Why Do Dogs Have Tails?
I'm Jane Lindholm On this podcast, you ask the questions and it's our job to find interesting people to answer them. In this episode, we're talking all about dogs. Now, if you WANNA learn about cats check out our companion episode that episode includes some amazing facts about how cats communicate with humans in a special language they make up with their own individual human family. But in this episode, we're going to stick to barks instead of meows. Lots of your dog questions had a common theme you to know about some of the ways that dogs are different from humans. Jessica Heckman is a veterinarian and a dog researcher and she has a blog called the dog Zombie because she's obsessed with dog brains studying them not eating them anyway I. Guess You could say she's a dog scientists and she's here to answer your questions. Our first one comes from Margot who is five and lives in Amherst Massachusetts. Why did Adopt Tales That's a great question Margot whenever someone asked a question about why does one type of animal look one way and is set up one way and why is another type of animal built a different way the way I like to think about it is talking about that difference why? Why what we use it for? So dogs ancestors, wolves, ancient wolves had to run to catch their dinner and tales helps them balanced when they ran so that was they had them back. Then and dogs some dogs still do have to run as part of their job, right? Like she herding dogs have to do a fair amount of running but dogs also use their tails to communicate. So that's another good reason they have tails. They don't use noises quite as much to communicate as humans do but they use body language a lot more than humans do. So with dogs a tale, it's really high means I'm confident a tale that's held low means I'm. Nervous a tale that's really clamped rate underneath there but means please don't smell my but right now and also I'm really scared and then a wagging tail something all really familiar with because it can mean that the dog is happy but also you can see it in angry dogs I would just caution you to be really careful when you see a wagging tail overall, we try to look at the whole dog, not just the tail to interpret body language but the tail. Is definitely a very important part of the dogs tools for speaking why might dog wag its tail when it's happy or when it's mad? Why would drag tail for both possibilities I think from the dogs perception that they might be seeing something different from a wagging tail than we do. They have this very complex set of tools that they use in body language and we as humans because we're not dogs. We just have trouble fully interpreting that and so I think that. A. Wagging. Tail. It might look a little bit different to them with the dog is happy than if the dog is angry and we as humans might just not be able to perceive those differences. And sometimes, I think a dog who is angry or alarmed or considering that they might possibly by you will wag its tail almost as an appeasement gesture to say like Hey I'm not a threat I'm not don't hurt me but they might still be thinking I'm kind of scared of you and I'm prepared to bite if you come any closer. So it's just It's just always important to look at the whole dog to look at his face and his eyes, and you know how he's holding the rest of his body and not just the tail hello money aller five, six years old I live in Falls Church Virginia and my question is why thumbs up partner Paul. Hi Alex well I think dogs have their thumbs up on their paws to keep them out of their way because they are basically walking on their hands rates they're using their four limbs for something differently than what we use them for horses by the way have taken this to extreme they walk just on the tips of their middle three fingers. Into hooves. So I almost feel like it might be a better question to say why are human thumbs so far forward rather than why our dog thumb so far back we're actually the ones that are unusual. Because humans and other primates like monkeys and apes we have this unusual hand that we use to hold things because we evolved to climb rate, and so we would use our hands to climb up a tree and then humans are thumbs are are even more different than in other primates because we have these very complex hands that are good for really delicate work like holding pencil and things like that. So we're actually the unusual one but yeah, they they walk around their paws obviously and they don't want their thumbs to get in the way.