'Wagging the tail', means love or anxiety?

Rome (ISJ): There is more to 'wagging the tail' of dogs. Dogs recognize and respond differently when fellow canines wag to the right, than they do when they wag to the left.


Dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically organized brains, with the left and right sides playing different roles. � Italian researchers found that dogs recognise and respond differently when their fellow canines wag to the right than they do when they wag to the left. This asymmetric tail-wagging behavior reflects what is happening in the dogs' brains ? left-brain activation produces a wag to the right,while the right-brain activation produces a wag to the left.�The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

"The direction of tail wagging does in fact matter, and it matters in a way that matches hemispheric activation," says Giorgio Vallortigara of the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento. "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. In contrast, a dog looking to a dog wagging with a bias to the left -- and thus showing right-hemisphere activation as if it was experiencing some sort of negative/withdrawal response -- would also produce anxious and targeting responses as well as increased cardiac frequency."

Vallortigara says, the bias in tail wagging is likely the automatic byproduct of differential activation of the left versus the right side of the brain. But that's not to say the bias in wagging and its response might not find practical uses.

"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 sa ?Some smells can be triggers of innate behaviours, such as fear, flight or fight reactions.

So next time, a dog sniffs you insistently with the right nostril, watch out.


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