Dogs wag their tail to communicate with humans and other animals. Often, it seems fairly obvious what the dog is trying to tell you when he wags his tail.
Most people look at a dog with a wagging tail and assume he is happy. While this is usually true, there are times when a dog wags his tail right before he becomes aggressive. It is important that you pay attention to how the dog is holding his tail when he’s wagging it. Where the tail is and the way a dog holds his body while he’s wagging it can give you a clue about what he is trying to communicate. You should also pay attention to other signs in the dog’s body language.
Happy Tail Wagging
Is the dog’s tail relaxed and moving back and forth? Is his body moving along with the wagging? If a dog is wagging his tail and the rest of his body seems relaxed or is moving along with the wagging, you are probably dealing with a happy, comfortable dog. Happy, relaxed tail wagging is usually accompanied by a happy facial expression. A happy dog usually has bright eyes, a relaxed open mouth, and possibly a gentle pant.
Other Reasons for Tail Wagging
Is the dog’s tail high and moving in back and forth motion while the dog’s body remains fairly erect and rigid? If a dog is holding his body erect and rigid while wagging his tail, he may be telling you that he’s feeling territorial or uncomfortable with something that is going on around him.
Left and Right Tail Wagging
Does it matter which direction a dog’s tail wags? One study shows it might matter when it comes to dog-to-dog communication. Researchers found that dogs had different emotional responses depending on whether another dog’s tail was wagging to the left or right. Dogs observing another dog wag to the right seemed to become relaxed. Dogs watching another dog with a left tail wag exhibited signs of nervousness, stress, or anxiety. This study shines some light on the way dogs interact with one another.