Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails

Canine body language is very interesting. There is so much you can tell about your dog based on what they do with their body. One of the most telling aspects of canine nature is how they communicate with their tail. Why do dogs wag their tails? Dogs are expressive creatures and use their tails to help communicate what they are feeling and convey as much information as possible.

Do Dogs Wag Their Tails Only When they are Happy?


It is hard to deny a cute, tail wagging puppy. However, people often wrongly assume that a dog with a wagging tail is friendly. In fact, there are a number of reasons why dogs wag their tails.

A dog’s ability to use their tail to communicate often depends on the type of tail they have and the most natural positions. The variations in their mood will often change the positions of their tails, and convey the reason why a dog is wagging their tail.

Types of Dog Tails

  • Tail hangs down between the lower thigh and pastern joint
  • Tail curls up and over their backs
  • Tail naturally tucks between the hind legs
  • Tail is naturally short or surgically docked

Positive Communications

If a dog is feeling relaxed they will often hold their tail in the natural position. Happy or contented dogs may gently wag their tails from side to side. If a dog is really happy or excited the wag will become more forceful, or might even sweep in circular motion. Newly discovered science also suggests that if a dog feels generally positive the tail will wag more to the right.

Mild Communications

If a dog is alert, the tail is likely to be held higher than usual, and without movement. A submissive and nervous dog will often hold their tail lower, or tuck it between their rear legs. It may even be wagging or quivering if your dog is anxious or stressed.

Negative Communications

Lastly, if a dog is really scared or startled, they will tuck their tail right up against their belly. When a dog is holding his ground they will hold their tail high and stiff, rigidly wagging their tail but no other part of their body moves.

Something interesting to also note is that dogs do not wag their tails while they are alone. This is because there is simply no point. If you think of a human nod of recognition, it is not something you would do without someone else present to nod to. The same would go for your dog and their wagging tail. Differing tail wags are social signals employed when someone else, human or canine, is around to communicate with.

Why do dogs wag their tails? Well the true meaning and purpose all depends on the position and pattern of movement. Wagging can be happy and friendly, anxious and insecure, or a warning for those who approach. To take in the full meaning, you may also have to take note of other body cues like the position of the ears, eyes, hackles, and even fur.



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

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