A Dog's Tale
A dog’s tail often says more than you might realize. You might think that every time a dog’s tail is wagging, they’re happy and that every time a dog’s tail is down and between its legs, they’re sad. This is certainly not the case! There are many different meaning to the movement and position of a dog’s tail, and here are a few of them:
Up and swinging - ‘I’m happy.’
When a dog’s tail is up and wagging, that means they are happy and content with their current environment. A fast wagging tail normally indicates a friendly greeting and are happy to see you. A slower wagging tail can mean the opposite.
Lowered tail - ‘Don’t touch me.’
Tails that lay low indicate timidness and nervousness. You might not want to approach dogs with lowered tails because they can attack to protect themselves. Dogs who have not been socialized with other people or dogs might have a hard time interacting with others.
Downwards tail - ‘Okay, you win.’
If you catch a dog’s tail between their legs, they are frightened and will most likely not make eye contact. They will attempt to hide behind something to feel safer to avoid interaction. If they feel threatened in any situation, they will express submissive behavior by tucking their tails between their hind legs.
Upright and held high. - ‘Don’t bother me, I’m busy. Wait.. what’s that?’
Dogs’ tails will shoot straight up when they are paying close attention to their surroundings. This indicates alertness and will react to what they see. For example, if they spot a bird in the tree in the backyard, their tails will raise and ears will be stern to help them listen and see what’s going on in the tree. If their tail is raised and slightly moving side to side, do not bother them. This means they are about to attack and can possibly hurt you.
Stiff tail - ‘I’m alpha.’
If a dog’s tail is upright and not moving, they are trying to show dominance. The stiffer and raised the tail is, the more confidence they have in themselves. This can also signal tension in the interaction, and if agitated the hairs on their back will stand up straight.
If you pay close attention to their tails, you can understand what they are trying to tell you. Of course, all dog breeds, temperaments and personalities can influence how they express themselves. Dogs such as pugs have curly tails and would be harder to determine how they feel. Docked tails can also hinder communication between other dogs. However, tails are not the only way you can read a dog, other means of body language such as ears and eyes play important factors as well.