What a dog’s tail tells
There are many different shapes and sizes of tail amongst the various dog breeds. This is due to selective breeding and mutations of the original wolf tail. The tail is an extension of the spinal column and also acts as a stabiliser when the dog moves, especially when running or making tight and fast turns. The tail also plays an important role in body language and canine communication.
Does a wagging tail mean a happy dog?
It does sometimes. But not necessarily. Tail wagging is simply a sign of arousal for a number of reasons. The dog may be happy and excited, or may be nervous and fearful. Aggressive dogs barking at fences are often wagging their tails, but this doesn’t mean they’re happy to see you or that it is safe to enter their yard or pet them. The position of the tail, along with the rest of the dog’s body language needs to be considered before knowing what frame of mind the dog is in. Make sure your children know that just because a dog is wagging its tail, it doesn’t mean he is friendly or safe to pet. It’s best to be on the safe side and not pat unknown dogs without the owner’s permission.
Generally, a tail carried high and pointing straight upwards is associated with confidence and dominance, such as when meeting another dog. A low carried tail is generally associated with submission and / or fear. It is important to note that dominance and submission are not always the same as aggression and fear.
While the signals of a tail are very clear with most breeds, there are several breeds that have natural bobbed tails or curled tails. While tail docking is now illegal there are still a few dogs with docked tails around too. Dogs with these kinds of tails are likely to have communication problems when it comes to other dogs being able to correctly read their body language. The tail plays an important part in the whole body language system.
When reading your dog’s body language and considering the tail, what the rest of the dog’s body is doing should be taken into account as well. This includes body position, ears, mouth and eyes. These will be discussed in a future article.