-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A dog can tell when
another pooch is wagging its tail to the left or right and responds
differently when the wag goes one way or the other, a new study
Previous research by the same team showed that dogs wag to the
right when they feel happy (seeing their owners, for example) and
to the left when they're upset (seeing an unfriendly dog, for
example). That means that left-brain activation produces a wag to
the right and right-brain activation results in a wag to the
This new study examined whether the direction of tail wagging
means anything to other dogs and found that it did, according to
the study published Oct. 31 in the journal
The researchers monitored dogs as they watched videos of other
dogs wagging their tails either left or right. When dogs saw
another dog wagging to the left, their heart rates increased and
they appeared anxious. When they saw another dog wagging to the
right, they remained relaxed.
The findings show that dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically
organized brains in which the left and right sides play different
roles, the researchers said.
"The direction of tail wagging does in fact matter, and it matters in a way that matches [brain] hemispheric activation," Giorgio Vallortigara, of the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento, in Italy, said in a journal news release.
Vallortigara said it's not likely that dogs intend to
communicate those emotions to other dogs. It's more likely that the
differences in tail wagging direction are simply the result of
activity in different sides of the brain.
He also said that a dog's ability to recognize and respond to
tail wagging direction may be useful to veterinarians and dog
"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," Vallortigara said.
The Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University has more about
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