Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

A dog wags his tail to communicate. He can’t wag his tail when he is alone, just like you cannot talk when you are alone, but does so to pass a message to living beings around him. Tail wagging can mean a polite smile to greet you, a sign that he has recognized you or to give a sign of happiness. A dog can also communicate an impending threat or a stressful situation.

Dr. Stanley Coren’s research suggests that tail height is a good indicator of a dog’s emotional state.

The tail’s position when the dog is wagging it may indicate the following dog behaviors:

  • Vigilance or agitation:  When a dog is alert, he stands with his ears up and raises the tail. This posture is indicative of watchfulness and readiness to deal with anything that caught his attention.
  • Concession: When dogs wag their tails and suddenly stops it, it may mean that he wants divert a warning. Most of the dogs do this when they are petted by strangers to communicate but they don’t want to interact with them.
  • Anger:  When a dog moves his tail from a natural position to a vertical one and/ or arches over the back, it is an indication that the dog may be aggressive. The higher the tail goes, the greater the threat.
  • Submission:  When dog wags their tail from the neutral position to a lower one, it means he is submissive and is not communicating a threat. If the tail is tightly tucked between the back legs, it means that the dog is scared. He perceives a threat and is begging not to be harmed.
  • Curiosity: Whenever a dog is prying about something, tail is held straight out in a horizontal position.
  • Cheerfulness: When a dog is feeling happy, his tail held in a neutral or slightly raised position and adds a healthy wag.

The rate at which the dog tail moves passes even greater communication Therefore different wagging speeds indicate different levels of communication as follows:

  • Excitement – When the tail is moving fast, the dog is more excited than when it is slow. Sometimes, the wag is so fast that it seems as if the tail is vibrating.
  • Insecurity– When a dog meets a new person and feels insecure, the dog tail wag is so slight that one cannot notice it easily.
  • Friendliness – When a dog is friendly, his tail will wag freely in all directions and even shakes his hips.
  • Aggression – When the tail wags very fast and the dog is holding it vertically, he may be a dynamic threat. So, in this case, a person can get seriously bitten by a dog that is wagging tail


Tail wagging is so significant that the direction of the wagging shows different messages. Dogs wag their tails to the right when they are happy and confident, and wag them to the left when they are stressed and frightened. Tailless dogs also communicate but have limitations. They approach other dogs or people vigilantly to avoid miscommunication. They also depend on other aspects of body language like ear position, and facial expression to communicate their intentions. It is therefore essential for everyone who has a dog to understand dog wagging as a means of communication and what each wag entails.

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