Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Dog Wagging Tail
Is Brutus really happy to see you when you come home because his tail is wagging furiously? Or does it mean something else? That’s a question asked more frequently about dogs than anything else, ranking first in Google’s 2015 list of dog things that people searched for.

While dogs actually do use their tails to communicate, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean that Rover is happy. That tail is only part of the communication and it’s important to look at the whole dog before you reach down and pet your neighbor’s pooch. A dog that is tense, has its ears pinned back, or has stiffened muscles is telling you to back off, no matter what his tail is doing.

Dogs wag their tails to communicate to people, other dogs and other animals. Tail wagging can mean the dog is agitated, angry, annoyed, hungry, and, of course, happy. A dog wagging its tail to right (as seen from behind the dog) is happy, but if it is wagging the tail to the left, it is frightened.

If the tail is high and wagging back and forth, your fur baby is a happy dog. But if the tail is tucked between her legs, she is either being submissive or is scared. A dog wagging its tail low is worried or feeling insecure, while one keeping its tail straight out is curious about something. A tail held vertically is a signal that she is aggressive.

Here are a few interesting facts about tail wagging:

  • Dogs don’t wag their tails when they are alone.
  • Most puppies don’t begin wagging their tails until they are about 6 weeks old.
  • Dogs use their tails for swimming and to keep their balance while running.
  • A dog’s tail wags faster to the right when they see someone they know – but more slowly when they see a stranger.
  • Every breed of dog carries its tail a a different height and position. A beagle carries its tail straight up while a pug has a curled tail.
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