When ‘Wag The Dog’ Is Not A Distraction

In the volatile, vitriolic political climate we live in these days, the catchphrase ‘wag the dog’ probably resonates as much today [if not more] as it did when the iconic black comedy film of the same name was released in 1997.

The term references an age-old tactic used by politicians when they want to create a distraction or diversion from topics they don't want the public to know about. However, in the canine world, a wag means just the opposite. A dog’s wag is a greeting, a plea for attention, a happy time . . . not a distraction.  With a wag of the tail, our canines are communicating in a very special way. So today’s blog will dig a little deeper into why our dog’s wags are worth a thousand words.

Origin of the Term

The title of the aforementioned film was derived from the idiomatic English-language expression “the tail wagging the dog.” There isn’t a specific incident that it refers to, but there are many instances of it in print in U.S. publications from the 1870s onwards.

The earliest citation that I could find was from The Daily Republican, April 1872:

  • "Calling to mind Lord Dundreary's conundrum, the Baltimore American thinks that for the Cincinnati Convention to control the Democratic party would be the tail wagging the dog."


In the late 20th Century, it was later referenced in the opening of the above-referenced movie:

  • Why does the dog wag its tail?
  • Because a dog is smarter than its tail.
  • If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog!


So WHY does the Dog Wag its Tail?

According to animal behaviorists, dogs express their feelings with their wags substituting for words

In a research study by Kelton Research, it was noted most dog owners emphatically believe they can communicate with their canine pets even though they don’t speak the same language. This puts a whole new wrinkle on the ole adage: “silence is golden.”

Pet owners expressed confidence they know what their pups are thinking, even in the absence of words. Almost three in four (74 percent) respondents agreed their dog's body language or facial expressions better indicate how their pet is truly feeling than barks or other sounds. Seven in 10 (70 percent) respondents also said there have been times when they shared a meaningful look with their canine companion which was instantly understood.

Overall, pet masters also estimated they knew what’s on their pups' minds nearly half (49 percent) of the time.

Dog owners, weigh in . . .

Like the musical refrain from that iconic TV show of the 70s, similar to Mary Tyler Moore, can your dog, “turn your world on with a smile” . . . erh wag?  Without saying a word, do you feel your pooches are there for you during good times and bad?

Can they sense your moods? Do they know when to pour on the charm offensive and comfort you when you’re feel down, or out of sorts? Are they capable of wagging their owners into submission more often than naught? Weigh in and let us know what you feel about your dog's tail wagging?