On the average males tended to surpass females but there were marked individual differences in both groups. Lolita, the most dominant female, controlled the bone an average of 52.17% of the time in her tests with the 6 males, whereas the comparable score for Kathy was 13.00%. Among the males Cassius was in possession of the bone an average of 90.80% of the test time while Don controlled the incentive only 58.80% of the time. It was noted that the most dominant male and female were individuals who ranked low in frequency of social interactions as measured by the DR and TM tests. Success in maintaining possession of the bone was unrelated to physical size as measured by body weight. Mating Tests conducted when 4 of the females were in estrus revealed the existence of clear-cut sexual preferences on the part of each bitch. Patterns of choice varied from one female to the next. The same male might rank first on the preference scale of one bitch and last on that of another. Comparisons between the degree to which each female accepted each male as a sexual partner and the extent to which that same pair had interacted in the tests for social affinity indicated no relationship whatsoever. Similarly the results of the dominance tests bore no apparent relation to patterns of feminine sexual preference revealed by the mating tests. It was concluded that (1) anestrous females exhibit varying degrees of social affinity for different males with whom they have been reared, but, (2) under the influence of hormonal conditions associated with estrus these social preferences are obliterated or overridden and an entirely new pattern of heterosexual affinities and aversions emerges.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Berkeley, Calif., U.S.A.

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