Does Your Dog Wag Left or Right?

August 21, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

Dogs often communicate with each other by the wag of their tail and one recent study finds that the direction of the tail wag – left or right – is very important. The research shows that dogs have different emotional responses to other dogs based upon the direction of the tail wag. The study goes on to say that a tail swing to the right keeps canines relaxed, while a wag to the left seems to bring on distress.

Researchers used 43 pet dogs of various breeds for the study. The pups were shown videos of other dogs wagging their tails either to the left or to the right while they wore vests that monitored their heart rate. The pets that watched one of their peers wag to the right stayed calm and often began to approach the dog on the screen. The researchers say this suggests that they saw the right-side wagging as a signal of companionship. On the other hand, the dogs that watched wagging to the left behaved more anxiously and their heart rate sped up.

It is not believed that tail wagging is a secret dog language, but rather dogs’ reactions to the direction of tail wagging comes from automatic responses from the different hemispheres of the canine brain. Study author, Giorgio Vallortigara, explains, that just as the left and right sides of the brain in humans are thought to control different emotions and behaviors, the direction of wagging might match hemispheric activation.

The researchers believe that understanding these responses in our pets may help improve dog welfare and assist in developing new strategies to keep them calm in stressful situations such as visits to the vet.

Source: Siniscalchi M, Lusito R, Vallortigara G, Quaranta A. Seeing left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging produces different emotional responses in dogs. Current Biology, 2013; 23 (22): 2279-2282.

Dog Tail Wag

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