Doggy language, what is my dog's tail telling me?

Updated 16 April 2024
Read time: 2 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham

dog carrying supplements tail up


When reading our dog’s body language, we often feel as though we need an interpreter! However, if we take the time to learn what is ‘the normal’ for them and closely examine their behaviour, we can learn a whole lot.


Deciphering body language helps us to form a closer bond with our dog and to understand them better. It is a vital part of avoiding conflict and reducing anxiety and stress. Read on to learn about all of the different things your dog’s tail can tell you.


The different tail positions


  • The Neutral Tail. Depending on your dog’s breed, their tail will naturally hang in a certain manner when they are relaxed. This may be curled high over their back (like in the case of the Spitz) or hanging low down (like with the Great Dane). Take heed of your dog’s tail position when they are calm. This makes for a good ‘starting point’ to compare other tail positions from.


  • The Wagging Tail. While most assume that a wagging tail is a happy tail, this is not always the case. A tail that wags indicates excitement and interest. However, it can potentially be a sign of anxiety or frustration. Take note of the speed and direction of the wag and take into account the rest of your dog’s body posture.


  • The Tucked in Tail*. When a dog has their tail tucked between their legs, this indicates fear or worry. They are not feeling confident.


*It is important to note that a tail that is frequently tucked for no apparent reason could be a sign of a medical issue such as an anal gland infection or tail injury.


  • The Twitching Tail. A twitchy or erratic tail movement can be a sign that your dog is feeling stressed. This sort of tail movement is not uncommon in nerve-wracking situations such as during vet visits or when fireworks are going off overhead.


  • The Tail that Stands Tall. If your dog is holding their tail high up, they are probably feeling confident and are alert to their surroundings. They may be assessing their environment or simply letting the world know they’re feeling good!




What if my dog’s tail is docked?


While tail docking is largely falling out of fashion, some dogs will have been docked as pups or will have had to have their tail removed for medical reasons. This can make reading your dog’s body language harder. In this scenario, it’s important we learn to read other cues such as our dog’s body position, facial expression and their demeanour as a whole.

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