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Can you translate what your dog’s tail wag means?

November 19, 2013

Right is friendly. Left is anxious. That’s the upshot of a study showing that, “Dogs watching a left-wagging canine displayed signs of anxiety such as elevated heart rate, but those watching a right-wagging dog remained calm with no signs of stress.”

On October 31, 2013, the Science Magazine website posted a video and story about this study. The article stated, “To make sure that the animals weren’t watching other facial or body cues, the researchers also showed the dogs only a silhouetted version of the wagging pooch. In the end, it didn’t matter whether they watched the natural dog or the silhouette; every canine understood the meaning in a left or right tail wag, the team reports in Current Biology.”

This matches what scientists concluded about dog wagging in general. In a related article on the BBC News Science & Environment website, study co-author Professor Georgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist from the University of Trento, was quoted as saying, “It is very well known in humans that the left and right side of the brain are differently involved in stimuli that invoke positive or negative emotions. Here we attempted to look at it in other species.” The article noted that, “Professor Vallortigara said he didn’t think that the dogs were intentionally communicating with each other through these movements. Instead, he believes that they dogs have learned from experience what moves they should and shouldn’t feel worried about.”

You’ll find the abstract on the Current Biology website:  http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982213011433

At West Kendall Animal Hospital, we love ALL wagging tails!

Source: Pet Edge November 2013, http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2013/10/video-what-tail-wagging-means-other-dogs, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24746107

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