It’s a common belief that dogs wag their tails when they are happy, but that is not always true! So what can we tell from their tails?
Dogs communicate with their tails and, based on the position and motion of their tails, we can learn a lot about their emotional state. Tail wagging is an instinctive behaviour that develops between three and four weeks of age depending on your dog’s breed and is one of the primary communication methods to both other dogs and people.
Each dog has a natural, relaxed tail position and, this varies between breeds. If their tail is lower and tucked under their bodies, this can indicate that they are feeling nervous or submissive. If you notice a small, throbbing wag or twitch, at the same time, this can indicate that your dog is contemplating a fight or flight response.
If their tail is held higher or horizontal, this indicates that your dog is feeling curious. A tail held vertically, or high and rigid, indicates a feeling of aggression. In this situation, it is best to give the dog as much space as possible and time to calm down before interacting with them.
While wagging does indicate excitement, it can also mean that your dog may be unpredictable. You may notice this when you have a visitor to the house or your dog notices a bird in the yard.
How your dog wags their tail can also reveal how they are feeling. Studies have shown wagging to the right indicates positive emotions and wagging to the left indicates negative emotions.
In addition to their tails, look at your dog’s body language as dogs use their entire bodies to communicate with us. Also, look at the situation or environment to understand what your dog may be feeling.
Where the answers to the question “why do dogs wag their tails?” is usually communication-related, there is a whole range of other useful things that they can do too! Dog use their tails as a rudder when they’re swimming in the water, and it is key for their balance when they’re running as it allows them to take tight turns without falling over.
How amazing are dogs?!