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Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail And What Does it Mean?

5 min read
Cover image for Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tail And What Does it Mean?

Hey there, fellow pet parents! Get ready to embark on a tail-wagging adventure as we dive into the fascinating world of why dogs wag their tails. It's time to uncover the secrets behind those wagging wonders and understand the language of tails!

Anatomy and Control of Tail Wagging

Let's start with tail anatomy. Dogs have tails of various shapes and sizes, from short and stubby to long and curly. But did you know that dogs have some degree of control over their tail wagging? It's like having a wagging joystick! Their tail wagging is controlled by a complex interplay between their nervous system and emotions, allowing them to wag at different speeds, angles, and even styles. So, just like human sign language, the way your dog wags their tail can tell you a lot about them.

The Purpose of a Dog's Tail

Now, you might be wondering, "What's the purpose of all that tail wagging?" Well, our dear readers, dogs use their tails as a form of communication. It's their waggy language! When a dog wags its tail, it's like they're waving a flag to express their emotions, intentions, and overall mood. It's their way of saying, "Hey, I'm feeling something!" So, if you want to develop a closer bond with your pet, we highly recommend learning how to read tail language since it has been proven to aid in many interactions with your pet.

When Does Tail Wagging Start?

puppy wagging tail in garden

Puppies start to wag their tails at around three to four weeks of age. Initially, their wagging may be uncoordinated and sporadic, but as they grow and develop, their tail wagging becomes more purposeful and expressive. It's their way of conveying their emotions and interacting with the world around them.

Dog Tail Language

Prepare to be amazed by the art of tail communication! A wagging tail is not just a random movement; it has meaning. The position, speed, and motion of the wag can convey a wealth of information. For example, a low, slow wag usually indicates relaxation and friendliness, while a high, fast wag can signify excitement. There are so many different kinds of wags, and it’s impossible to cover everything, so we will try to cover the most common ones in this blog. Once you’re done reading this blog, you’ll be privy to the secret waggy code your pet often uses, so let’s not waste any time and get started.

Different Types of Wags and What Does it Mean?

dog wagging tail chart

1. The Happy Wag:

A fast-paced, wide, sweeping wag that covers a large range of motion. Meaning: Happiness, excitement, and pure joy. Your dog is over the moon to see you or experience something delightful.

2. The Relaxed Wag:

A slow, gentle wag that moves from side to side. Meaning: Contentment and relaxation. Your dog is in a peaceful state and is feeling comfortable and at ease.

3. The Nervous Wag:

A low, hesitant wag with a limited range of motion. Meaning: Anxiety, uncertainty, or nervousness. Your dog may be feeling stressed or uncomfortable in certain situations.

4. The Alert Wag:

A stiff, vertical tail that is held high. Meaning: Heightened alertness and attentiveness. Your dog is focused and ready to react to potential danger.

5. The Submissive Wag:

  • A low, tucked-under wag with slow movements.
  • Meaning: Submissiveness or fear. Your dog may be displaying a submissive gesture, indicating that they recognize a higher social ranking or feel intimidated.

6. The Playful Wag:

A bouncy, energetic wag accompanied by a playful stance. Meaning: Eagerness to engage in playtime and have fun. Your dog is inviting you or other dogs to join in the joyful activity.

7. The Curious Wag:

A tilted head with a slight wag and perked ears. Meaning: Curiosity and interest in something they're observing or investigating. Your dog is intrigued and trying to gather more information. This is a sign for you to start keeping your footwear out of your pet’s reach unless you want to buy a new one every other week 😉 Interestingly, studies show that apart from the frequency of wagging, dogs wag their tails to the right when happy and relaxed, and to the left when alert and frightened. So, apart from their wagging, do note the direction of the tails as well. Remember that the messages conveyed also depend on the speed, frequency and direction of the wagging as well! Happy interpreting! 🐶


Appreciating the significance of tail wagging goes beyond just interpreting their emotions. It enables us to create a stronger bond with our dogs and respond appropriately to their needs. By observing their tail language, we can adjust our approach, offer reassurance when needed, or give them space when they feel uneasy. This understanding contributes to a harmonious and fulfilling relationship between humans and our pets.

So, the next time you see your dog wagging its tail, take a moment to appreciate the intricate language they are speaking. Observe their tail movements, pay attention to their overall body language, and continue to deepen your bond through this unique form of communication. By being attentive and responsive to their cues, we can truly understand and connect with our beloved best doggos on a deeper level.