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Msmaria 03-04-2014 06:11 PM

The difference in a tail wag
Thought I'd share this. Anyone have opinions. Going to check my dogs tail wag out when I get home. Although it goes in circles much of the time.

Dogs Understand a Left-Sided Wag from a Right
Posted Date: February 27, 2014
Have you noticed that your dog's tail sometimes wags more to one side than the other? It might mean something! By Claudia Bensimoun

Although many of us may think that our dog's wagging tail merely reflects his happiness, there is far more to the wagging than initially thought. Recent studies demonstrate that dogs do recognize and respond differently when their fellow canine companions wag either to the right or to the left. These new findings (which demonstrate that our furry best friends, like humans, have asymmetrically organized brains, with both sides playing different roles) were first reported in the Cell Press Journal Current Biology on October 31, 2013.

New research by Dr. Giorgio Vallortigara of the Center of Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento, Italy demonstrates that "the direction of the tail wagging does in fact matter, and it matters in a way that matches hemispheric activation," says Dr. Vallortigara of the University of Trento, Italy via Science Daily. "In other words, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the right side-and thus showing left-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of positive/ approach response - would also produce relaxed responses," says Vallortigara. "In contrast, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the left side, thus showing right-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of negative/withdrawal response, would also produce anxious and targeting responses as well as increased cardiac frequency. That is amazing, I think," adds Vallortigara.

This latest discovery follows earlier studies by the same Italian research team, which found that when dogs wag to the right they are happy and experience positive emotions. In contrast, when our furry best friends wag to the left they are experiencing negative emotions and are feeling anxious, aggressive, or depressed. This would possibly occur when seeing another dog. This biased tail wagging behavior demonstrates what was also happening inside the canine brain.

When monitoring the reactions of the dogs in the study, researchers monitored their reactions while showing them videos of other dogs that were either wagging to the left or to the right. They found that dogs do respond differently when other dogs either wag to the left or to the right.

Dr. Vallortigara and his team don't believe that the dogs are necessarily trying to communicate these emotions to other canines. Instead, he mentions that the bias of the tail wagging in our dogs is likely the automatic byproduct of differential activation of the left versus the right side of the brain. He also suggests that the bias in tail wagging and its response might not be find practical uses today, nonetheless pet parents, veterinarians, and most people that spend time around dogs may benefit by taking note of these tail wagging results.

"It could be that left/right directions of approach could be effectively used by vets during visits of the animals or that dummies could be used to exploit asymmetries of emotional responses," explains Vallortigara.


Current Biology - Seeing Left- or Right-Asymmetric Tail Wagging Produces Different Emotional Responses in Dogs

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance writer in West Palm Beach.

Mary Beth 03-04-2014 09:51 PM

Fascinating article! I will watch very carefully and see which way the tail wags depending on the situation..

Serbrider 03-06-2014 01:59 AM

I haven't noticed left/right as much... but I can definitely tell my dog's attitude based on her tail. Puppy hasn't quite figured it out... but my older dog Tasha definitely speaks with her tail.

She was never a wagger, so it's very easy to tell. She's calm but pleased when I call her name and she gifts a soft wag. She's really excited about something when it's a big bold wag. Noticeably circular wag is happy and seeing something. Tail straight up is around most other dogs, not moving means she's being particularly firm about her place, wagging but high up is usually what she does with the puppy, making it clear that she rules the roost, but is friendly and willing to play.... and more that I recognize and understand, but can't really put into words. :p

volcano 03-07-2014 03:14 AM

Yeah right, next thing theyll be saying that dogs poop aligned with the poles>LOL Where is all this spare research money coming from?

brembo 03-16-2014 09:07 AM

Been keeping an eye on this, and it seems to hold some water. My male is, from a casual glance, a dour fellow. Very reserved and not the jumpy, excitable type. I know his moods fairly well and when he is frisky and happy his tail does indeed spin with a right influence. When he's yelling at something or someone on the property his tail spins to the left. My female with her puppy-brain reaction to everything just wiggles her whole body and her tail is all over the place.

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