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Why dogs wag their tails is still a mystery

Why dogs wag their tails is still a mystery

We know that domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris) communicate with their tails, both with other dogs and with humans, and we even know what the different wagging movements mean. But it is not known why dogs wag their tails more than other canines, or how much of it is under their control. This is what researcher Silvia Leonetti and her colleagues reported in the journal Biology Letters on January 17. – He writes on the website of Science News magazine.

Of all the possible animal behaviors that humans encounter in daily life, the wagging tail of pet dogs is one of the most common. But much of dog behavior is a scientific mystery. So Leonetti and his colleagues reviewed previous studies to see which elements of tail wagging were understood and which were puzzling.

People believe that a wagging tail equals a happy dog. But it's more complicated.

Knowing why dogs wag their tails is important, partly for the benefit of the animals, because it helps dog owners better understand their dogs' signals. One of the key things researchers know is that tail wagging is primarily used for communication, not movement. For example, whales use it to move, and horses use it to chase away flies. Wagging the tail means different things depending on how you shake it, for example the height of the handle, or moving it from side to side. For example, according to researchers, when the tail wags more to the right, it usually means the dog is interested in a stimulus or wants to get closer to something. But when he sways more to the left, it means uncertainty or that he wants to retreat. When the shaking is low and close to the legs, it is a sign of submission or insecurity. Dogs interpret different tail wagging differently and react differently to different tail wagging.

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But there are a lot of questions. The first is the amount of tail wagging that is under the dog's conscious control. Many studies have observed that dogs wag their tails more than other dogs, especially their closest relative, the wolf (Canis lupus), but scientists don't know why.

One idea proposed by Leonetti and colleagues is the domesticated rhythmic vibration hypothesis. Scientists know that people's brains respond positively to rhythm, and since tail wagging is a rhythmic behavior, the authors suggest that people may, consciously or unconsciously, prefer dogs that wag their tails more.
Or the domestication syndrome hypothesis could also work. It's an existing theory: an unintended genetic link that emerges when domestication breeds specific traits. Characteristics of dogs that people wanted to breed, such as temperament, may have been genetically linked to tail wagging.

Tail wagging is ubiquitous among dogs. Surprisingly, this behavior is still mysterious in some ways.Source: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/why-dogs-wag-tails-communication-evolution

Tom Raimchen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, isn't sure about either hypothesis. He's skeptical that domesticated dogs wag their tails more than other canines. According to him, more research is needed to compare tail wagging in non-domesticated dog species and the epigenetic influences behind tail wagging in dogs.

An interdisciplinary approach can help with research such as neuroscience, cognition and psychology, Leonetti says. Since the process of domestication was also an evolutionary process in which humans participated, by observing the behavior of dogs and their wagging tails, we can also learn something about ourselves. Not only can we learn about dog behavior, but we can also learn something about them. Human psychology.

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(Source: Science News: https://www.sciencenews.org/)

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