Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/197

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CANINE MORALS AND MANNERS.

pation of pleasurable excitement combined with muscular activity, is when the presence of game is first detected. As we have seen in watching the behavior in a pack of fox-hounds, this is invariably the time when tails are wagged for the common good. The wagging is an almost invariable accompaniment of this form of pleasure, which is one of the chiefest among the agreeable emotions when in the wild state. Owing to some inosculation of the nervous mechanism, which at present we can not unravel, the association of pleasure and wagging has become so inseparable that the movement of the tail follows the emotion, whatever may call it forth.

An explanation of a similar kind can be found for the fact that dogs depress their tails when threatened or scolded. When running away the tail would be the part nearest the pursuer, and therefore most likely to be seized. It was therefore securely tucked away between the hind legs. The act of running away is naturally closely associated with the emotion of fear, and therefore this gesture of putting the tail between the legs becomes an invariable concomitant of retreat or submission in the presence of superior force. When a puppy taken out for an airing curves its tail downward and scuds in circles and half-circles at fullest speed around its master, it is apparently trying to provoke its pseudo-cynic playfellow to pursue it in mock combat. It may be observed that this running in sharp curves, with frequent change of direction, is a common ruse with animals which are pursued by larger enemies. The reason of it is centrifugal impulse acts more powerfully on the animal of larger bulk, and so gives the smaller an advantage.

Several years ago there was a good deal of discussion of the distinctive peculiarity of the pointer and setter, in The Field and other papers. It was suggested that the habit of standing still as soon as game was scented, instead of springing forward at once to seize it, was an instance of the manner in which a natural instinct might be absolutely reversed by training. One of the explanations attempted at the time for this apparent anomaly was, that the immovable position of the dog was comparable to the pause which most beasts of prey make before a final spring. But we must recollect, when considering this theory, that few of the Canidæ pounce from an ambush suddenly upon their prey after the manner of cats. And although a terrier will stand immovable before a rat-hole for hours together, his patient, watchful attitude is very different from the rigid and strained position of the pointer or setter; which position also has nothing in it suggestive of crouching, preparatory to a rapid bound forward, as is seen when a cat stalks a bird, and then gathers herself together before the final coup.