Do you want to know Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail? The secret to interpreting your dog’s emotions? Keep reading to discover my top 3 indicators to achieve this by gaining an understanding of your dog’s behavior.
While a dog’s message can only be fully understood by looking at his entire body language, the tail offers significant clues to how your dog is feeling. The wagging of tails is one of the most visible and well-known ways dogs use to clue people and other animals in on exactly what’s going on with them.
So Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail ?
There are several reasons why your dog wags its tail. Let’s find out what they are and what you need to understand in order to interpret what your dog is communicating to you, and others, in his environment. Tail wagging is a social signal for dogs and is an expression of social interaction. Dogs do not wag their tails when they are alone. There is no need. There is no one around to display their emotions to.
There are three indicators to consider in determining your dog’s emotional state.
- The position of your dog’s tail
- Movement of your dog’s tail
- The swagger of your dog’s tail
All three indicators will become clear to you as you progress through this article on Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail.
- Indicator number one – Position of your dog’s tail
Let’s first talk about the normal position of your dog’s tail and why it is so important. To put simply, high is aggressive and low is submissive. The position of a dog’s tail, the height at which it is held, up or down, is a form of communication. You need to know your breeds well before interpreting what emotions your dog and other dogs are conveying with their tail.
Let me explain.
Breed makes a difference. Positions of a dog’s tail should be read relative to the position where a dog normally holds its tail because breeds carry their tails at different heights. Why is this important? The position a dog normally holds his tail suggests he is calm and relaxed.
The normal tail position of a dog shows his calm and relaxed position. If a dog’s tail is held vertical and stiff, he is saying back off or suffer the consequences. As a dog’s tail position moves down, it is a sign he is conveying a challenge that could lead to aggression. If a dog’s tail is held horizontal, and stiff, then this dog is interested, attentive, curious, and alert.
As the tail position drops lower, it is his calm and relaxed position. This is where your dog normally holds his tail. Unless, your dog’s natural position is held higher as with the Chow, Lab, Shar-Peis, Beagle, and Terrier breeds, to name a few. Greyhounds and Whippets tend to carry their tails fairly low, in a position that would signal nervousness in the other breeds that normally hold their tails higher.
The tail tucked under the body, is a sure sign of fear and anxiety, regardless of breed. Curly tailed dogs show signs of anxiety by straightening their tails. Fearful dogs tend to bite so approach these dogs with caution as well.
What is the normal tail position of your dog? You now know what it means if your dog’s tail is higher or lower than its normal position.
- Indicator number two – Movement of your dog’s tail
Now let’s talk about the movement of your dog’s tail and what it means. Other dogs know exactly what your dog is feeling, even from a distance, by the position and movement of your dog’s tail. Dogs generally wag their tail to the right of their hind quarters when something is particularly pleasing; and to the left, when they have negative feelings. I am talking about the dog’s left or right viewed from the rear as if you were facing in the direction the dog is viewing.
This added communication helps you to assess a situation when your dog greets a new dog or person. Is your dog’s tail wagging to the left of his hindquarters? If so, this is an indicator that your dog has negative feelings about the encounter. You should be concerned and use caution to avoid a situation where someone could possibly get hurt. Is your dog’s tail wagging to the right of his hindquarters? This is an indication that your dog is pleased and not threatened by the encounter.
- Indicator number three – Swagger of your dog’s tail
Your dog’s tail swagger correlates with his tail position and tail movement. If your dog’s tail is wagging fast, he’s excited, a slight tail wag is a tentative greeting, a broad tail wag is friendly, a broad tail wag with wide swings of the hips from side to side is a very, very happy greeting, a slow tail wag is a sign of insecurity, and tiny, high-speed movements is a sign your dog is about to do something. If the tail is held high while vibrating, it is most likely an active threat, unless the breed’s normal tail position is high, which means he’s just excited and in his happy place.
Now let’s recap.
Knowing what to look for in a dog’s tail can help you determine if you should approach a dog or stay away. It can also let you know if your dog is in danger of being attacked by an oncoming dog before it is near enough to impose a threat.
In general, depending on the breed of course as mentioned throughout this article, a low set tail signifies relaxation and calm, or fear and anxiety. A mid-set tail means the dog is curious and alert. A high-set tail means the dog is excited, defensive, or aggressive. Couple these positions with tail movement and swagger and other dogs are able to know exactly what your dog is feeling, even from a distance.
Since different breeds have natural tail positions that vary, a person should always be aware of the breed of dog they are assessing. This means you have to know your breeds fairly well before using the dog’s tail as a way to read their emotions.
When a dog is happy and content, his tail is in its natural position and wagging.
When a dog is interested, attentive, curious, or alert; he holds his tail either in its natural position or higher, possibly even over his back. His tail is rigid and immobile.
When a dog is excited, his tail is held high, it may or may not wag.
When a dog is defensive or aggressive, his tail is high and rigid, sometimes flagging or quivering at the end.
When a dog is submissive, fearful, or scared; his tail is held low or tucked between his legs.
Hope you enjoyed this segment on Dog Behavior, specifically on the topic of Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail and hope you walked away with something of value. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to my email list, Dog Behavior Videos. Thank you so much for reading. I look forward to seeing you in my next article. Please like, share, comment.
By understanding canines and their behavior, you will be able to connect with them on a new level and gain their trust. Series 5 focuses on providing pet owners with answers to why dogs wag their tail. Learn more about this common behavior and other dog behaviors
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