science -- October 31, 2013 at 1:53 PM ET
Dogs get cues from other dogs' wagging tails
Photo by Flickr user Junayed Sadat
Research has long shown that dogs communicate through their tails. A happy dog wags its tail more to the right, and an anxious one will favor its left.
But new research, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, shows that the way a dog wags its tail affects the way other dogs react.
Experts told Associated Press Science Writer Malcolm Ritter that the tail-wagging difference appears to be one way that dogs gauge how other dogs will respond to them.
For the experiment, researchers in Italy showed 43 dogs videos of other dogs wagging their tails either to the left or right and others not wagging at all. When the dog in the video wagged mostly to its left, the sign of a negative response, observer dogs tended to have faster heartbeats than when it wagged the other way or not at all. Their behavior also indicated a higher degree of stress, the AP reports.