Why do puppies wag their posteriors? You expected Google- here’s the answer | Jules Howard

Every day millions of parties request Google lifes most difficult questions. Zoologist and scribe Jules Howard refutes this one

As luck would have it, this is rather a prescient question for me right now. At home, we are attempting to coax a neurotic four-year-old out of a dog-bite shunning proficiency that works as follows. Upon interpreting from great distances any four-legged animal that may or may not be a pup, the four-year-old explains an flee response that involves her climbing the torso of the very near adult and roaring an ear-piercing lyric of horror that is deeply flustering to her zoologist father-god. Her new-found fright of puppies is comprehensible, however. Our pet “cat-o-nine-tail”( he of” milky-eyed motherfucker” popularity) is now no more after being killed by two huskies that had escaped in the night from their owners. While interpreting this news to the four-year-old, the two specific terms “DOGS” and “KILLED” seem to have become clogged-up somewhere in the digestive arrangement of her cognition, hence the sudden phobia which we are working hard as their own families to resolve.

Tail wagging, I tell her( as she climbs me like a tree upon meeting a hamster-sized bichon frise puppy approaching at our neighbourhood ballpark) is a good show of the friendliness of a dog. Dogs with wagging tails are the friendly ones, I say. Don’t be scared of the wagging ones, I tell her. But … well, you and I know that this dog control advice is a bit of a fudge. Like a situation, a wag decorates a million words. But not all of them are love stories.

To get a feel for why pups wag their posteriors, it helps to remember that hounds are mammals well adapted for sociality. This is because in wolves( from which pups advanced) a sincere threat to life is living alone. In very few clients does it help for a wolf to be ostracised from the group. This is because lone wolves are treated with deep angst by other wolf packs, who are eager to defend their territories. For instance, territory engages may be behind up to 65% of wolf fatalities in some populations in parts of the US. To stay alive, men must fit in. And to fit in, social animals must signal their contentment- their goal not to rock the boat.

A dog’s tail is, quite literally, a happy pennant. The more the flag wavings, the more everyone knows a dog is happy and content and obviously in no way seeking to overthrow the alpha raise duo and start a vicious turf conflict leading to local societal collapse and the canine equivalent of a season of Game of Thrones.

Greyhound
‘ The degree at which the tail is held too tells its own narrative .’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

In this respect, a dog’s fanny wag is like two baboons grooming each other or a bonobo’s kind offer of mutual masturbation to its neighbour. Each of these social modifications serves to lubricate( stop saying that) social cohesion in their respective species, eliminating the likelihood of loneliness and/ or bloodshed.

The four-year-old gives me a space look when I tell her about bonobo practices, so instead we stress again and again the meaning that a wagging bird-dog is a happy puppy. Yet, deep down, I know that it isn’t always that simple. As with human smiles , not every wag is well-meaning. For instance, tush wagging can also be used as a practice to expose panic or insecurity or a tail humorist can be used as polite” I’m a bit annoyed”- the kind of smile issued by middle-class people in Waitrose being told the machine giving away free coffee is terminate. It’s a sort of smile that … isn’t. This kind of wag is a bit hard for most four-year-olds to understand, which stirs acts a little more troubling.

The degree at which the posterior is maintain also tells its own tale. An erect wagging tush braced high up in the air, for instance, shows that a hound is aroused by something and may be more likely to erratic responses. A tail sustain securely backwards and gently wagging may display gentle curiosity. A dog with its fanny between its legs doing a apprehensive little waggle tells its own floor. Are you obstructing up? Good. Because there’s the rapidity of wagging to consider as well. Minuscule pulsating wags are a signal that the dog is considering” crusade or flight” responses whilst the large-scale, wide-ranging wags are the canine equivalent of lesbian abandon.

And did I mention the direction of wagging? A wag that is bent round to the right expresses positive sensibilities. A wag bent more to the left may indicate clues of nervousness or stress. Oh, plus these tail-wagging behaviours can be a bit breed specific so some multiplies have been multiplied to have naturally high wagging fannies and others low-pitched wagging tails. Still saving up? No, me neither.

Dog-lovers like you and I, we just … instinctively know when hounds ogle friendly and approachable. In age, we become able to read that strange shared mammalian expression and meet comparings with our own. We have, after all, a nervous and curious and sometimes vindictive joyous flag – it’s just that “were talking” and snack( and giggle and sing) through ours. For me, this is the magical of animals: that upon contemplating them we ensure so many similarities with ourselves, mixed with a blurry intricacy of elusive otherness- the grey-haired nonsense of zoology.

I won’t despair too much of the four-year-old just yet, hence. Like a primitive zoologist, she’s going her eye in- discover the ropes, reading the signs and understanding the rules. She’ll get there in the end, I hope. She’s got the genes for it. She’s a social mammal, after all.

* Jules Howard is a zoologist and author

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