Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

If you are like most people, when you see a dog’s tail wagging, you assume that they are happy, or are feeling sociable. However, according to the experts, when you see a dog’s tail wagging it could mean so much more than this. Dogs use their tail to communicate with other dogs and to humans, but they aren’t always trying to say something positive with their tails. In fact, misinterpreting a dog’s wagging tail can get you in trouble. Let’s take a moment to examine the possibilities of why your dog wags his tail.

Why Does My Dog Wag His Tail?

All of the following emotions are a possibility when your dog is wagging his tail.

  • Your dog could be happy.
  • Your dog could be feeling nervous.
  • Your dog might be feeling threatened.
  • Your dog may be feeling some anxiety.
  • Your dog is showing you submissiveness.
  • Your dog is excited!

How Do I Know Which Emotion My Dog Is Expressing?

With completely opposite possibilities, it is important to be able to distinguish additional cues and determine what could be going on. To begin, pay attention to the pace and motion of your dog’s tail.

  • If your dog feels afraid or is being subservient, the position of its tail may be held down a bit and is wagging a little between its legs.
  • Your dog may be happy and excited about something if it is holding its tail up high and is wagging it quickly.
  • If your dog is holding its tail stiff and straight out, it may be in an aggressive mode.

What About a Relaxed Tail?

Your dog may be feeling as relaxed as his tail appears. Keep in mind that a relaxed tail may appear different on various breeds of dogs. Some dogs have naturally curly tails, while others have short and stiff tails.

When your dog’s emotions get stirred up, his tail will begin to wag.


Research presented by the AKC suggests that the side of your dog’s body in which he wags his tail the most can help you figure out what he may be feeling. When a dog is wagging its tail primarily toward the right side, it feels more relaxed. When the tail is being wagged to the left side, stress or anxiety may be what your dog is experiencing.

Keep in Mind

  • Dogs don’t just use their tails to communicate with humans and other animals. A dog’s tail provides it with stability and balance.
  • Avoid petting a dog or letting a child pet a dog that you are unfamiliar with, just because you see their tail wagging. As mentioned, this doesn’t always mean the dog is feeling happy and excited.


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