Why a dog wags its tail

Cos

Interesting story from dogasaur.com about the reasons why a dog wags its tail and the numerous meanings behind them. Check it out if you are a dog lover.

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from dogasaur.com:

Why Does A Dog Wag Its Tail?

by Dogasaur on December 13, 2010

Why Does A Dog Wag Its Tail?

By Jennifer Nicole Cox, Author, Dog Lover and Dogasaur Blogger

Tail wagging is a behavior closely associated with dogs.  The exact reason why dogs wag their tails may not be entirely clear, but it does seem to be connected with a desire to communicate information to other members of the pack.  Dogs wag their tails to provide social cues.  Some animal behaviorists suggest that dogs wag their tails to indicate submission.  However, this is unlikely to be true because a wide range of dogs wag their tails in different situations.

A dog will wag its tail for a person or another dog, but when the dog is by itself, it won’t wag its tail to any lifeless thing.  If you put a bowl of food in front of your dog, it’ll wag its tail to express gratitude.  However, if your dog walks into a room and finds his bowl full of food, he’ll approach the bowl and eat the food just as happily, but with no tail wagging.  This is one indication that tail wagging is meant as a form of communication or language.

Tail language has three different channels of information: position, shape, and movement.  Movement is an extremely important aspect of the signal, especially since dogs’ eyes are much more sensitive to movement than they are to details or colors.  This makes a wagging tail very visible to other dogs.

Many dog owners think that a wagging tail means a happy dog, but is it really that simple?  What else does a dog’s tail tell us?

It takes both time and observation to understand the body language of your dog.  Fully understanding what your dog is telling you is important for building a close relationship between the two of you, and for evaluating whether a strange dog is friendly or potentially dangerous.

A dog’s tail is used for communication in several different ways:

  • A confident and alert dog has their tail upright and may be wagging it with slow sweeps.  Depending on the breed, their tail may naturally curl over their back when held upright.
  • An enthusiastic wag indicates excitement or anticipation of something delightful, such as a treat.  A slow wag indicates that the dog is pleased.  How quickly a dog wags its tail depends on breed and personality
  • A relaxed tail indicates a relaxed dog.  A tail that is held horizontally without being stiff indicates that the dog is interested in its surroundings.  A tail that is held horizontally and is stiff indicates that the dog is confronting an intruder or new object.
  • A fearful or insecure dog will have their tail lowered or tucked in between their hind legs.
  • An aggressive dog will usually have an erect and motionless tail.

Besides expressing emotion, tail wagging also helps dogs communicate their rank in hierarchy.  Dogs are social animals and have a need for hierarchies in which each dog holds a rank in the pack.  For example, dominant dogs will have their tails held high and wagging slightly when confronting strange dogs.  Lower ranking dogs will begin the encounter with their tails between their legs, wagging slightly.  Dominant dogs are allowed to eat first, explore new areas first, and so on.

As mentioned, a dog wags its tail for many different reasons and it’s important to understand the meaning behind these reasons.  Understanding why a dog wags its tail differently in different situations will assist you in communicating with your dog.

Jennifer Nicole Cox
Author of 500 Things That Make Dogs Happy
This guide to everything that makes a dog happy is required and inspired reading for anyone who has ever been, is now or ever will be owned by a dog.
Website: www.500thingsthatmakedogshappy.com

Cos
About Cos 5061 Articles
Marcos Cosme has had a love for writing and film since he was little. By combing those two passions, he started studying film early on in Middle School and High School writing screenplays and working in his High School television production studio. When it came time for college he decided to pursue a bachelors in Electronic Film making from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Marcos continues to be an avid watcher of movies and scripted television series, although he does, on occasion, watch some reality shows. He has watched hundreds of movies during the course of his life and has worked in various roles on small independent film projects, including writing, producing and directing. In his spare time Marcos loves to write screenplays, read books, contribute articles, blogs and reviews on various topics including (but obviously not limited to) movies, television, books, and wrestling; just to name a few. He is a Rabbit aficionado (he has a dwarf rabbit named Peanut-who is the logo of Cos' Blog) and is a Golden Retriever connoisseur (he has two Goldens named Cassie and Chloe). He also love to spend time with his wife and as of July of 2015 they welcomed their first child, Miles, who can occasionally be seen on the blog.

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