Do You Think Tail Wagging Is an Invitation to Pet More? You Might Be Wrong!


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Do you feel happy whenever your dog wags its tail because it seems to be happy? Have you noticed your dog growling or cowering but also wagging its tail? Have you been confused whether your dog is happy at times, even though it is wagging its tail? Unlike popular belief, tail wagging in dogs does not always mean that the dog is happy and cheerful. So what does a tail wag really mean?

What does tail wagging signify?

Just as humans have verbal and nonverbal language for communication, dogs used sounds, their ears, and their tails to communicate. If your dog wags its tail, it means that your dog is feeling one of these things:

  • Fear or insecurity
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Challenge
  • Warning
  • Aggression

As you can see, a tail wag can mean a lot more than just happiness and joy in your dog. Do you want to be able to better interpret the various tail wags that your dog uses so you can understand what your dog is feeling?

Interpreting a few common tail wags

Here are a few common tail wags that most dogs use to convey how they are feeling in a certain situation. Tail wags may be accompanied by other body language and sounds.

  • Excited wag: This is usually when your dog is happy. The tail is held higher than usual and wagged from side to side. Your dog may wiggle its butt along with its tail in this tail wag, showing you that it is happy.
  • Friendly wag: This is where your dog is not completely sure of the situation but does not feel threatened. The tail is held at normal height and wagged slowly a few times. The tail wagging may be accompanied by small barks and short breaths.
  • Scared, nervous, or anxious wag: If your dog is holding its tail lower than usual and slowly wagging it, it may mean insecurity or nervousness. If the tail is firmly tucked between the legs and the ears are turned back, it means that your dog is really scared and wants to be out of that situation.
  • Challenging or aggressive wag: In this tail wag, the end of the tail is moved rapidly so that the tail seems to almost vibrate. If the tail is held at the usual height during this wag, it signals aggressiveness. However, if the tail is held high in this tail wag, it means your dog is challenging and ready to fight.

It is important to understand the body language that your dog uses so you can ensure your dog always feels safe and happy. It will prevent you from unknowingly putting your dog in scary, uncomfortable, and dangerous situations and keep your dog out of harmโ€™s way.

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