What’s in a wag? A lot apparently

It has always been assumed that a dog’s tail wagging madly is their way of expressing happiness. Apparently there is more to the story than we thought.

According to researchers, the simple tail wag should be broken down. For instance, direction of wagging is important. When a tail is wagging primarily to the right, they are expressing positive emotions like happiness. When said tail is wagging more to the left, they are expressing negative emotions like sadness or feeling threatened.

Other dogs understand the difference and it influences the way they respond. Now we humans are catching up.

If you want to verify the emotion they are expressing, you can then just look at their face. In another study, participants were able to correctly identify a range of emotions in dogs based on their facial expression.

Perhaps most surprising is that those with little experience with dogs were just as good, if not better, than those who had experience with dogs. They accurately judged a dog to be happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared, suggesting that we are naturally attuned to how an animal is feeling.

Of course, we dog lovers knew this one already. We can communicate with our furry friends without so much as a word.