Why do dogs wag their tails?

wagging tail dog

There are few things more cheering than the sight of a wagging tail but what is your dog actually trying to tell you?  Certainly, it can indicate happiness but also a lot of other things as well!

  • A tail held high and vigorously wagged from side to side indicates its owner is happy and ready to play.
  • A tail held level with the body and wagged more slowly shows that the dog is in a situation where they are not quite sure what is going on but are interested and paying attention.
  • A tail held low and wagging only a little or twitching, is often showing that the dog is feeling threatened and you should approach and handle them with caution.
  • A tail tucked up and under the body means that the dog is frightened and showing submission.  With reassurance they may start to feel more confident but again, you should take care with them to ensure they don’t progress to growling, or even biting, to make the perceived threat retreat.

Of course, if you are trying to decipher what your dog is thinking, you need to look at more than their tails.  Facial expressions, ear position and body stance are all important ways they communicate with us.

Waggy tail facts!

Puppies don’t begin to wag their tails until they are about 5-6 weeks old and starting to interact with their litter mates.  They then start to use them to indicate they want to play and also as part of begging for food from older dogs.

A tail wagged more to the right indicates that the dog is happy and confident.  A tail wagged more to the left shows that the dog is feeling scared and may want to run away.

Tails are used for more than just communication!  Dogs need them to be able to balance as they run and jump.  If they go swimming, they will use it as a rudder!

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