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Investigating dogs' emotional responses to tail-wagging behaviours of other dogs

M. Siniscalchi, R. Lusito, G. Vallortigara, A. Quaranta

DOGS are known to show asymmetrical tale-wagging responses in different situations. Stimuli that would tend to elicit an approach response, such as seeing its owner, are associated with a higher intensity of tail-wagging on the dog's right side whereas stimuli associated with withdrawal responses, such as seeing a more dominant dog, cause dogs to wag their tails more intensely on the left side. This study aimed to experimentally assess whether dogs can detect this asymmetry in other dogs and, if so, how it affects them.

Forty-three domestic dogs of various breeds were included in the study. Dogs were presented with moving images of other dogs displaying three different types of tail-wagging behaviour: right-sided, left-sided and no tail-wagging. Some dogs were shown naturalistic films of other dogs, whereas another group was shown computer-altered films that had been digitally transformed into just a silhouette, in order to remove any cues other than tail-wagging. During the experiment, the dogs' heart rates were recorded using a wireless device, in order to try to assess any stress response. All dogs were filmed throughout the experiment and the films …

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