Why do dogs wag their tails?

Why do dogs wag their tails?

We always think of happy dogs as ones that wag their tails. But is that really why they do it?

Don’t just look at their tail

It might surprise you to know the facts behind why our four legged friends wag their tails. For example, did you know it’s almost as important to look at a dog’s posture as well as it’s tail movements to discover how it’s really feeling?

When a dog is wagging their tail it doesn’t always mean that they are friendly and fancy a stroke. It can, but again you have to look at the dog’s entire posture too.

If they’re lowering their front body towards the ground it can mean they want to play rather than have a fuss. And if they’re laid down but still wagging their tail it could just mean they’re happy and content as they are.

Balance and communication

A dog’s tail serves a number of purposes, it was originally there to assist with overall balance. This is the same for many animals with tails.

It stops your pet from toppling over when they make sudden twists and turns. It also helps them with climbing and leaping as well as walking along anything narrow.

Of course, a lot has changed since dogs first walked the earth, they’ve evolved and today their tails are used in communication too.

It’s something they learn to do to communicate with us and other pooches. If you ever watch a puppy, it’s common that they don’t normally start wagging their tails till they’re a month and a half old.

As our dogs grow they learn to wag their tails for all manner of purposes, including as a surrender sign when they’re losing a fight. Later in life, they then begin to wag their tail to beg for food from their parents.

So, what should we look for when our dogs wag their tails?

What the behaviour of a dogs tail means to us

Well, the speed it’s moving and its direction are both important. According to National Geographic’s report on a recent study following tail behaviour in canines has found that dogs’ tails typically go to the right when they are happy and to the left when they’re scared.

If their tail is going back and forth and it is high, then they are probably happy. If the tail is horizontal to the ground, they are being inquisitive. And if the tail is between their legs – as the saying says – they’re frightened or being submissive. A low wagging tail means your dog is worried about something.

Quick fact:

Did you know dogs don’t wag their tails when they’re alone? There’s no need to!


Got a feline friend too? Check out our other blog all about Understanding your Cats Body Language.