For a long time, interpreting and re-interpreting dog behavior has been an ongoing topic of scientific studies to better understand our canine companions. The meaning of a wagging tail is one of them.
Perhaps the most popular misconception is that dogs wag their tails as a general indication of friendliness or happiness. Not so, according to two studies published in Current Biology attributed to neuroscientist, Giorgio Vallortigara, at the University of Trieste in Italy, and two veterinarians, Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siniscalchi, at the University of Bari.
Asymmetrical tail wagging is a method of communication that dogs use to convey different meanings and signals depending on the living or moving being within its vicinity. Combined data suggests four common factors for comprehending the wagging tail:
1. Height and Position
The height at which a tail is held serves as an emotional meter for dogs. A tail in vertical position signals domination, while a tail tucked underneath indicates fear. In general, a tail moving upwards demonstrates threatening behavior, and a tail moving downwards exhibits submissive behavior.
When a dog is relaxed, his tail is in mid-height position, and when he is alert, his tail is held horizontally.
2. Movement Pattern
When dogs feel positive about someone or something, like their favorite people, their tail wagging is biased to the right. When dogs feel negative, their tails wag more to the left.
3. Wag Speed
Dogs wag their tails at varying speeds depending on their level of excitement. A vigorous wag can be seen when it is time for a favorite activity or when a favorite person returns from a trip. A restrained wag communicates caution or curiosity.
4. Sweep Breadth
The breadth of each tail sweep reveals the positive or negative emotional state in dogs. A broad wag is a demonstration of friendliness or happiness, while a limited wag can mean a tentative approach or greeting.
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