Dog behavior includes dog tail talk, but this goes far beyond a happily wagging tail. In fact, dogs probably understand us better than we understand them. Canine tail talk and body language varies between dog breeds, but are only a small part of the canine language. Misunderstanding what your dog is trying to tell you could get you bitten—and spoil your loving bond.
Understanding Dog Tail Talk And Behavior
Why Tail Talk Matters
Dog talk includes a combination of scent, sign language, and woofs that people simply don’t understand. Communication is designed to help secure your dog’s social position in your family. And since dogs love us, and we love them, their family group includes humans as well as other dogs or animals.
Dogs express their emotions and intentions, all with the wriggle or sweep of a tail. By reading what his back end does, you can figure out when your dog is happy or if a strange dog may attack. It’s vital that not only you but your kids also learn to interpret dog tail talk to keep them safe from strange dogs as well as an aggravated family pet.
Most dog owners assume a wagging tail means a happy dog and an invitation to pet. But dog tail wags signal a wide range of things, with some serving as warnings to back off or face the consequences.
Dogs with short tails or none at all still use some of these signals, simply “wagging” their rear end. However, dogs don’t just “talk” from one end of their body, but use a whole repertoire of signals that must be read together, to understand the true intent. What the tail says depends to a great degree on what the rest of the body is doing.
Your relaxed dog may hold his tail in a gentle downward curve in a U. His tail goes higher and higher with interest. He may also wag his tail from time to time depending on the level of curiosity. If you want to pet a dog, whether he’s you’re pet or one you met at a park, make sure he has a downward curved tail to indicate that he’s relaxed and open for some scratching.
If you observe your pet’s reaction when you meet him after a long time apart, you’ll notice his raised tail wagging vigorously. This means he’s excited and happy to see you again. This wagging tail may also be accompanied by bouncing with his tongue sticking out.
Dogs hold their tails high, and wag rapidly in tight sharp arcs when they’re confident or in a group where they feel in control. Some dogs do this when they are in running around in packs. If you observe the pack, the alpha will most likely have his tail tall and high.
Beware of tightly arched tails that jerk the tail tip very quickly. That’s typical of aggressive dogs. Usually you can see the tail held so high, it’s visible between the dog’s ears as he faces you.
5. Imminent Attack
A high-held stiff tail signals an imminent attack. The dog may or may not include aggressive facial or vocal expressions such as snarls and growls. If you see this on any dog, including a family pet, usher your children away from the immediate area right away.
A low-held tail signals submission—sort of an expression of “I’m no threat, leave me alone!” It can also mean fear. Dogs show their social standing is lower than you (or another dog) with wide low wags, so loose they often include hip wags as well.
7. Crying Uncle
Tucking the tail between the legs signals submission and fear. It hides the dog’s nether regions and prevents investigative sniffing from other dogs he may fear.
Frightened dogs bite more often than confident canines, usually in reaction to being cornered and unable to get away from the scary situation.
Tail Shape & Conformation Matters
Educate yourself on the meaning of a dog wagging its tail. https://t.co/1zvwAvW2On
— Addison Nolan (@addisonnolann) July 24, 2017
There are more than 400 dog breeds recognized around the world. Some are born without tails, others have tails removed, and still, others have curled to straight tails. Each of these, plus dog breed personalities, influences the tail semaphore signals and influences how and what dogs say.
For example, dog breeds such as Siberian Huskies or Pugs with curled tails automatically “signal” confidence or even dominance to other canines, whether they truly feel that way or not. Tailless dogs literally have one avenue of communication cut off.
Please learn to recognize these common tail talk signals. Teach your children to know what your dog’s tail says, too. That way, everyone can “listen” to your dog and avoid potential problems, and make sure both the two-legged and four-legged family members stay happy.
Are you fluent in Dog Tail Talk? Let us know your story in the comment section below!