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Animal Sex: Part One- Doing it Doggy Style

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Who would suspect that lurking within the sweet, female kitty purring in our lap is a howling banshee, capable of writhing on the ground while making ungodly sounds, seeking any opportunity to escape our loving home?

And who would guess that man’s best friend, looking at us with such adoring eyes while wagging a happy tail, could completely forget we exist (us—the love of their lives!) when compelled to obey the call of the wild.

The sexual instinct, shared by every living thing, is designed to guarantee that all species are perpetuated. No matter how much mankind masks, controls, or dresses it up, we are as much driven by sex as our canine and feline friends. However, when our pets (a.k.a. family members) come into their sexual heat it is so blatantly not about their relationship to us, that we’re disconcerted by these suddenly unfamiliar beasts. Potentially embarrassing questions may get asked by our five year old, “Mommy what’s wrong with Buttons?” who appears deranged, rolling madly about on the floor. We’re shocked when our gentle Rex is found aggressively humping the neighbor’s dog.

Fortunately, most responsible citizens neuter their pets today for their good health and to help contain the population explosion. Gone are the days when children would get their first exposure to “where babies come from” when the family dog or cat gave birth.  But suppose for one reason or another, your cat or dog has slipped through a crack in your otherwise responsible behavior, or your husband announces that Brutus will be castrated, “over his dead body.” What exactly are you in for?

The dog story

Sexually mature female dogs come into heat (the period of time when they ovulate and can become pregnant) approximately every six months for about three weeks. Whenever they’re outdoors, bitches leave their scent trails all over the neighborhood to lure males, who eagerly come from miles around in answer to this open invitation for sex.

Males, on the other hand, if given the chance, will run off, disappearing for days. The neighborhood streets become their turf as they mark their territory, search for sexual opportunities and fight with other males who are doing exactly the same thing.

Once a female is found, an unusual dog dance ensues. Konrad Lorenz, (1903-1989) Austrian zoologist and Nobel Prize winner, described the courtship as starting with playful chasing and the gestures of threat and flight. The male’s mouth is slightly open with the corners upturned giving it a look “distinctly like laughter.”  As the male “smiles harder and harder” he momentarily knocks against the female then scurries away, pretending retreat, assumes a submissive posture but then whirls around and stands before the female with his tail and whole rear wagging.

Bitches often annoy and torment the males, yet no normal male will bite, observes Herbert Wendt from “The Sex Life of the Animal.” They are quite chivalrous. “... the male can escape such trials only by making the familiar gesture of submission, or by attempting to turn the female’s attacks into play. He is not allowed to run away, for that would mean losing face. Male dogs are particularly concerned about preserving their masculine dignity.”

Who’s your Daddy?

Female dogs, like their wolf ancestors, have a unique physical strategy for holding onto a mate. According to a May 16, 2007 article on the BBC Web site, “Animal Sex,” female dogs have “enormous muscles in their vagina which clamp onto a male’s appendage during mating.” (The male counterpart to this is a bulbous gland at the base of the penis that swells, locking it into the vagina).

“Canines can stay locked together for up to 30 minutes after mating. This appears to be so that the sperm of the mate that the female has chosen have a chance to fertilize her eggs; if the female became (engaged) with another male immediately, this latter’s sperm might replace the sperm of the first mate.”

“The female usually ignores the dog attached at the other end, going about the normal business of life such as sleeping or walking with him precariously hanging off her tail end.”

Who says nature has no sense of humor?

We are family

Dogs and cats have been our companions for thousands of years. Dogs have accompanied hunters, guarded flocks, been hitched to sleds and carts and have allowed human families to become their substitute pack. Though tamed and loving they are still, in the heart of their being, wild. Their sexual natures, if unaltered, are as strong as in their ancestral days -- instincts that we have in common as humans. No matter how civilized we’ve become, in the journey from cave to city, we are still as much a part of nature as our pets.

Coming Attractions

Part two of Pet Sex: The cat’s story. Wait ‘til you read how cats behave!

Credit: Reviewed by Dr. Amy I. Attas 
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