When Love Is in the Air: Understanding Why Dogs Tend to Mate when It Rains
Seasonality of reproduction is observed in many species of organisms, across taxa, and is influenced by both biotic and abiotic factors. While such seasonality is easy to understand in temperate species exposed to extreme climates, it is more difficult to explain in the tropics. In many tropical species offspring are born during the season of high precipitation, which also coincides with high resource availability. Interestingly, in India, free-ranging dogs seem to mate, and not whelp, when it rains—an observation that cannot be explained by the resource abundance hypothesis. We carried out an extensive study to identify the mating seasons of free-ranging dogs, and observed a strong correlation between both the incidence and frequency of mating related behaviours of dogs, and precipitation levels. There are two clear mating seasons, of which the primary mating season coincides with the monsoon (rainy season) and the secondary mating season coincides with the nor’westerlies in this part of India. We speculate that this strong correlation is an effect of chemistry, rather than biology. While male dogs can mate round the year, females come into estrous seasonally. In the urban environment, dogs are exposed to a lot of olfactory noise, which can dilute the signal present in sex pheromones of the females in heat. A shower leads to increased humidity and reduced temperature of the air, leading to intensification of pheromone signals that trigger a sexual response in the dogs.