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Monday, June 18, 2007

Right Wags are All Right

Anatolians Indulging in Right-Wags

Zor in the foreground, Ruya is the headless one. All indulging in right-wags. Boone on the left didn't have a tail in this picture. The dogs had been playing a wrestling game and had paused to wag at each other. Some Anatolians don't just wag their tails but it goes round and round and round like a propeller. Can't think which direction it flies around in, counter clockwise or clockwise? Bertha (grandmother to Ruya and mother to Zor) had one of those propeller tails sometimes - depending on her mood. Other times she wiggled butt, or merely flicked the very tip of her tail in greeting. (ecstatically expressive to plain Ho-Hum!)

Since the recent study and reports about dogs doing right sided wags for 'friendly' things and left sided wags for more wary emotions, I've been thinking about this more when I watch our dogs play.

Is it not just dogs? I also remember Tess, my Arabian horse having more of a right sided fling to her tail when she put it over her back to play, after tipping the manure cart over deliberately when she wanted to get a rise out of me. She sometimes carried her tail straight out behind her but held it to one or the other side at different times. I wish now I had payed closer attention to her tail. I watched her ears, face, eyes and other elements of stance a lot, but not always her tail. I know that in Arab horse circles, back when I used to attend Arabian Horse Fairs and the like, a tail carried completely centered was supposed to be most desireable. Other horse folks would say that carriage to the side was due to some issue in the spine or the muscles. But I've looked at horses running when letting off their own steam and when they are pushed or stressed and I'm not sure what I think. Aren't these tail carriages sometimes different? Doesn't tail carriage to the side in horses also have something to do with lateral expression of emotion?

From The Scientist
Tailing Lateralization

A dog’s tail reveals unambiguous messages about its mood. Now, a study on tail wagging may lend credence to the contested theory that nonhuman vertebrates have asymmetric brain function. Angelo Quaranta and colleagues from the University of Bari and the University of Trieste in Italy trained video cameras on the posteriors of 30 dogs while exposing them to four separate visual stimuli: the dog’s owner, an unfamiliar person, a dominant unfamiliar dog, and a cat.

Familiar and nonthreatening sights induced right-biased wagging, indicating left side "approach" brain activation. The dominant unknown dog procured left-leaning wags, indicating right brain "withdrawal." Peter MacNeilage, a member of the Faculty of 1000 and a University of Texas professor in psychology, calls the work "a confirmation of what others have argued" – that nonhuman vertebrates have behaviors linked to specific brain hemispheres.

Prior to this research, he says, "In a single subject population, not one study has shown both avoidance and approach. ... Usually when people study the two hemispheres, they use different experimental paradigms. In this case [Quaranta] uses the same experimental paradigm, making it more consistent. This paper supports the theory that when one half of the brain is sensing some danger, it’s more connected to the opposite side of body." A mystery remains, however: "Why do animals have this brain lateralization in the first place?"

1. A. Quaranta et al., "Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli," Curr Biol, 17:R199–R201, March 20, 2007. | [PubMed]

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 6/18/2007 06:37:00 PM | Permanent link | (2) Comments

Anonymous Anonymous sent us a woof // June 21, 2007

Interesting that you mention the "propeller tail" Leydi certainly has a propeller tail, I never knew that Anatolians could or would wag their tail like she does, I have to pay attention to the direction, I think when I look at her standing in front of her it goes counter-clockwise, now I have to look for the right wags in everybody   

Anonymous Anonymous sent us a woof // June 24, 2007

i've been watching my dog, jersey, for the past few days now, & when she sees people that she knows she DOES wag her tail more to the right. COOL!!   

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