10 things you likely didn't know about dogs' tails

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10 Things You Didn't Know About Dogs' Tails

Tail wagging has long been associated with a pup's mood, but the fascinating -- and often telling -- things about the appendage don't stop there.

Here are 10 things you didn't know about dogs' tails.

Number 10: They don't wag them when they're alone, not even if they're in the presence of a big, juicy unattended steak and their favorite chew toy. Researchers have found it to be a behavior exclusively exhibited when around others.

Number 9: Chasing one could be a sign of a deeper issue. Experts say dogs that regularly run around in circles in pursuit of their own tails could be suffering from OCD.

Number 8: Tails were originally used as a balancing aid. Historically, they proved particularly useful when dogs were walking along narrow paths. Such an assist isn't needed much any more, but many canines have found other uses for them.

Number 7: Each wagging direction is governed by its own brain hemisphere. Whether it leans more to the left or the right depends largely on which mood, and thus which side of the brain, is dominant.

Number 6: Rightward wagging communicates happiness. When good moods prevail, the left side of the brain takes over and controls the right side of the body, including the dominant tail movement direction. A leftward leaning indicates that fear and anxiety are the probable emotions ruling the situation.

Number 5: Dogs can pick up on the wagging direction noted in No. 6. Canines are able to recognize and interpret the bearing differences. Dogs exhibiting the happy right variety are deemed approachable, while the lefty waggers are not.

Number 4: Tail shaking is an acquired skill. Puppies begin to learn the ins and outs of it when they're ready to start communicating. That's usually around the month-and-a-half mark, and they start by "tail talking" with mom and their siblings.

Number 3: They can come in handy when swimming. Some dogs are able to use their tails to navigate in the water, and retrievers tend to be especially good at it.

Number 2: The tail is an extension of the spine. It's much more flexible, however, and has its own set of muscles, anchors and discs. The tail is also more exposed and active than the backbone, so there's a greater chance of injury.

Number 1: The term 'hair of the dog' comes from the tail. Back in the day, Pliny the Elder said that the way to get rid of rabies was to put ashes on the wound. Not just any ashes, though -- the remedy dictated that they be made from the tail hair of the dog that bit you.

Which tail fact do you find most interesting?

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