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Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

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Have you ever looked at your pet and wondered, why do dogs wag their tails? And why your dog seems to have so many different tail wags that indicate he’s using that waggy behavior as body language? In this post, we’re talking all about your dog’s tail end and what exactly it means when he wags his tail. 

As pet parents, we’ve been taught, for some reason, that tail-wagging is always a good thing. It means our dog is happy as he wags away. But, the truth is, interpreting your dog’s body language and the meaning behind his tail wags is more complicated than that. Your dog does use his tail to communicate, but it’s not always a positive message. And, not all dogs wag their tails in the same way! 

How Do Dogs Learn to Wag Their Tails? 

Experts believe that tail-wagging is both a learned behavior that’s taught in social settings and innate at birth. This is because most puppies don’t actually start wagging their tail ends until they’re close to a month and a half old. When observed, dogs seem to develop the behavior as they get older -- taking social cues from their momma dog. 

Tails used to serve a simple purpose for our pets. Your dog has a tail to help him balance. It’s designed by his body to keep him agile and upright, so he doesn’t topple over. But, over time, as dogs have evolved, tails have grown to play an important role in dog body language and are now an essential part of the way Fido communicates. 

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

Your dog wags his tail to let the world know what he is feeling. It’s one of the ways he communicates through dog body language. Our pets wag their tails at other dogs, at us people, and at other animals. But don’t expect to see Fido wagging his tail when he’s on his own. Dogs only wag their tails when they’re around others -- just like you’re less likely to smile or use body language when you’re in a room by yourself. 

Dogs are incredibly in tune with each other’s feelings because they’re amazing at reading dog body language. This helps them get along, avoid unnecessary conflicts and meet new pets without getting stressed. Tail wagging plays a big role in this ‘dog talk.’

How To Interpret Your Dog’s Tail Wagging & Dog Body Language

If you’re hoping to get a read on your dog’s body language and figure out what he’s communicating with his tail wags, it’s a good idea to keep research in mind. Scientists have studied dogs and their tail-wagging behaviors to try and intercept their meaning. What they’ve found is that the direction, speed, and position of your dog’s tail are key.

Tail Wagging Direction

Did you know that Fido can wag his tail both clockwise and counterclockwise? If you’ve never paid attention to the direction in which your dog is wagging, take a closer look! It’s a good indicator of his mood. Studies show that dogs typically wag their tails to the right when they’re in a happy, playful mood. Dogs tend to wag their tails to the left when they’re stressed, agitated, or about to get aggressive. Before you approach a wagging dog, check to make sure he’s wagging in the ‘right’ direction!

Tail Wagging Position

Your doggo kees his tail at a different height depending on his mood. Typically, lower tails, in between his leg, indicate that Fido is intimidated or anxious. A neutral height means neutral or happy feelings. And if your pup has his tail sky high, it means he is on high alert and on edge. Pay attention to your dog’s tail position to help you gauge what he’s communicating. 

Tail Wagging Speed

The speed at which your dog wags his tail is also a good metric to pay attention to! In general, it’s safe to say that the faster the tail wag, the more excited the dog. But, that doesn’t always equate to happy excitement. Your dog could be aggressively excited, or anxiously excite, so keep that in mind, If your pp is slowly or subtly wagging his tail, it likely means he is curious or unsure and wants to investigate the situation a bit more before determining his mood. 

Common Tail Wags & What They Might Mean

When you’re trying to communicate with your dog and want to better understand your pet, there is plenty of research to suggest that most dogs express their feelings with similar tail wags. So, here are some common wagging styles and what they likely mean your dog is trying to tell you:

  • General Tail Wagging: If your pup is wagging his tail gently, slowly, and in a neutral position, chances are he’s feeling perfectly fine. This is a good indicator that your dog is content and he’ll welcome your attention.

  • High, Rigid Tail Wagging: If your pup’s tail is at full height and is completely straight, chances are he is agitated. This means your dog is on guard and poised to take action if he feels more threatened. Be mindful of a dog with his tail wagging in this position before making an approach. 

  • Short, Quick Tail Wagging: Fast tail wags mean that your dog is excited. The important thing to note, when your pup is wagging his tail at a fast speed is the position in which his tail is sitting. A high tail at a fast speed means your dog is anxious or agitated. A medium height or low tail at a fast speed means your dog is thrilled to see you and happy to interact. 

  • Rigid, Horizontal Tail Wagging: This probably means your dog is curious! This is the position in which he’ll keep his tail when he’s investigating, sniffing things out, and trying to get a better feel for the situation. 

Sudden Stops in Tail Wagging: If your dog was wagging away and suddenly stops his tail movements, this means he’s on high alert! Something grabbed his attention and made him concerned that he needs to pay close attention to his surroundings. 

Pet Honesty Products To Support Your Dog

As you learn more about your pet and his dog body language, take care to support his mental and emotional health with the proper nutrition. Feed your dog a balanced diet, filled with whole food ingredients and a blend of animal protein, fat, fiber, and carbs that’s right for your dog. A great way to ensure your dog is consuming all of the nutrients he needs each and every day is to add a multivitamin to his diet. 

Try Pet Honesty 10-for-1 Multivitamin to help you do just that. It’s formulated with all the vitamins, minerals, and healthy compounds your dog needs, plus added probiotics to help with digestion.

Another way you can support your dog, especially if you’re worried about his stress levels or anxiety is to add fish oil to his diet. The Omega Fatty Acids in fish oil help promote mood balance and have been shown to benefit occasionally anxious pets. 

Try adding Pet Honesty Salmon Oil with Hemp to your dog’s bowl. It’s formulated with Salmon oil to help put your dog in a good mood, plus hemp oil, which helps soothe and calm your stressed pet thanks to its natural calming compounds. This blend is the perfect addition to your dog’s diet if you notice his tail-wagging communication indicates that he is anxious, unsure, or stressed.