Why A Dog Wags His Tail
from Things To See In Springtime
There is an old story that the Dog said to the Cat: "Cat, you are a fool; you growl when you are pleased and wag your tail when you are angry." Which happens to be true; and makes us ask: Why does a Dog wag his tail to mean friendship?
The fact is, it is part of a wig-wag code, which is doubly interesting now that all our boys are learning wig-wagging with a white flag. We think that our army people invented this method; but Woodcraft men know better.
First, notice that any Dog that has any white on his body has at least a little white on the end of his tail. This is well known; and the reason is that the wild ancestor had a white brush on the end of his tail; a white flag, indeed; and this was the flag of his signal code.
Suppose, then, that a wild Dog, prowling through the woods, sights some other animal. Instantly he crouches; for it is good woodcraft to avoid being seen and then watch from your hiding-place. As the stranger comes near, the crouching Dog sees that it is one of his own kind, and that it is needless to hide any longer; indeed, that it is impossible to remain hidden. So the moment the stranger stops and looks at the crouching Dog, the latter stands straight up on all fours, raises his tail up high, and wags the white tip from side to side in the sign which means, "Let's be friends."
Every Dog knows the sign, every Dog in every town does it yet; every boy has seen it a thousand times. We flatter ourselves that we invented the wig-wag code with our little white flag. Maybe so; but the Dog had it long before we did.
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