Decoding Your Dog’s Tail

Originally when I started this blog, I was just going to talk about why some dog’s have curly tails. But, in the process of researching this, I came across a much more interesting subject. An article from the Austin Humane Society about what your dog’s tail is telling you!

Apparently a dog wagging his tail is not always a friendly dog. A wagging tail can communicate several emotions. Personally, I have several smiles. In fact I have several laughs as well. I smile and laugh when I am happy, nervous, and beyond angry. It would make sense that a tail wag has variations and means very different things.

Here is what the Austin Humane Society has to say about decoding tails!

Tail Direction

Let’s start with the tail. Did you know that you can tell if a dog feels positively or negatively about an item or person, by the way they wag their tail? A dog who wags their tail more to the right side feels generally positive about someone or something at hand, where as a dog who wags their tail more the left feels negative about it.

Friendly Tails


The dog’s tail position, movement speed, and tail stiffness all communicate a great deal about the dog’s mood. For example, a relaxed, happy dog will have a tail that is loosely wagging and will hold the tail at body level (unless the dog breed has a tail with a naturally high curl). This dog is calm and is in the proper mood to greet strangers or children.

A dog who is extremely excited to see a specific person will sometimes do what we call a “propeller wag”, where the tail goes in a full circle. If you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this wag, you know you’re an extremely special person in the eyes of this dog.

A dog whose whole body is wiggling and wagging is extremely excited and happy, but should calm down before interacting with children. Still, this is a happy, friendly dog.

Unfriendly Tails


If a dog’s tail is held high above it’s body and is either still or moving stiffly, this is a warning: back off. It is important to note that some dogs have tails that naturally curl above their bodies, so it’s particularly important to note the tails movement in those cases. You should not approach a dog in this state, they are busy assessing what is going on to determine their next move.

Another clue that a dog is deciding what to think about a situation: slow tail wag and stiff body. Again, back off.

If a dogs tail is held high and either bristling, vibrating or wagging quickly and stiffly is a dog that might be ready to attack or bite. Avoid this dog.

Unsure or Fearful Tails


A dog whose tail is tucked tightly between its legs is scared and fearful. Fear can turn into submission or aggression, so it’s best to give this dog space.”

I sure hope all the dogs I visit wag their tails to the right when they see me. I will have to take note next time I see each of them.

The description of friendly tails really made me smile! It just got me thinking about all the happy, cute, and excited doggies I walk!

The unfriendly tails made think of a rattle snake. It is warning you that should not come near them. Isn’t it interesting how different species can share similar behavior patterns? I feel like it is always a good policy to let a dog come to you. Especially if you don’t know it.

I suppose I did know that a nervous dog puts its tail between its legs. I do think that it is a very good point to mention that a nervous dog can become aggressive. Really, it is a form of self defense.

I hope you felt that this was a fascinating read! I sure did!


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