Dogs Tail Wagging (Robotic and Otherwise): an Update

Back in 2010, Improbable reported ongoing investigations regarding tail-wagging in robotic dogs. We can now provide readers with an update, thanks to researcher Stephen Leaver, who has posted a video of Robodog in action via his research lab webpage. The accompanying paper : ‘Behavioural responses of Canis familiaris to different tail lengths of a remotely-controlled life-size dog replica.’  (Behaviour, 145: 377-390) described how Robodog’s tail was actuated by a remote controlled electric motor which wagged it (whether long or short) at approximately 1Hz (i.e. one wag per second). But leading Improbable to wonder whether, in the real world, dogs with short tails might tend to wag faster than long ones? And, if so, what might be the behavioural implications? We are still unenlightened even after consulting what is perhaps the pièce de résistance of scholarly articles on dogs’ tails.

ETUDE ETHOLOGIQUE EXPERIMENTALE DES BATTEMENTS DE LA QUEUE CHEZ LE CHIEN DOMESTIQUE, Canis familiaris (An experimental  ethological study of tail wagging in the domestic dog Canis familiaris), by Antoine BOUVRESSE, Thèse vétérinaire, sous la direction du Professeur Bertrand L. Deputte (ENVA / Paris XIII). (provided in French). For although the paper examines wagging in the greatest of detail – including vertical, horizontal and asymmetrical wagging – it doesn’t (appear to) correlate tail length with wagging frequency. A parameter which surely might be of importance to observer dogs?

Readers comments and observations are, as always, most welcome.