April 24, 2007

The dog's tail is wagging, right? Or left?

A wagging tail means that a dog is emotionally aroused, sometimes by happiness and sometimes by aggression.

Researchers say that you can tell the difference by which side the tail favors.

But there is another, newly discovered, feature of dog body language that may surprise attentive pet owners and experts in canine behavior. When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

At a fundamental level, the right brain specializes in behaviors involving withdrawal and energy expenditure. In humans, these behaviors, like fleeing, are associated with feelings like fear and depression. Physiological signals include a rapid heart rate and the shutdown of the digestive system.

Because the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right brain controls the left side of the body, such asymmetries are usually manifest in opposite sides of the body. Thus many birds seek food with their right eye (left brain/nourishment) and watch for predators with their left eye (right brain/danger).

Further research will begin tonight with the two usual suspects.

1 comment:

Learning to Blog said...

My husband and I spent a good five minutes watching our dogs' tails and trying to figure out their emotional states last night!