The Significance of Ethological Studies: Playing and Peeing

  • Marc Bekoff


The ease of observing and reliably identifying dogs makes them prime candidates for ethological and observational studies of a wide variety of behaviors including social play, social dominance, social organization, and urination patterns. In this chapter I discuss research on social play behavior and urination/scent-marking patterns. Through long-term observational studies, we have catalogued the behaviors of play, including play requests, communication of intentions, and arbitration and negotiation of “fair play.” Using this behavioral category as a model, we can discuss questions of the evolution of morality and social justice. Similarly, by detailed study of scent-marking behavior, we can deduce the evolutionary history of different patterns of elimination. Finally, a systematic ethological approach is contrasted with the casual-observational approach of popular literature on dogs.


Social Play Social Morality Fair Play Play Signal Social Play Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Alexandra Horowitz for inviting me to write this essay and for her insightful comments and also Giada Cordoni and Elisabetta Palagi for taking the time to provide input on an earlier version of this essay. It has been an absolute pleasure to see interest in, and detailed comparative studies of, social play develop over the years.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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