Dogs are social creatures that use a combination of body postures, facial expressions, and vocalization to communicate. Like any other animals, dogs communicate through eye contact, ear position, and tails. When being defensive or aggressive, they make eye contact while tending to back off. When they are in an alert mood, their ears are held straight-up and the tail has certain movements.
Tail-wagging is a canine way of communication that can be easily noticed. Many dogs have either bushier tails (like Pomeranian, Havanese puppies) or lighter undersides or contrasting colors that outline this part of their body.
In the canine world, tail-wagging spreads into the air the pheromone scents from a dog’s anal sacs which is inside the rectum. The pheromones are used as a way to communicate specific information from dog to dog. Dogs with docked tails (like Yorkie and Toy Poodle puppies) also wag their tails, although these are harder to be noticed.
Specialists in animal behaviors discovered that the tail wag is an intended gesture for another creature, either animal or human. Dogs tend to wag their tails according to their breed and temperament. There are some movements dogs generally use such as hip-gyrating or tail-twirling. There are dogs that wag often, while others are more reserved, without being unfriendly or unhappy.
Depending on the tail position, body language, and facial expressions, a tail wag can have different significances. A tail wag can be a sign of friendliness or may indicate dominance, aggression, uncertainty or submission.
Canine behavioral researcher, Julie Hecht, and Duke University professor of cognitive neuroscience, Brian Hare, have researched on the most frequently met weird dog behaviors and explained their meaning.
If a dog keeps his tail in a natural position, he is calm and happy. The position of a dog’s tail varies depending on the breed. Specific dog breeds have tails that naturally hang behind their legs, while others have tails that curl up over their backs. When a dog keeps his tail in a natural position and doesn’t move it side-to-side, he is in a good mood.
A friendly manner to greet someone is to wag the tail in a neutral position, sweeping back and forth. Generally, happy dogs that want to express their excitement use a more rapid wagging. When being accompanied by a play bow and elbows on the ground, a dog may invite you to play.
A tail held high that keeps wagging stiffly and a tense body, with legs spread, and the head held high is a sign of a dominant dog.
An erect tail kept over the back with tension that twitches should be a warning. Usually, the body posture denotes confidence and the dog stares and bares his teeth, growling or barking. In such situations, it is advisable to avoid the interaction because the dog is likely to bite.
A tail held between the legs, with its tips moving quickly is a sign of submission. Generally, the head and ears are retracted, and the lips are drawn back from the teeth.
Tail-wagging can also indicate an anxious or confused mood. A dog that experiment this state usually looks up, with a questioning and expectant allure, sweeping his tail in a slow movement.
When wagging his tail, a dog uses a neutral, horizontal position, then it gets higher, meaning he is excited. An alert movement indicates he is aggressive. If it starts from a neutral position and the rhythm decreases, the dog is probably unsure or scared.
Studies showed that the direction in which a dog wags his tail can indicate his emotional state, depending on the side of the brain that controls the emotions he is feeling at that moment.
Movements to the right are triggered by the left part of the brain which is associated with positive feelings and control, while movements to the left are triggered by the right part of the brain which is associated with withdrawal or flight response.
For example, when a dog meets his owner or a strange person, it tends to wag his tail to the right when facing the person. When he meets an unfamiliar dog with an aggressive posture, he tends to wag to the left.
A dog that moves his tail up may be indicating that he is more assertive or dominant. When he moves his tail down, he is always submissive.
Another important factor is the speed of the wag. A higher intensity indicates strong emotions, either positive or negative. A slow-moving indicates that the dog is calm and curious, and you can safely approach him.
There are also specific conditions related to dogs’ tail. One of them is known as happy tail and consists of getting the tail injured from banging it into things. When it recovers, and the wounds are cured, the tail is harmed again.
Another health condition is the limber tail, also known as swimmer’s tail or cold tail. It refers to the limp that follows a vigorous swimming as a result of the loss of circulation to the muscles. It is usually fixed within 2 or 3 days. If it takes longer to recover, then it might indicate a neurological issue or a fracture that need to be checked by a veterinarian.
Troy works as a Marketing Specialist for https://premierpups.com. He takes great pride in partnering with the best certified breeders in Ohio to offer the highest quality, cutest puppies for adoption. He looks forward to sharing his love for pets with people through the agency. Anyone who knows him, knows how much he loves his dog, who he rescued from a shelter a few years ago. He keeps thinking about getting him a playmate. With every litter of Pomsky puppies, he struggles with not taking one home!