Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and your dog's tail provides valuables clues about her overall well-being. Although most people know that a wagging tail equates to a happy dog, your dog's tail can reveal much more than whether she's happy or not.
A wagging tail doesn't always mean a dog is happy to see you. When the tail is held low and your dog flicks just the tip, it frequently indicates fear-based aggression. A tail held very high and wagging may be the sign of a dog who's feeling extremely dominant. If the dog is also growling or displaying her hackles, she may be about to bite. But when the tail is relaxed and wagging frantically back and forth, it's a sure sign of a dog who's excited or happy.
Tail Held High
Dogs hold their tails high when they're feeling particularly confident. Taken alone, this behavioral cue may just mean that your dog thinks highly of himself. But dogs who hold their tails unusually high when meeting a new person or dog may be feeling aggressive or dominant.
Tail Held Low
A tucked tail indicates submission or fear, but a tail that is low and relaxed is a sure sign of a dog who is comfortable in her surroundings. Dogs who hold their tails low while growling or barking are indicating that they really don't want to bite or attack; their aggression is caused by fear rather than dominance.
Dogs often hold their tails stiff immediately before pursuing something. This may occur during a friendly game of chase or immediately before your dog attacks another dog. Any time you see your dog hold his tail stiff, however, it indicates that he's about to spring into action.
- Best Friends: Dog Body Language
- Paws Across America: How to Interpret Your Dog's Body Language, Facial Expressions and Vocalizations
- Canine Body Language; Brenda Aloff
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.