Siniscalchi et al., Curr. Biol., Sep. 2013
Figure 4. Visual Stimuli. Dogs' visual stimuli (naturalistic and silhouette) exhibiting prevalent left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging. Stationary stimuli not wagging their tail are also showed (pictures are single frames from moving videos).
Is your dog right-tailed or left-tailed?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:
It depends on who he’s wagging it at!
Brain asymmetry affects animal behavior, just like in humans. Researchers from two Italian universities studied dogs and their wagging tails. Turns out, when approached by someone familiar—like their owner—dogs consistently wagged their tails to their right. When they saw an unfamiliar dog, tails wagged left.
The researchers concluded that tail direction indicates activity in the opposite brain hemisphere. Left-brain, right wag? Everything’s cool. Right-brain, left wag? —Look out, Timmy! Danger!
But do dogs also recognize these signals when they see them?
To find out, the researchers showed 43 dogs of different breeds a video. When they saw a tail wagging right, dogs were relaxed. When the tail wagged left, pups got anxious—hearts raced. No wagging? Dogs were anxious—but not as much.
The researchers say this shows that dogs rely on social cues, like tail action, to assess a strange dog’s state of mind, or a possible threat.
When you don’t have time to sniff a behind. Although that helps too.
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