Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?
May 31, 2011 by Kevin Behan

The maestro bows to the audience, turns to the musicians on stage, raises his arms and..........................................with a swoosh of his baton the orchestra leaps to life.

When I was young I didn't understand why, other than getting everyone started on cue, the conductor remained necessary after that. The musicians knew the music by heart, at the professional level they were virtuosos, and they had the notes and the timing notations on a sheet in front of them, what was the point of all that hand waving and gesticulating? However after my stint in my high schools' choir the purpose of the conductor became quite clear, synchronization.

We can never go wrong by turning to the musical world for clarification of natural processes such as the nature of our dog's mind (musicians even refer to their instruments as having a temperament). The core principle of my theory is that all behavior is a function of attraction, even avoidance, "disinterest" and aggressive behaviors. However, even though two beings may be attracted to each other, in order for them to safely connect and interact, they must first become synchronized. The higher the emotional capacity of the individual and the greater the emotional conductivity of the moment, the easier this is to do.

An important term to musicians is "sympathetic vibration:" the classic example of which is taking two tuning forks of the same frequency; striking one and then placing it next to the other on a sounding board. Then, the fork that was struck is dampened and the other tuning fork can be heard vibrating in harmony even though it hadn't been touched. The state of one has transferred to the other by way of a sympathetic vibration.

So, in order for two dogs (or any two living beings) to synchronize, first they must be vibrating. We can't sync up if we can't feel the vibe. Enter the wagging tail.

There are two basic energy states of the animal body/mind as an energy circuit; it is either in an Open or in a Closed state; the body language of each being distinctive and obvious. Open = a relaxed posture and smooth, flowing movements arising from supple muscles. Closed = a stiff posture and tentative movement arising from tense muscles. The more energy added to an open mind, the more engaged it feels. The more energy added to a closed mind, the more tensed it feels.

If a dog is tense it's hard to sync up with it because when energized its body actions will exhibit rapid, spasmodic like vibrations. Thus when a dog's tail is stiff it's best to beware as there's a whole lot of energy being held back and it can prove imprudent to stick one's wet finger into such a hot socket. A super tight tail action indicates the strain of a lot of energy, but no emotional movement is going on. But in contrast, if the frequency of the vibration is periodic and expressed through a smooth wave action, this indicates an open mind, and I'm thinking here of a dog that puts its entire rear end into the wagging action. With such a dog it's easy for another to synchronize with it because it is inducing a sympathetic vibration in the observing individual and this can open its mind.

So dogs wag their tail as a visual means of syncing up with what they're attracted to, and this softens up the object of their attention inducing it to feel open, and from here the two are then able to align with each other and get along.

In modern evolutionary theory the notion of survival of the fittest is slowly but surely being replaced with the notion of survival of the most cooperative, and this speaks to why synchronization is adaptive. When two beings synchronize, they can not only combine their energies so that more force is available, but also this increase of force can be expressed in a more refined expression. This increase of energy and complexity is not a function of higher brain function, but of an emotional capacity, the ability to feel what another is feeling by way of a sympathetic vibration. So while books can be written on the intricacies of a dog's tail set and action as there is much more that can be said, one of the most important things about the canine tail, is that it is the most graphic and visible display of a dog undergoing the process of synchronization. A dog's tail action reveals the oscillations of an invisible tuning fork that lies at the heart of the canine temperament. And by the way, the human equivalent of inducing a sympathetic vibration in a dog occurs when we pat our side to coax a dog closer. It's not something we have to figure out, we simply feel it as we tune into a dog from the vantage point of an open mind. Indeed, everything about why-dogs-do-what-they-do is mirrored in why we humans do-what-we-do as well.

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I love this article. It is so well-thought out. I stumbled upon it while writing an article about an exercise I do for back pain called "Wag Your Tail". I wanted to see what people have to say about why dogs wag their tails, especially in relation to mobility and back pain. I got more than I bargained for in this article. I hope you don't mind, but I quoted you extensively in this blog post: http://www.empowernetwork.com/appasionata/blog/healing-yourself-part-one/
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Dog of the Week!