WHAT'S UP WITH ALL THAT TAIL WAGGING?
As a professional dog walker and pet care provider, one of the things that never gets old when walking dogs is seeing a dogs tail wag like crazy when you arrive. Clearly at that moment in time, I am their favorite person. But, have you ever really wondered what it means when you see a dog’s tail wag? Usually most of us assume it means they’re super happy. But there are a number of reasons why dogs wag their tails and some might surprise you.
First of all, dogs use their tails for a variety of things. One is for balance. That’s right, when maneuvering around corners or navigating narrow surfaces dogs use their tails to stabilize and maintain balance. It’s also very useful when in water and swimming more effectively. However useful having a tail is though, it’s obviously not essential as there are many dogs without tails too. Think Boxers, Pugs, Rottweilers..
Another main purpose of a dog’s tail is to communicate. Dogs generally don’t wag their tails when observed alone. It’s only when other dogs are around or humans that we see any kind of tail action. Most people assume that if a dog’s tail is wagging it’s a signal of the dog being “happy”. And although often this is the case, not all tail wagging is positive. Tails wagging can mean anything from excitement and playfulness (usually displayed as a higher wag) to fear and insecurity (usually a lower wag).
What’s interesting is that scientists have discovered if a dog’s tail is wagging on the right side of the body, the dog is usually more curious and excited. But, if its tail is wagging on the left side of their body, it’s an indication the dog is most likely nervous or scared. If a dog is wagging their tail out of anxiety or fear; a human rushing towards them could be interpreted as a threat, resulting in an aggressive response. Often, if a dog is submissive and insecure they’ll tuck their tail between their legs. The professional dog walkers out there I am certain pay close attention to which way a tail in a waggin’!
Above all it’s always important to not assume that just because a dog appears friendly and has a tail wagging like crazy, it’s a cue for us to run up and pet them. Kids are notorious for assuming this means “Come pet me!” yet unfortunately the dog may or may not be on the same page. Always approach unknown dogs with caution and always ask the owners if it’s ok to pet their dogs.
Shaley Howard is the Owner and Pack Leader of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care. She and her team have been providing daily dog walks and loving, reliable, trustworthy pet care since 2006. Bringing much needed relief and joy to pets - and a sense of peace and comfort to pet owners. For additional information about Scratch N’ Sniff and areas of Portland they service go to www.scratchnsniffpdx.com.