Flashback Friday: Right or left wag? The hidden language in your dog’s tail.

By Seriously Science | November 20, 2015 6:00 am

It has already been shown that dogs wag their tails asymmetrically when presented with different stimuli, and other dogs seem to behave differently when viewing left vs. right wags of robot tails . But do dogs actually have different emotional responses to viewing left vs. right-wagging dogs? To investigate this, several Italian scientists hooked dogs up to heart monitors and showed them movies of other dogs, some wagging to the left, and others wagging to the right. Interestingly, viewing dogs with left-wagging tails induced higher heart rates and more anxiety than viewing right-wagging tails, implying that wagging might be a form of communication not only between dogs and owners, but also between dogs themselves.

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

“Left-right asymmetries in behavior associated with asymmetries in the brain are widespread in the animal kingdom, and the hypothesis has been put forward that they may be linked to animals’ social behavior. Dogs show asymmetric tail-wagging responses to different emotive stimuli-the outcome of different activation of left and right brain structures controlling tail movements to the right and left side of the body. A crucial question, however, is whether or not dogs detect this asymmetry. Here we report that dogs looking at moving video images of conspecifics exhibiting prevalent left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging showed higher cardiac activity and higher scores of anxious behavior when observing left- rather than right-biased tail wagging. The finding that dogs are sensitive to the asymmetric tail expressions of other dogs supports the hypothesis of a link between brain asymmetry and social behavior and may prove useful to canine animal welfare theory and practice.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Dogs catch human yawns.
NCBI ROFL: How the hell does one end up as a doggy breath odor judge?
NCBI ROFL: Classifying dogs’ facial expressions from photographs.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals
ADVERTISEMENT
  • TheLordSod .

    Such terrible journalism for such potentially good content.
    Like everything discover has ever posted a link to facebook about.

  • Small_Businessman

    An interesting article. It would have helped if what the left vs. right wagging meant. From the full research paper: “Stimuli that could be expected to elicit approach tendencies, such as
    seeing a dog’s owner, seem to be associated with higher amplitude of
    tail-wagging movements to the right side, whereas stimuli that could be
    expected to elicit withdrawal tendencies, such as seeing a dominant
    unfamiliar dog, seem to be associated with higher amplitude of
    tail-wagging movements to the left side.”
    So I think it would make sense that the left tail wagging would elicit more anxiety in another dog.

  • Emkay

    May the Bird of Paradise crap on my head for clicking on this….

  • Lorie Franceschi

    maybe in the dogs that were studied, there were more left pawed than right pawed dogs. Therefore the study might be skewed terribly towards left pawed dogs. But hey anything to get grant money.

  • Overburdened_Planet

    Dogs focus more on the right side of human’s faces to better determine our mood and act accordingly, so their ability to notice tail wagging makes sense.

    Grant money please.

  • Lee Riffee

    Gee, maybe the ones that wag to the left are liberals, and the ones that wag to the right are conservative….

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+