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Curr Biol. 2013 Nov 18;23(22):2279-2282. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.09.027. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Seeing left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging produces different emotional responses in dogs.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Strada Provinciale per Casamassima, km 3, 70010 Bari, Italy.
Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Corso Bettini 31, 38068 Rovereto, Italy. Electronic address:


Left-right asymmetries in behavior associated with asymmetries in the brain are widespread in the animal kingdom, and the hypothesis has been put forward that they may be linked to animals' social behavior. Dogs show asymmetric tail-wagging responses to different emotive stimuli-the outcome of different activation of left and right brain structures controlling tail movements to the right and left side of the body. A crucial question, however, is whether or not dogs detect this asymmetry. Here we report that dogs looking at moving video images of conspecifics exhibiting prevalent left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging showed higher cardiac activity and higher scores of anxious behavior when observing left- rather than right-biased tail wagging. The finding that dogs are sensitive to the asymmetric tail expressions of other dogs supports the hypothesis of a link between brain asymmetry and social behavior and may prove useful to canine animal welfare theory and practice.

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