Submission: Its Features and Function in the Wolf and Dog

Rudolph Schenkel 1967


Submission in the wolf and dog is defined on the basis of its motivation: submission is the effort of the inferior to attain friendly or harmonic social integration. Submission functions as an appeal or a contribution to social integration, but only if it meets a corresponding attitude in the superior. The form of submissive behavior in wolf and dog is ritualized and symbolized cub-behavior. Two main forms of submissive behavior occur in wolf and dog: active submission, derived from begging for milk or food, and passive submission, derived from the posture which the cub adopts when cleaned by its mother. The definition of submission is generally applicable to vertebrates living in groups based on intimacy and a social hierarchical order. The concept of submission as the role of the defeated in the terminal phase of fight with the function to inhibit automatically aggression in the superior should be dismissed. In vertebrates at least three types of conflict with different terminal phases occur: (1). Severe fight based on intolerance; ends with flight by the inferior or with his death. (2). Ritualized fight over a privilege; ends with the "giving-up-the-claim ritual" of the inferior, which automatically blocks the aggression of the superior. (3). Minor conflict in closed groups; settled by submissive behavior of the inferior. In closed vertebrate groups, intermediate forms between (1) and (3) occur, depending on the proportion between activated intimacy and intolerance.

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