Tail Wagging 101: How to Interpret Doggy Tail Language

Tails are things that make us different for our dog buddies and considered to be their considerably charming characteristics. It is also a tool that allows us, people, to communicate with them.

Yes, you read it right. The tail is not only a part of their body but plays a significant role in their communication process. Similar to babies, dogs gradually comprehend their language through time. They are not immediately born with knowledge already on how to properly communicate, but rather they gradually recognize this as they mature. It does not restrict though between their own species, but it can demonstrate a hint to tell humans how they feel.

Tails are the greatly expressive aspect of their body and serve a powerful language by breaking the communication barrier between humans. One can effortlessly tell a dog is loves their owners by observing their bodies. However, taking a moment to analyze tails, could give as a glimpse of their various moods and what they totally feel. 

Learning the basics of tail wagging could entice you with some powerful information about when they are unhappy, satisfied, exhausted, or frightened just by their tails’ movement. Hence, in this article, understanding a few tricks written below will further help you appreciate the language of your furry best friend. 

Tail Wagging 101

They are Not Always Happy 

Opposing to the popular belief, wagging tails of dogs is not immediately interpreted as an indication of happiness. Hence, the overall interpretation of the tail wagging must be accompanied by other signs of the body demonstrated. For instance, ear position or tense facial expressions are other crucial signs to consider, as well. 

Direction of Wagging

As experts say, the direction could mean much more than we think. Left and right directions have signs to tell us humans of how our dogs are feeling.

Right direction, a dog could probably intend to implicate that they feel happy or have seen or encountered things or person they are familiar with. While left means your dog is attempting to demonstrate dominance to things or someone he is unfamiliar with.

Identifying Moods

Scientifically, the dog’s tails’ main tool is to provide equilibrium by serving as the counterpart of four front body parts. It allows the dogs not to easily fall off, especially when running fast or when hunting. Now, after many years of research, many experts have proven some useful tips to identify and properly understand the languages that our furry buddy tries to tell us.

Position of the Tail

Straight Up

It could entail that a dog is prepared or in rage. This position shows alertness, and they are ready to jump whatever or whoever that enmesh their attention. They do this way when they feel or saw a challenge from humans, or with other dogs. It helps to restrain them for a while until they calmed down.

Moving Up

When their tails are perked up, it could mean they are showing proudness and feeling literally perky. It could also be classified as a sign of aggression and is showing humans or other dogs that they are dominant and tries to intimidate others in claiming authority. 

Straight Out from Behind

If their tails are positioned straight behind, it could mean your dogs are curious. They feel suspicious about something they are skeptical about. Nothing is certain, though, the only thing to do is to allow him to figure things out and hang on to its strap. 

Tail Down

When the tail moves from a neutral position and lowers down, it could indicate that the dog is demonstrating a sign of submission. If it has done in front of you, it only illustrates that they recognized your authority and relatively frightened of you.

If the head turned down, it could instruct you that he is feeling sad. There are breeds of dogs that are highly sensitive. Be much tender in imposing discipline. Their tail should serve you a warning. 

Halted Tail Position

When dogs stop wagging their tails, it could signal you that they are negotiating. Most commonly, this scenario happens when the dog is touched by a stranger. They usually transmit a signal that they are not interested in any interaction with them. It is actually a threat but without the intention of the dog to be aggressive. 

Tail Between the Legs

If your dog is positioned in between their legs, it is already a sign of extreme sadness or embarrassment. Most of the time, they manifest such behavior of they have done terribly bad, destroying your personal stuff or pooped inside the house, for instance. 

It could also indicate that they feel ashamed after being scolded. At this point, show some love to your furry buddy to bring back their natural mood and restore their confidence.

Relaxed Tail

No need to worry, if your dog shows this kind of tail position, it positively implies that they are highly satisfied and pleased. When they feel relaxed, their tails and overall body language exhibit this.

Observe a dog sleeping; its tail is in a relaxed position, revealing he is in an absolutely peaceful moment. It is likewise a sign of showing trust not only humans but similarly to other animals as well. 

Speed of Wagging

Minor Tail Wagging

This may express feelings of insecurity, especially during awkward situations like meeting new people or dogs. The dog may be confused about where to stand and how to act. For instance, he may show signs of nervousness of whether to behave dominantly or submissive.  

Energetically Wagging

This kind of wagging only implies your dog is very excited and in extreme happiness. The faster it wags, the more they are pleased and excited. Typically, this kind of wagging is accompanied by active body language such as jumping or delighted kisses.

Very Fast and Vertical Position

Vertically positioned tail accompanied by extremely fast wagging has a significant difference from the previous. It actually suggests that they are about to show aggression. Your dog must have recognized a potential active danger like a stranger human or animals. Hold them tight, or your dog may bite this threat, person or not. 

Freely Wagging

If your dog has shown signs of wagging in a free manner, it may indicate that they are happy and friendly. If you observe more, this wagging may be accompanied by shaking of hips. 

Tail Communication Difference

Similar to humans, dogs have their personal habits and behavior that deviate from other dogs. The positioning of tails and other movements will be much easier to understand as you get to recognize your furry pal adequately. However, if encountered with a stranger dog, following basic information of tail wagging and overall body clues should be applied to avoid getting bitten or provoke aggressiveness when trying to approach. 


Tail wagging enables us; humans understand further about how our beloved dogs feel within. Learning their way of communicating with us could assist a more harmonious connection between dogs and people. 

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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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