What’s Behind Your Dog’s Tail Wag?

Ever wonder what your pooch is thinking while wagging its tail? Popular belief is that vigorous tail movement means that the dog is happy and excited, but reality is more complex than that. A recent study published by Italian researchers in Current Biology linked the direction of a dog's tail movement to mood.

"The direction of tail wagging does in fact matter, and it matters in a way that matches hemispheric activation," Giorgio Vallortigara, one of the study's authors from the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences at the University of Trento, said in a statement. "In other words, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the right side- and thus showing left-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of positive/approach response – would also produce relaxed responses."

On the other hand, the study showed dogs seeing another tail wagging to the left became anxious. Vallortigara believes dogs aren't purposely trying to communicate with other canines. It's more of an automatic reflex caused by cognitive function.

According to Psychology Today, tail movement is a signal, so when no one is around, dogs' tails are still. Additionally, canines are better at picking up clues in movement changes rather than color, which may be around reason for this form of communication.

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