What does a wagging tail mean?? I’m sure by now most people have heard the old “a wagging tail doesn’t mean they are happy”. So what does it mean? How do you know a happy tail from a sad tail??. Can you trust a wagging tail??
I’m by no means an expert: just a fool with a dog, a lot of curiosity and a laptop (and a growing interest in K9 Psychology). SO if you can tell me anything to the contrary or add to my knowledge base I will always listen. From what I understand Tail Wagging is communication. But the common understanding is it’s not always happy communication. It’s a mixture of signs and signals that convey the dog’s feelings and state of mind. Apparently, dogs don’t wag their tails unless there is another living creature around so rather than just self-express it’s an intentional act of communication. But how do you know what your dog is communicating?? My boy wags when we come in from work, when we give him fuss, when he greets another dog and when he watches the world from the living room window. He will also give a slight wag when he sees things that I know he has a negative reaction to.
According to my web searches tail language can depend on breed so there can be miss communication between dogs. So much like the miss understanding between a Southerner and a Northerner a Welsh Collie may not always understand and interpret the waggings of an Irish Wolfhound. I kind of like the idea of two Pugs looking at each other and asking one another “what on earth did that Labrador say?”.
Apparently, the height a tail is held can also offer insight into the intensity of their emotions: the higher the tail the more heighten the emotional state. Alert and dominate equal a high tail but also a very excited pooch. Submissive and anxious a then dog displays a low tail. I know my dog is more likely to misbehave when his tail is high in the air, he mostly misbehaves when he has got a little too excited when playing. Whereas a mid-height tail seems to be a very happy but calm DogDog!
Research suggests tail wagging with a bias to the right is largely positive. Where as to the left is usually a sign the dog is unsure or unhappy. This is probably because the left hand side of the Brian, which controls the right-hand side of the body, is involved in processing positive emotional. This is good news to me! When we come in from work we have very right sided tail wag! Another thing I came across was a fast tail wag is generally a positive one, big broad strokes are also generally a sign the dog is unthreatening or happy. But a slow wag is a sign the dog my not wish to be friendly and my need a bit of space. Some dog’s tails will also fluff up when agitated.
Much like human body language you can’t take the dogs tail in isolation. The rest of the body will give clues to the dog’s state of mind. If presented by a dog who’s wagging his tail but baring his teeth, clearly, I won’t be wasting my time on working out if his tail leans slightly more to the left or right! I’m out of there! A full body wag is usually a very happy wag; and is completely hilarious and heart-warming. I love it when Duke’s tail wag travels all the way to his nose.
Where did I do my research??