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Dog Tail Talk Part 2: To the Left, To the Right and Why the Tail Wags that Way

The direction a dog's tail moves in can give other dogs (and humans) insight into the dog's mood, state of mind, and potentially can indicate the dog's next move.

In our previous blog post, we presented information on the patterns of moment a dog can make with their tail and how to interpret tail movement. We also emphasized the importance of observing what is happening int the moment with a particular dog, including their gaze, body language, and breathing rate. This week, we add to the information about the low, high, half-mast, and circular patterns that a dog makes with her tail, to explain what it can mean when a dog's tail veers more left or right.

Left Side Tail Wag, Right Side Tail Wag

Research indicates that the more a dog's tail wags to one side or the other can be an indication of mood. When a dog wags its tail more to the right they are feeling happy or confident. If the tail is moving more to the left side, they may be feeling fearful or apprehensive. National Geographic has also reported that dogs wag their tails to the right side of their body when they want to approach something of interest to them (such as their owner or food or another friendly dog). And, dogs tend to wag the tail on the left side of their body when they want to avoid something.

Why might this be?

One theory about the left-side wag versus right-side wag comes from what is known as "hemispheric brain activity." Very broadly speaking, the left side of the brain controls movement on the right side of the body and vice versa, which means the left brain is engaged when the tail wags to the right and the right brain causes the tail to move to the left. The left side of the brain is also associated with positive mood states--so, a happy dog is likely to wag her tail to the right. Conversely, the right side of the brain is associated with negative emotions, so a dog that is apprehensive is likely to wag her tail to the left.

Interpreting Dog Behavior: More than the Tail

As we've stated, observations of a dog's tail wagging are just a piece of information to consider when interpreting canine behavior. You need to look at the context of the dog's tail activity:

  • What is the dog's overall body posture? (rigid, relaxed, nervous)

  • How is the dog's breathing? (rapid panting, slow shallow, relaxed)

  • What about the dog's gaze? (interested, alert, eager; intense, fixed, high alert; relaxed, disinterested)

If you're truly being observant of the dog...your brain can take in all of this information and make an informed conclusion about the dog's state of mind and how you should respond: to approach, keep your distance, or simply to give the animal time to assess you and the environment. In fact, giving any animal the time to assess and decide if they want to approach or be approached is likely the best choice whenever humans and dogs interact with each other.

Professional Dog Sitters in Wilmington, DE

The professional dog sitters and walkers at Weather or Not are always at the ready to provide the best care for your pet, in your home. Though we are not animal behaviorists, all team members are well trained in how to observe and manage dogs of all sizes and personalities. If you are in need of devoted care for your special canine, contact Weather or Not of Wilmington to arrange a meet and greet.

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