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Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Big tails, small tails, curly tails, straight tails, wagging tails – today we’re telling a tale of tails. When we picture a happy dog, we often imagine a bouncing canine, tail wagging enthusiastically as they greet you after a long day at work.

We assume that happy dogs wag their tails, but is there more to it? Why exactly do dogs wag their tail? More importantly, how can we better relate to them and learn more about their body language?

Tails are largely a means of communication.

Since our dogs can’t verbalize their feelings, they use a wide array of body language to communicate them, including the subtle tail wag. Tails can help balance canines while engaging in vigorous activity.  It also functions as a mouth piece for your dog’s state of mind.

According to an in-depth study of 43 dogs published in the Los Angeles Times, dogs predominantly wag their tails according to the brain’s hemispheres. This means a tail wag is associated with either the left side or the right side of the brain.

  • Tail wagging to the left means your dog is fearful or anxious.
  • Tail wagging to the right means your dog is feeling happy or has found positive stimuli.

If you’re a dog owner, you know there is more personality to your pup’s tail than the left and right swings. In fact there are many combinations, including the following common tail movements:

  • A slight wag with each swing of only small breadth usually communicates a tentative greeting or a hopeful “I’m here.”
  • A broad wag is friendly. It means “I am not challenging or threatening you.” This can also mean: “I’m pleased.” This is the closest to the popular concept of the happiness wag, especially if the tail seems to drag the hips with it.
  • A slow wag with the tail at half-mast is less social than most other tail signals. Generally, slow wags with the tail in neither a dominant (high) nor a submissive (low) position are signs of insecurity.
  • Tiny, high-speed movements that look like vibrating are signs the dog is about to do something, usually run or fight. If the tail is held high while vibrating, it is most likely an active threat. (Source).

Your dog’s tail wag really does show how they recognize and relate to the world around them. These details can help you understand and bond with your furry friend on a whole new level.

Got questions about your dog’s behavior? Don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!