Dog Tail: Understanding Your Dog

The team at WINPRO Pet is determined to learn as much as we can about our precious pets. We know, just like you do, that the relationship between a human and their dog is one of the most special relationships that anyone can experience. 

There really is no one on Earth that “gets” us like our dog does, and no one we love quite as unconditionally. Understanding your dog from their wet nose to their sweet dog tail can take your relationship up a level and make you a better dog owner. We wanted to start at one end of that before working our way up, so we wrote this blog all about what paying attention to their tail can do for your understanding of your dog. 

How Dog Body Language Can Help

When it comes to figuring out what your dog may be thinking or feeling, it really all comes down to animal behavior. Lucky for all of us, there are people who study this for a living and can really help to give us some insight. 

Animal behaviorists are one of your best resources for not only learning about your dog but also giving you the keys to making their life better. They can also help you curb problem behaviors by understanding them, which can help you tackle the actual reasons they’re happening.

When it comes to animal behavior, dogs are actually a lot more complex than we give them credit for. Even though they can’t use English to explain their feelings (which is probably a good thing, if you think about it), they use their entire body to communicate. 

Through their postures, their facial expressions, and even their vocalizations, dogs can just as effectively communicate as a lot of people can! It comes down to learning how to read and decipher them. 

How To Interpret Your Dog’s Tail Movements

It wouldn’t be a conversation about how to interpret your dog’s body language without actually discussing what they mean! While we can’t discuss every single motion that they make, we can talk about the most important factors to help you decipher them.

So… tail wags seem like they’d be pretty obvious. A wagging tail always equals a happy dog, right? Although that can definitely be the case, it isn’t always. Not taking the time to really figure out what your dog’s (or any other dog’s) wagging tail means can actually put you in danger if misinterpreted. 

It’s best to think of a wagging tail as a sign that the dog is somehow emotionally involved in the situation. This doesn’t always mean that they’re excited about it. Tail wagging can also be a sign that the dog is frustrated or angry. 

To really figure it out, take it one step further and pay attention to the small details - where exactly your dog is holding its tail, how fast it is moving, and which way it is wagging. 

The Position Of Your Dog’s Tail Speaks To Their Confidence Level

When it comes to positioning, you’ll look at where it is located in relation to the ground. The higher their tail is, and the further it is away from the ground, the more confident that they’re feeling. A dog with his or her tail held high is feeling assertive, while one with their tail tucked between their legs is probably afraid or stressed.

How Fast The Dog Tail Is Moving Relates To How Engaged They May Be

After paying attention to where your dog is holding their tail, the next factor to consider is how fast it is moving. You don’t have to break out your radar to officially clock it, but it should be pretty obvious overall. If it is swinging back and forth wildly, your dog is fully alert and engaged in whatever is happening around them. 

However, that doesn’t always mean that they’re happy, so keep that in mind. If it’s moving slowly, they are more likely to be feeling relaxed. And if it seems to be held stiffly, that’s usually a sign of aggression.

The Direction Their Tail Is Wagging Can Give You Even More Insight

Interestingly, there has been a lot more interest put into what the actual direction the dog tail is moving in means. Take this study, for instance. After research, they came to the conclusion that a dog who is wagging their tail more toward the right side of their body is likely to be feeling positively. The flipside was also found likely to be true, a left side wagging tail indicates that the dog is going through something they feel negatively about. 

Then there’s the famous helicopter tail. This is almost always an indication that your pet is thrilled with whatever is happening, which is usually you getting home from a long day at work!

Keep The Whole Body Approach In Mind

Now that you know more about dog tail movements and what they may mean, you’re good to go, right? Not so fast! While the tail can tell you a lot about how your dog is feeling, it won’t tell you the whole story. What if your dog has a slightly raised tail that they are quickly wagging to the right, but are staring at you with bared teeth? 

You have to take the time to evaluate all of the signs your dog is giving youto be confident that you’re truly understanding what they may be trying to tell you. Things like your dog’s health and wellness, particularly if they’re suffering from any conditions that may make it difficult to wag their tail comfortably (like joint discomfort ), can also change the way that they are able to express themselves. 

In Summary

Understanding your dog happens from their nose to their tail. Taking the time to study your dog’s body language, and paying attention to the ways in which they try to communicate their feelings to you, can really help you both to respect each other better and live together in harmony. 

It’s not just about the particular dog tail that you’re watching, it’s about what it can tell you and how you can use that information to increase your bond. We want to help you in any way we can here at WINPRO Pet, because we love our dogs just as much as you do yours. The human/dog bond is one of the best in the world, so make it as great as it can be!



Sources:

What Is an Animal Behaviorist? Here's What Dog Owners Should Know | AKC (akc.org)

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails? | AKG (akg.org) 

Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli | Current Biology