Most people think that a dog whose tail is wagging is a happy and friendly dog, but they are sadly mistaken and reading dogs tail is vital. Misreading a wagging tail can lead to disastrous results, so learn dog tail language.

Have you ever made this mistake with a strange dog? Or, what about your own dog? 

There are different indicators about a dog’s tail that’s wagging and whether it’s a friendly wag or one where he’s getting ready to possibly attack.

Why is Dog Tail Language So Important

A dog somehow communicates through his tail, and it’s up to you to interpret and understand what he’s trying to say or how he’s feeling. Reading a dog’s tail is vital before approaching it.

dog tail language

A Wagging Tail Doesn’t Mean a Friendly Dog – Reading a Dog’s Tail

For one thing, tail wagging is an expression of social interaction – a social signal, if you will. You’ll never find a dog wagging his tail when he’s alone, as he has no one around to whom to display his emotions.

Read also: Bichon Frise Housebreaking Tips and Other Training Tips

Three Indicators to Consider in Dog Tail-Wagging

Knowing Dog Breeds

First is the position of your dog’s tail. One would have to know a breed well enough to know what the normal position of a dog’s tail really is before determining the dog’s emotional state.

If the tail is high, it typically means aggression, while low means submissive.

Keep in mind that different breeds hold their tails at different heights.

Exercise Extreme Caution with a Vertical and Stiff Dog Tail

For example, a vertical, stiff dog tail requires caution. As its position moves downward, it signifies some type of challenge that could lead to aggression.

A horizontal, yet stiff, dog’s tail is indicative of a curious and interested dog.

The calm and relaxed state is conveyed when the tail position is at its normal level. Unless of course, it’s true natural position is quite high, as in the case of a Labrador or a Chow.

dog tail language

On the other hand, a Whippet and a Greyhound hold their tail normally at a relatively low position. For someone who doesn’t understand how to read a dog’s tail might misinterpret this signal might.

Fear and anxiety is indicated in a tail tucked under the body. However, it may be hard to read these signals in dogs with short or curly tails.

Anxiety is demonstrated in curly-tailed dogs when they straighten their tails.

Reading the Dog Tail Movement

Secondly is the movement of your dog’s tail. You can actually tell how your dog feels by the way it moves its tail. (You must be looking at the dog from the rear position to interpret these signals).

  • If a dog is wagging his tail to the left, he may have conflicting feelings.
  • Wagging his tail to the right means he’s pleased with someone or something.
  • If the dog is introduced to another dog and he’s wagging his tail to the left, then he is experiencing negative feelings about this introduction.
  • However, if he’s wagging it to the right, when viewed from behind, then it means your pal is or pleased.

Reading Dog Tail Swagger

Thirdly, it’s about the swagger of the dog’s tail. Of course, this is judged in accordance with the movement and the position of the tail.

  • A tail that wags quickly means he is excited.
  • A broad wagging of the tail means he’s friendly.
  • If his tail wag is broad in addition to wide swings with his hips means he is extremely happy.
  • A slow tail wag is indicative of some insecurity.
  • One that is rapidly moving indicates that he’s about to do something.
  • A vibrating tail held high is almost surely an indication of an active threat.

Learning Dog Tail Language Keeps Everyone Safe

If you know what you’re looking for and are capable of reading a dog’s tail, you’ll be able to fully understand what he’s communicating. In doing so, you’ll know if someone else is in danger of being attacked by your dog, or if your dog is in danger by another dog.

Being informed with dog tail language will keep everyone safe, but since breeds have varying natural tail positions, it does require some education. Now you know that a wagging tail doesn’t mean a happy dog.

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