What A Dog’s Tail Wag Really Means

Tail wags. They’re one of the many, many reasons we love dogs. There’s nothing better than coming home from a long day to be greeted by your loyal pup with his or her tail wagging like crazy. Why? Because we know it means they’re SO happy to see us! The trouble with tail wags, though, is the fact that we often only associate them with happiness, when in fact they communicate so many more emotions.

Assuming an unfamiliar dog’s tail wag means that it’s happy can actually be dangerous for all involved, as it may not be a “happy” wag and the dog may not want to be approached. When owning a dog and spending time around other dogs with your dog, it’s important to understand the language behind tail wagging for the safety of all and for the emotional wellbeing of your pup!

Greetings: If a dog’s tail is performing a slight wag, with small swings from side to side, it’s usually its way of saying “hello” or letting other dogs, animals, and people know that it’s present.

Friendly: You know a dog is happy if its tail is performing a broad wag, with big swings from side to side. This is the well-known wag that we all associate with a cheerful, friendly and energetic pup; the kind of wag that gets a dog’s hips moving too! With this wag, the dog is letting those around know that it is happy and doesn’t serve as a threat to those around it.

Insecure: A slow wag with the tail at half-mast is a sign that a dog is feeling insecure. The tail wags in neither a high and dominant position or a low and submissive position, therefore demonstrating that the dog isn’t sure how to feel about the current situation. This is a situation in which a dog should be approached extremely tentatively.

Sign of Action: You can tell a dog is about to do something, such as run or fight, if it wags its tail in tiny, high-speed movements. These movements will often give the impression that the tail is vibrating. It’s especially important to pay attention to these types of tail wags because a vibrating tail held high is likely an active threat. It’s best to keep your dog away from any dog performing this type of wag.

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