Many people associate a wagging dog tail with happiness. While this might be true sometimes, dogs wag their tails to convey various emotions. The key is how a dog’s tail moves and its positioning. Learning these contextual clues can help pet parents understand their dog’s needs and respond to them more effectively.
The Neutral, Relaxed Tail Position
For a pet parent to understand what their dog’s tail wagging means, they first need to recognize their neutral, relaxed appearance. It varies from breed to breed. Golden Retrievers, for instance, have long, feathery tails that hang down near their heels when they’re relaxed, and Beagles hold their tails more vertically. Greyhounds have tails that curl under their bellies when they’re comfortable.
Some dogs don’t wag their tails like others. English and French Bulldogs, for instance, have very short tails. These dogs can’t wag their tails like a German Shepherd or Labrador, but they can wiggle them a bit to show emotion.
What Do Dog Tail Wags Mean?
A dog might not communicate with words, but they can still convey messages. Along with facial expressions and different barks, their tail position and wagging speed can offer clues about how they’re feeling.
Prepared or Agitated
Standing up straight with their ears and tail raised can indicate agitation or preparedness. The dog is on high alert, ready to face whatever caught their attention.
A tail that goes from neutral to vertical can mean a dog is aggressive. The dog may also wag their tail rapidly, and these movements let others know not to approach. Humans should be cautious around dogs showing signs of aggression.
Alternatively, a dog that’s acting submissive will lower their tail below the natural relaxed position. If the dog is scared, they’ll go so far as to tuck their tail tightly between their back legs. They’re trying to show they aren't a threat or are asking whomever spooked them (human or animal) to please not hurt them.
Many dogs feel unsure or insecure when meeting a new dog or human. They may show hesitancy or tentativeness by wagging their tail very slowly, and they may also have their tail lower than its relaxed position.
A happy dog will hold their tail in its neutral position or slightly higher. If they’re excited, they'll start to wag it. Generally, the faster the movement, the more excited the dog is. Some dogs, like Bulldogs, will often waggle their hips to indicate their joy.
Many dogs will hold their tails out in a horizontal position when they’re curious about something. Some will hold their tails still, while others may wag their tails slowly.
A dog that’s feeling friendly may hold their tail in a neutral or slightly higher position and wag it freely. They may also have a slight wiggle in their hips to convey that they’re in a good mood.
Understand What a Dog Is Trying To Say
Just because dogs can’t converse like people doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Instead of words, dogs rely heavily on body language. It’s up to pet parents to learn what their dog’s tail wags and other signals mean. They can help meet their dog’s needs if they know their body language.
For pet parents in need of dog advice to decode their dog’s body language, Fuzzy is here to help. For more information, visit us online today!