Can you decipher a dog tail message?
Dogs use canine body language to communicate. Why do dogs wag their tails, and do you know what your dog is trying to say if the seat is low, high, stiff, or wagging fast? Wondering why does my dog wag her tail when I talk to her?
Any of these questions is worth careful research. After reading this article, we hope you’ll say: “I want to write my dissertation about it!”
The dog’s tail position, type of movement, and speed carry a critical message you must understand as a dog owner.
Learn how to read dog tails
Happy dog tail message
- A wagging tail spreads your dog’s scent from its anal sacs. The higher the tail, the stronger the scent, and the more it gets wafted around.
- A happy, playful dog will hold their tail up high, and it will be wagging! Similarly, a happy cat also holds its tail straight up.
- A dog tail wagging in circles shows the dog is happy or excited.
- A dog wags its tail while lying down.
- When your dog stands tall, tail held high with slow sweeps; they are secure, confident, and proud.
- A relaxed dog allows its tail to follow its natural curve or curl over its back.
Nervous, submissive, or aggressive dog tail message
- A wagging tail does not mean they are happy and friendly.
- A dog tail held up and still shows the dog is nervous or wary.
- A tail held rigidly and straight out says the dog is nervous or uncertain. Puppies often do this when they investigate something new. For example, a newly introduced robot vacuum like the Roomba pet vacuum can make your puppy feel this way.
- A tail positioned low and slowly wagging tail usually means the dog is unsure or worried. You know the look. It’s the one you get when you come home and discover some “accident.”
- A tail held horizontally — upright to rigid — means your dog feels threatened or challenged.
- A tucked tail- held between the dog’s legs- communicates fear, stress, and submission. Your dog is trying to appear smaller and is covering their anal sacs. Anal sac release volumes of information your dog tries to “delete.”
- When your dog takes a lower stance, tail down and tucked, yet wagging quickly, they are nervous and stressed.
- When the hair at the base of the tail stands up high, your dog is on alert.
- Aggression is usually communicated with a tail rigid and straight out level with the body. Some dogs make deliberate, rhythmic sweeping motions, almost like the tick of a clock. Be cautious; that motion is sometimes, unfortunately, confused with a wagging tail.
Dog tail history
Before dogs became domesticated, most had large, bushy tails like wolves. Then a dog’s tail was crucial to his survival.
But the tail was necessary for other uses, too.
A dog’s tail is used for counterbalance when running, turning, leaping, climbing, swimming, and walking narrow paths, ridges, or trails.
In some breeds, a large, bushy tail is crucial for insulation. A general rule of thumb is the colder the climate, the larger and bushier the tails. When a dog sleeps in the cold, it will curl up and wrap its tail around its face and nose to conserve body heat.
As dogs evolved, their tail changed with their human companions’ migration, tinkering, and tweaking. They become rudimentary, docked, narrowed, tipped, otter shaped, and even corkscrewed! As dogs evolved, the dog’s tail changed with the migration, tinkering, and tweaking of their human companions. There are almost as many different types of dog tails as there are types of dogs.
Some breeds, primarily those that herd, are born with a rudimentary tail, which is nothing more than a flap of fatty tissue if even that! For example, many Australian Shepherds are born without tails. They may not have tails, but that fatty tissue, the hair on end, and the wiggling butt will let you know what’s going on in their head.
Hunters found their dogs were easier to follow, and they killed fewer of them if they could see a white tip. So, they fine-tuned that need with selective breeding. Today, many hounds and sports breeds proudly wave that white flag tail as they zip through fields and woods.
Tails bred away or docked are not so much for looks but because they were considered on-the-job hazards. It was one thing less for an opponent or predator to grab, and it avoided the mess of tangles, burrs, and hitchhikers.
At one time, a dog without a tail was considered a working dog and therefore was not taxed!
Today, in Europe, it is illegal to crop the ears and dock a dog’s tail. Nevertheless, unfortunately, many owners insist it is done here in the United States. It is unnecessary, painful, and dangerous.
Learn to decipher a dog tail message — the tail is the crucial tool your canine uses to communicate. By learning how to read your dog’s tail and understand dog tail wagging meaning, you will better be able to meet your dog’s needs. And your dog will be so proud of you for being bilingual.
Karen A. Soukiasian owns Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.