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Dogs are known to clearly show whether they are afraid or unafraid with the posture of their tails during a conflict.

How and why is this beneficial?

My limited understanding makes me feel that, in any social setting, disclosing whether an actor is afraid or unafraid would almost always be unfavourable for the actor. Is this incorrect?

Isn't it better for the less confident dog to try to bark out the stronger one and if it doesn't work then simply walk away, rather than broadcast that it is afraid of the stronger dog?

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It is better for animals to broadcast their qualities, and size one-another up before risking injury in conflict. As pack animals, dogs are particularly sensitive to where they are placed in a hierarchy. So it is better for them to telegraph their qualities than to engage in conflict that may hurt them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Dear Karl, Thanks for your answer. Isn't is better for the less confident dog to try to bark out the stronger one and if it doesn't work then simply walk away, rather than broadcast that it is afraid of the stronger dog? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ it may be difficult to run away after you've just found out the hard way barking doesn't work... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think that it is wrong to think that dogs do not have any emotions, or complex social strategies. However, it is a common mistake to think that dogs are like humans, only not quite as smart. We place our feelings and strategies on them, because they are our companions. But I don't think they engage in the kind of complex mental "chess" games that we do. $\endgroup$
    – Karl Kjer
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak I understand. What seems surprising is that, rather than running away immediately, dogs continue barking even after broadcasting their low confidence. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ @RiteshSingh I would presume that there might be some unconscious tradeoff game - bark might indicate that dog would fight if it is inevitable but the posture indicates it would rather not. $\endgroup$
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 16:32

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