If you think that your dog wags its tail just because it’s happy to see you, then you’re mistaken.
Dogs actually use their tail to communicate in a number of different ways.
And if you truly want to understand what your dog is saying to you then you need to be able to answer the question, “Why does my dog wag its tail?”
Why does my dog wag its tail?
If you watch your dog, you’ll see that under normal circumstances they hold their tail in a certain position. This natural position varies from breed to breed but it always indicates that they’re relaxed and happy. For a lot of breeds, the natural tail position is down by their heels. But for others, pugs for example, the natural position is curling upwards.
If your dog is being submissive or is otherwise feeling nervous, then they’ll hold their tail in a lower position than their natural one. And if they’re really scared, then you’ll see their tail tucked right down under their body.
And if they hold their tail straight out, this means a dog is showing that they’re curious.
So a dog’s tail and the way they hold it really does convey a lot of information about the way that they’re feeling. And the same is true of tail wagging too.
A wagging tail doesn’t just mean happiness
We tend to think that when a dog wags their tail this means that they’re showing us how happy they are. This isn’t necessarily true though – it can mean a whole range of different things, for example:
- Puppies will use their tail to communicate with their mother and their litter mates. For example when the puppies are playing, if the play gets a bit too rough for one of the puppies they’ll wag their tail to indicate they’ve had enough; kind of like waving a white flag. And puppies will also use tail wagging to show their mothers that they want food.
- If your dog is wagging his tail to the right-hand side, this often means they’re showing that they’re feeling happy and/or excited. Alternatively, if they wag their tail to the left-hand side, this often shows that they’re feeling stressed and nervous or something’s wrong.
- Another reason why dogs wag their tails is to help spread their scent. Your dog’s anal glands give it its own individual smell. You’ve probably noticed that when two dogs meet they tend to hold their tails high (unless one of them is being submissive). Holding the tail high puts pressure on the anal glands and causes their scent to be released. This is why dogs start sniffing each other’s butts when they meet – they’re investigating the smell and will use it later for identification.
- If your dog wags their tail slowly, this can indicate that they’re not feeling confident and are unsure of the situation they find themselves in. It tends to be a sign that a dog is feeling insecure.
- If a dog is holding their tail high while they’re wagging it, and especially if only the tip of the tail is being rapidly wagged, this often indicates domination and is a sign the dog may become aggressive. It’s important to note that a happy and playful dog will also hold their tail high. But in this case, they’ll wag their tail much more energetically than an aggressive dog.