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How to Read a Dog’s Emotions Through Their Tail?

Feb 28,2023 | Petbobi

They say money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag its tail. Well, we can think of at least ten other things that can set a dog’s tail in motion. Understanding the anatomy of dog tail signs is a part and parcel of living with a doggo.



What Tale Does the Dog Tail Tell?

Doggos do not talk like us, but they more than make up for it through signs and communication through their body parts such as ears, facial muscles and tail. They are constantly communicating with us, whether we notice it or not.

A dog’s tail serves 3 major purposes in a dog’s life:

  • It helps them communicate

You can easily get a sneak peek into your furbaby’s mind and emotions solely through the shape and movement of its tail. The tail never lies.


  • It helps them balance

Tails play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of dogs when they move, walk or run around too quickly, especially smaller dogs that are quick on their feet.


  • It helps them move around

Did you know tails help steer the dog’s body in the direction that they intend to go? Even during activities like swimming, their tails are hard at work along with their paws that are constantly paddling.  



Happiness is a wagging tail… But does a wagging tail always mean happiness?

A wagging tail is every dog parent’s favorite sight. But a wagging tail doesn’t always indicate happiness. Especially when living with a reactive dog, you would often find yourself in situations where your dog may be growling or snarling at another dog while wagging their tail. It is imperative to pay close attention to your dog’s body language and tail cues, particularly in conflicting situations.

Things may escalate from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. Observing and responding to dog tail signs is one of the ways to avoid things from escalating. It is also an incredible way to build a trusting relationship with your dog.

You may, at times, notice your dog’s tail tucked under and may wonder, “Why is my dog’s tail down?”

The short answer to this is that your dog is in distress. He may be scared, stressed, anxious or nervous and needs an immediate out from the situation. Respecting these boundaries by prioritizing their physical and mental needs is of utmost importance in order to raise a calm and well-balanced dog.



The hidden meaning behind the tail

The tail, in actuality, is made of several small bones that have excellent fluidity. They can take any desired shape from being tucked under to being upright in a matter of seconds. Let’s take a look at what every tail position indicates.  

  • A raised tail

An upright or raised tail is generally a sign of alertness in dogs. They could display alertness through a raised tail in simple situations like playing ball or chasing a squirrel, to complex situations like communicating with their humans during sporting activities like hunting.


  • Neutral

A neutral position or a slightly raised position accompanied by soft wags in line with his body indicates that the dog is happy and content.


  • Stiff tail

A stiff tail, generally in line with the dog’s body could indicate that the dog is tense or apprehensive about something. It is recommended to give this dog space and distance from its triggers to avoid escalation of any kind.


  • Low and tucked under

This is the most obvious sign of a scared or nervous dog. This dog tail sign is generally accompanied by other body language cues like avoidance, hiding, ears back, etc.


  • High with swift motions

This is often mistaken as a happy wag. A high tail that is wagging in a swift motion usually indicates tense body language. A dog would also display this body language when they are fixating on something.


  • Neutral to low

When the doggo’s tail moves from the neutral position into a lower one, it is a sign of submissiveness. This is generally accompanied by the pup’s bum up in the air, on the way to exposing the belly. They are never a threat in this position.


  • Neutral to vertical and arched

When you see your pooch’s tail going slowly from neutral to vertical, advancing into an arch and your dog is already in a tense situation, you can safely say that things have escalated and amplified in your dog’s head and may act aggressively any second. It is best to get them out of this situation.


  • Horizontally straight

When your puppy’s tail is horizontally straight combined with relaxed body language and sniffing, it is generally an indication of healthy curiosity.  This is most commonly seen in puppies as they are curious about everything.



Interpreting tail wags

A tail set in motion is not always straightforward to comprehend. The simplicity of the tail is inversely proportional to the emotions it can portray. Let’s take a look:

  • The circle, wiggly wag

This is the sight pet parents wish to see every single time they look at their little fur angel. When your dog is happy to see you or content with something, they will let you know with soft tail wags that are usually in line with their bodies.


  • Upright and swift wags

Upright or swift wags could mean a variety of things from alert to tense to hyper-vigilant. But it is usually when something has caught them off guard or is interesting enough to keep them fixated.  


  • Left or Right wag

Dogs may not be great with directions but their tails definitely are. Research says that their tails wag towards the right at the sight of a positive stimulus like their favorite toy or favorite human. On the other hand, their tails wag towards the left when they are anxious or apprehensive about something.


  • Tail low and wagging softly

A low, soft wagging tail often denotes fear or appeasement, a behavior displayed to communicate a desire to avoid a threat or confrontations of any kind.


A dog’s tail is undeniably a window to its soul. Make sure to pay close attention to decipher the tale of the tail.

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