Dear Dr. Fox: I hope you can help us with a dog problem.
My daughter’s friendly 3-year-old purebred Pomeranian comes up to people, wagging her tail furiously and squealing to be patted. But when anyone reaches down to pat her, she squats and pees all over the floor, carpet or whatever she’s on. It seems to be some sort of submissive posture she is taking. The dog appears to me to be rather high-strung.
This has become an annoying habit and we are stumped as to what to do about it, other than just not pat her. We hope you will have some advice. L.R., Rio Linda, Calif.
Dear L.R.: You are correct in your interpretation of this dog’s behavior.
In the exciting social context of meeting and greeting people, I term this reaction “submissive urination.” It is associated with a ritual, instinctive display of ears-back, tail-wagging, body-flattening, rolling-over behavior — and indeed, the urine can sometimes fly.
Many dogs show this kind of behavior when they are young, and eventually grow out of it. Its persistence may indicate a genetic component similar to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans: a kind of persistent infantilism. There is not much one can do, except advise people not to gush over the little dog, essentially ignoring her until she calms down.
Don’t let anyone persuade your daughter to try any kind of medication to control her dog’s behavior. It comes with the breed and the lineage.
‘Puppy-dog eyes’ explainer
Domestic dogs have a special set of muscles around their eyes that wolves lack, and those muscles operate together to widen and open the canine eye, contributing to a larger, drooping appearance that many people find irresistible.
The muscles, called the retractor anguli oculi lateralis and the levator anguli oculi medialis, appear to be an evolutionary adaptation that arose during domestication, possibly as people selected dogs they found more appealing. (The Atlantic, June 17)
Bee song helps pollination
Denise Ellsworth, an entomologist at Ohio State University, says bumblebees and some other wild bees do something honeybees don’t do: buzz pollination.
Bumblebees “can unhinge their wings from their wing muscles and vibrate their bodies,” Ellsworth says. This not only makes a buzzing sound in the tone of middle C, but also “causes the flower to explosively release pollen.”