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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2007

Tail-Waggers with a Message

Why do dogs make great pets? There are many answers, but one important answer has to do with dogs’ tails. For example, tails help dogs keep their balance in high-pressure situations. When a dog is running and has to turn suddenly, it throws the front part of its body in the direction it wants to go. Its back bends, but its forward push pulls the hindquarters in the original direction. Without a tail for balance, the dog might topple over. The dog uses its tail just as a circus tightrope walker uses a balance beam.

What about the tail-wagging? You may have a pet dog that wags its tail—a lot. Have you ever wondered why that tail constantly moves, or why it is occasionally still? It’s not an easy question, but scientists believe that dogs use their tail to communicate to other creatures, similar to how humans use facial expressions and “body language.”

Wagging tails don’t always mean friendliness. A tail may be wagging but still be very stiff—usually a sign that the dog senses hostility. A friendly or curious dog’s tail wags in wide sweeps, hanging down (also, its ears are down and its fur is smooth). If a dog is afraid, he probably will let his tail hang low or keep it tucked between its legs.

A dog cannot talk, but its tail speaks volumes about the impossibility of evolution. We’re thankful that God designed animals with such fascinating characteristics for our enjoyment and study.



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