It almost sounds like the beginning of a catchy pop tune: Why do dogs wag their tails?
Most people have heard similar tunes that turn such musings – why do birds sing, for example – into multi-generational hits. But, have you ever really thought about what it means when a dog wags his tail?
Why do dogs wag their tails?
Dogs use their tails to communicate with both people and other dogs. Dogs, who do not have tails, often approach other dogs with extreme caution because they have no way to communicate with the other dogs.
Unlike their human family members, dogs cannot communicate their thoughts and their emotions with words. As a result, their tails are an important means of communication. Dogs may wag their tails to express their happiness, to ask for food, to show agitation, and to tell you to stop because they’ve had enough with your antics.
It’s also important for those with dogs – and those who may just encounter dogs during their everyday lives – to know how to interpret the meaning of a wagging tail. That means understanding a dog’s body language.
A happy dog may wag his tail back and forth quickly while he’s jumping up and down, shaking his head, or barking excitedly.
An angry or an agitated dog may wag his straight tail back and forth while the rest of his body becomes stiff and he stares straight ahead. He might also growl.
A scared dog may put his tail between his legs.
In addition to communicating, dogs also wag their tails to distribute their natural scent from their anal glands when they are in strange or different areas. If you notice a dog walking with his tail between his legs, he may be afraid. And, with his tail between his legs, he cannot distribute his scent thus protecting himself from what he perceives to be danger.
Because a dog’s tail is akin to a social cue, dogs generally do not wag their tails when they are alone.
All dogs have different signals as to whether they are friendly or are open to being touched. As a result, your best bet is to always ask another dog’s owner if it is okay for you to reach down and pet their dog. That way, you ensure your safety and the dog’s safety.
Do you know how to interpret why your dog wags his tail?