What Is Your Dog’s Tail Telling You?

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Dogs might not be capable of forming sentences, but they have loads of ways of communicating with us. From their tail, ears, eyes, and bark, they have a lot to say.

Our dog’s tails can speak volumes about how they feel, but in the end, it’s up to us to interpret what they’re trying to tell us. To assist, here’s a brief little guide to help understand what various wags can mean.

Consider These Signs

When we want an idea of how our doggo is feeling, consider tail placement as well as movement. The way a dog holds its tail, and how fast it wags it, are excellent indicators of happiness, stress, or other moods.

Dogs with long tails make reading their feelings easy, while breeds with shorter tails can be a little more challenging. The general indicators are still evident, because all tails are just an extension of the spine. As we spend more time with our dogs, we eventually gain more expertise at interpreting their various backend contorts.

Tail Motion

The way doggos wag can indicate different feelings, ranging from glee to anxiety. Consider the following types of wags in order to help determine how your bestie feels.

Broad Body Wag

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

When our dogs greet us with their tail swinging big from side to side, it’s probably safe to say they’re glad to see us. Big, wide strokes, particularly when coupled with a slight bow of the head and swinging of the backside – are usually pretty good signs that our dogs are pleased to see us.

Fast Wags

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

Dogs can also show enthusiasm with a quick-moving, spastic tail, but it could also be an indicator of nervousness, depending on the situation.

For example, our dog might wag its tail like crazy when we return home. But  some dog that doesn’t know us in the park might have a quick, shortened wag to say it’s not certain who we are, and that it’s ready to defend itself if necessary.

Slow Wags

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

Generally, a slow, uncertain wag is a signal that a canine is anxious or doubtful about a situation. This behavior is perfectly normal for submissive dogs when encountering new animals, people, and even large or unfamiliar objects.

Wags to One Side

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

Dogs that wag their tails to the right might feel quite different than dogs wagging their tails to the left. A research study conducted by Current Biology indicates that the direction of a tail wag could be a sign of what a dog thinks.

This study suggests that a wag more to the right is an indication of a mellow dog, whereas a wag more to the left could be an indication of nervousness or stress.

Stiff Tails

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

A tail with little or no motion might be another sign of the way a dog feels. Stiff tails might be an expression of caution or alertness, like when a dog hears an unfamiliar sound and seeks to identify it. A stiff tail could also signal vigilance about a possible threat. If so, consider other warning indicators such as narrowed eyes, raised fur, or other combative body language.

Placement of the Tail

Where our dogs place their tails could mean as much or more than how they wag. Placement of tails can communicate different things, but they generally fall into three categories.

Tails Up

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

If a dog is holding its tail high, it’s usually an indication of awareness, dominance, or confidence. A high, still tail is an indication that a dog is feeling like top dog and is proud of showing it. A high wag is usually an indicator of cautious optimism.

But, this demonstration isn’t necessarily a friendly sign. If you’re near a dog you don’t know, a high tail could indicate that it’s eyeing you and saying it’s in charge.

Tails Down

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

A low tail typically indicates that a dog is nervous or intimidated, especially if it’s beginning to curl between its legs. In this situation, the down tail is an indicator of submission around people and dogs, and can be a sign that it’s fearful. When a canine’s tail is down, refrain from sudden moves that might startle it.

Tails Horizontal to the Ground

What Is Your Dog's Tail Telling You?

Generally, a tail that’s horizontal with the ground indicates a neutral or indifferent attitude. This position usually means a dog is curious and is deciding what to do next.

Every Tail Tells a Different Story

Remember that every dog is different. Just like humans, dogs differ in their personalities, and this can have a bearing on their tail position and movement.

A submissive doggo might say hello with a slow, steady wag, while a high-strung canine’s tail might wag out of control. Eventually, you will be able to understand your fur pal’s body language and better interpret his or her mood.

What’s your dog’s tail telling you?


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