"Recent evidence suggests that bilateral asymmetry in the amplitude of tail wagging of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) is associated with approach (right wag) versus withdrawal (left wag) motivation and may be the by-product of hemispheric dominance. We consider whether such asymmetry in motion of the tail, a crucial appendage in intra-specific communication in all canids, provides visual information to a conspecific leading to differential behaviour. To evaluate this, we experimentally investigated the approach behaviour of free-ranging dogs to the asymmetric tail wagging of a life-size robotic dog replica. Our data, involving 452 separate interactions, showed a significantly greater proportion of dogs approaching the model continuously without stopping when the tail wagged to the left, compared with a right wag, which was more likely to yield stops. While the results indicate that laterality of a wagging tail provides behavioural information to conspecifics, the responses are not readily integrated into the predicted behaviour based on hemispheric dominance."
Photo: flickr/Mike Willis
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