Decipher What Your Dog Is Saying With His Tail

The Way the Tail Wags

Not all wags mean a friendly dog. The type of wag that indicates a happy, relaxed dog is usually a sweeping tail wag that moves from side to side at a height close to the dog’s relaxed tail carriage. An exuberant, joyful reaction would be a tail wag that beats back and forth with gusto at a fairly neutral height, with the dog's hind end often wagging back and forth in unison and the tail possibly even moving in a circular fashion.

Keep in mind that a friendly dog may not wag his tail, while a tense dog may. An insecure tail wag is usually held low and may tick back and forth slightly or swiftly. The low, insecure tail wag could mean the dog is unsure about a situation; this wag may be a form of submission, or the dog may be conflicted and may bite.


Believe it or not, the direction your dog’s tail is wagging toward you or other family members may indicate the way he feels about you, according to a study from Italy published in Current Biology. The study showed that when dogs were attracted to or wanted to approach a person or stimulus, their tail wagged with bias to the right, while dogs that were fearful or wanted to withdraw from a person or stimulus had their tails wag with bias to the left.

Though it’s fun to try to guess what our dogs are feeling with their tail language, it’s absolutely essential to look at your dog’s overall body language to truly decipher what he may be feeling. One small slice of a dog’s body language will not tell the full story.


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