Dogs can pick up emotional cues from another dog by watching the direction of its wagging tail, a new study suggests.
In a series of lab experiments, dogs got anxious when they saw an image of a dog wagging its tail to its left side. But when they saw a dog wagging its tail to its right side, they stayed relaxed.
This isn’t the first time scientists have shown that the direction of a wagging tail can be linked to doggy emotions. In a previous study, Giorgio Vallortigara of the University of Trento in Italy and his colleagues showed that dogs tended to wag to their right side when seeing something friendly like their owners. Seeing something threatening, like a dominant unfamiliar dog, made them wag more to their left side.
That study made the scientists wonder if other dogs might actually watch another dog’s tail wagging and use its direction as a clue to figure out whether that dog might be a potential friend or foe. (NPR)