dogs understand secret code tail movements

Nature

Published on November 2nd, 2013

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How do dogs understand each other, “the secret code” of tail movements

Scientists had shown in previous research, dogs tail movements correlated with how they feel: happy dogs wag their tail mostly right, while angry dogs wag their tail the left. Recently, it was discovered that these subtle features are observed by other dogs and they react to them.

The researchers explained that, as in humans, dogs right brain controls the left side of the body movements and vice versa, and the two hemispheres play different roles in the control and expression of emotions.

The results of this study, conducted at the University of Trento and University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy, were published in the journal Current Biology.

To learn more about how dogs react to other dogs tails side movements, researchers monitored the animals (measuring their pulse rate and analyzing their behavior) while they were watching footage that featured other dogs, the images can be modified to provide more pronounced movements of the tail to the right or to the left.

What were the results ?

When dogs see another dog that wags his tail to the right - in the absence of any other events - remained perfectly relaxed. Instead, when they saw a dog that waged his tail mostly to the left (from the dogs point of view) increased pulse rate and animal showed signs of anxiety.

According to experts, dogs do not intentionally communicate with each other through these movements, but they learned from experience when its necessary to be worried and when not to.

Researchers say that these findings might help dog owners, veterinarians and trainers to better understand animal emotions.

The fact that the direction in which the tails movement is important for dogs has been highlighted by other studies.

The dogs turn their head to the left when looking at an aggressive dog and right when watching a cheerful dog, shows research conducted last year at the University of Lincol , UK.

Another study , conducted at the University of Victoria, Canada , has produced surprising results opposite to the Italian study : dogs were more likely to approach and interacţionze a robot dog when the ” tail ” its predominant move left .

These differences, explains John Bradshaw, of the University of Bristol, specializing in dog behavior, it could be because animals used in the study do not see the screen or robot dogs where not real, it would be useful to study the dogs behavior in the presence of real dogs.

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