It’s almost universally understood by humans that a wagging tail means a dog has friendly intentions. There are a few exceptions, but this is almost always true.
Of course, a dog can wag his tail in many different ways. After all, a dog uses his tail for communication purposes. The better we are at reading a dog’s body language, including what he’s saying with his tail, the better we can understand what dogs are saying to us.
Researchers have discovered that it makes a big difference whether a dog wags his tail to the left or to the right, for instance. They claim that dogs wag their tails to the right when they are happy and relaxed. They say that dogs wag their tails to the left when they are anxious, frightened and feel like running away. According to the researchers, these are examples of the way the different halves of the brain control a dog’s emotions (or any mammal’s emotions).
The researchers tested 30 family dogs to obtain these findings. The dogs included 15 males and 15 females from the age of 1 to 6 years old. They placed each dog in a large wooden box covered with black plastic so he or she couldn’t see outside. The researchers filmed each dog’s reaction to four different stimuli: to the dog’s owner; to an unknown person; to a dominant, unfamiliar dog; and to a cat.
Dogs wagged to the right when their owner came to the box. Dogs wagged to the right when they met the unfamiliar person and the cat. The unknown person received less wagging than the dogs’ owners, but the wagging was still to the right. The cat received even less wagging, but the wagging was still to the right.
However, when the dogs met the dominant, unfamiliar dog (a four-year-old male Belgian Malinois); the wagging tails went consistently to the left.
When the dogs were left alone, by themselves, their tails also wagged to the left, which may suggest that dogs preferred to have company.
In real life, instead of a laboratory experiment, it may be difficult to detect this left-right bias, but you can try it at home and see if your dog is wagging his tail toward the right when you’re together. Or, find a cat and see how your dog wags his tail. See how he wags his tail when he meets an unknown person.
When you meet unknown dogs you should also keep in mind that a dog that wags his tail very stiffly is not being very friendly toward you. A stiff tail wag is the equivalent of going through the motions of being friendly without really meaning it. You should definitely keep your guard up with such a dog.
Keep in mind, too, that different dogs have different tails. It’s easy to read the plume of a Setter. It’s harder to read the tail of a Corgi which are sometimes born tailless or docked very short right after birth. Always try to read the rest of a dog’s body language to confirm their reactions.
How does you dogs tail wag in different situtions?
Until next time…..