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Dog wagging tail

Don’t we all wish dogs could talk? Well, they actually can (kind of). When you want to know what your dog is thinking, you should look at their tail for a hint. A dog’s tail helps keep them balanced on land and in water, but most importantly, a dog’s tail is a communication tool. People and other dogs can get an idea of what a dog is thinking and feeling based on the position, movement, and speed of the dog’s tail.

It would be great if dogs were always happy, but sadly, that is not always the case. Even a wagging tail does not always indicate happiness. Instead, a wagging tail may be trying to show aggression, fear, or alertness. Here is a guide for understanding what your dog’s tail wags might be trying to tell you:

Wagging All Over

This is the dog that greets us when we come home. It’s the full-body excitement we know and love about dogs. When a dog’s tail is wagging so much that it makes its whole body move with excitement, this dog is happy as can be. This dog is happy, excited, and wants all the attention they deserve. We wish dogs could always feel this way. A wagging tail does not always indicate happiness, but when it is combined with the full-body wag and grin, this dog truly is happy and excited. Feel free to pet and snuggle them!

Straight Up in the Air and Still

If their tail is straight, still, and stiff, this dog is confident. This dog knows they’re a good boy. They are awaiting commands, or they are waiting for a reward for good behavior. This dog is alert and listening.

This tail position might also indicate that your dog is hunting or feeling dominant. If a dog is around other dogs when their tail is straight up in the air and stiff, they may also be feeling territorial. A high and stiff tail combined with bared teeth and a wrinkled nose may indicate some aggression. Give this confident dog a little space.

Low Wag

A wagging tail that is positioned low instead of upright indicates cautious excitement.  They are not trying to look intimidating, but they are alert. This pup is trying to figure out what to do next in this situation, but they are not currently showing aggression and dominance.

The speed of the dog’s tail may also be significant. A slow and low wag may indicate fear but also some aggression. Keep a distance from a dog with a slow wagging tail, especially if you don’t know that dog well.

Between the Legs

If a dog tucks its tail between its legs, this dog is scared. Instead of feeling aggressive when threatened, this dog is feeling anxious, scared, or sad. Tucking its tail between its legs is a way for a dog to feel like it’s protecting itself. Unlike when a dog is feeling dominant, this scared and submissive dog tucks its tail between its legs to prevent its scent from being released to other dogs, like a way of trying to hide. If you see a dog in this position, try to determine the source of its distress. If they are scared of other dogs, try guiding your dog away from the scarier dog. If there is no obvious source of fear or anxiety, this may mean that your dog is sad or possibly even sick. Your vet can help determine the cause of your dog’s distress and help make your dog feel better.

Now that you know what your dog’s tail might be trying to tell you, you are one step closer to reading your dog’s mind. Your dog will appreciate your care and attention. If you think your dog’s tail is trying to tell you that something is wrong with your pup, you can contact your vet for a check-up. Your vet will be able to determine if there is cause for concern.