Left Vs Right. Does It Matter?

Dogs are my favorite animal.  I have wondered why dogs wag their tails.  Is there meaning behind left wagging or right wagging?

Not all wags are equal and some wags are a lot more welcoming than others.  Scientists have noticed dogs wag their tails more to the right when they see their owner or something else happy.  They wag more to the left when they see something like a dominant or unfamiliar dog.  The wag itself represents the emotional state of the dog doing the wagging.  When dogs wag their tails to the right or do not wag at all,  they show more relaxed behaviors and appear less stressed.

Wagging tails increase a dog’s heart rate and anxiety levels.  This happens when they see another dog wagging their tail to the left, new research has found.  Researchers don’t think that dogs are intentionally communicating with their tails in the way that some humans communicate with language.

Researchers don’t think that dogs are intentionally communicating with their tails in the way that humans communicate visually with sign language.  Instead, they believe it’s more of a byproduct tied to the inner part of the dog’s brain.  Nevertheless, the information is useful to dogs – and to humans – with the researchers calling on veterinarians to take note.

Most of us see a wagging dog’s tail and think it’s got to be a good sign.  Wagging = welcome, right?  Especially if it’s the kind of wag that’s knocking over small items.  But it turns out that not all wags are equal, and some are a lot more welcoming than others.  When shown a right wag or no wag, the viewing dogs showed more relaxed behaviors and appeared less stressed.  But when shown a left wag, the viewing dogs showed higher levels of stress, with tails tucked down, legs braced, whining, all the way up to running away.

The dogs that were shown the wag, are called the wagee.  While the wagees were all different breeds, the stimulus dog was only a single dog. The way the dog wags it’s tail could be important for both how we approach and how we work with dogs when trying to do things like socialize them with other dogs.  Is that tail going to the right or left?  If left, you could be in for a less friendly reception than you anticipated.


Do you know how to tell the difference if a dog is wagging its tail left or right? 

Can the dogs seeing the wagging tell the difference? 

Can a dog FAKE a wag, to, say, look less or more dominant? 

6 thoughts on “Left Vs Right. Does It Matter?

  1. This article was interesting because it shows more about how the family pet works. Most of us like dogs so it would be nice to be able to know more about them. They can wag their tail because they are happy and they would like to be petted. When they wag their tail, it could also be because they are tense or stressed. You would have to look at the way that the dog is acting at the moment to be able to tell the difference between the two.

  2. I found this post very interesting. I have noticed that my dog wags her tail when she is happy and when she meets other unfamiliar dogs, but I never thought about what it means emotionally, or about the direction it’s wagging. In the article I found, it talks about the many ways dogs can use their tail wagging to portray things, similar to the things in this post.


  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. This is definitely something that I will keep in mind and think about for a long time. I have two dogs at home and after reading this, I’m starting to see this in their actions. One of them especially has a very forceful tail and sometimes may knock over small children. This happens usually when he’s happy, which would code for a right wag. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/wag-dog-when-left-vs-right-matters

  4. Nice article. I thought it was interesting that the wagging to the left was a sign of stress. That was shocking to me considering I find it a positive sign on all occasions when a dog is wagging. I think that it is weird that dogs can get scared or anxious over another dog’s wagging. After doing some of my own research, I found out that the reason that dogs wag a certain direction based on their mood is based on the roles of the left and right side of the brain. Just like in every other motion, your left side controls the right side and your right side controls the left side. Negative emotions are picked up on the right side producing a left wag while it is flipped for right side emotions.

  5. This was a very interesting out of the box thinking post. I would never have thought that dogs use their tails to communicate. I researched some of your questions and found out that dogs use their tails to communicate in different ways. I also found out that certain wags can mean being submissive or dominant. There is also more meanings of the tail wagging then just mad or happy to see someone or something.

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