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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Beyond the Wag: What Your Dog's Tail is Really Saying

As dog owners, we are often taught to interpret tail wags as a sign of happiness or excitement in our furry friends. However, not all tail wags are created equal, and it's important to understand the subtle nuances in your dog's body language to better understand their emotional state.


First, it's important to note that a dog's tail position can tell you a lot about how they are feeling. A tail held high and wagging gently usually indicates a friendly, happy dog. A tail held low and wagging slowly, on the other hand, could indicate fear, anxiety, or nervousness.


It's also important to pay attention to the speed and direction of the wag. A fast, broad wag usually means excitement and happiness, while a slow, stiff wag could indicate caution or even aggression. A tail that is tucked between the legs is usually a sign of fear.


But what about those tail wags that seem to be somewhere in between? It's important to look at your dog's overall body language to determine their emotional state. If your dog is tense, with their ears back and body rigid, even a tail wag could indicate fear or anxiety. Similarly, a dog who is growling or showing teeth while wagging their tail could be expressing fear aggression.


It's also important to remember that dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs, not just with humans. So even if you are used to interpreting your dog's tail wags as a sign of happiness, it may not always be the case when they are interacting with other dogs.


In addition to tail wags, there are many other subtle cues in a dog's body language that can tell you how they are feeling. Learning to read and interpret these cues can help you better understand your dog's emotional state and improve your communication with them.


So next time you see your dog wagging their tail, take a moment to consider what they might be trying to tell you. And remember, not all tail wags are happy wags.

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