Dear Labby: Dog Tail Wagging
Last week we rescued a 5-year old mutt from the shelter. She’s a great dog and we’re having lots of fun with her. My question is about her tail. It never seems to be wagging and always seems to be hanging low and sometimes it is even tucked between her legs. Does this mean she is unhappy with us? Afraid of us? Can you help?
A tail wag is a very important means of communication in a dog. They have many different types of wags and a recent study showed that even the direction the tail wags says something. But first, your new addition…congratulations on your new family member and kudos for saving a dog from the shelter. Given that you’ve only had her a few days, her hanging or tucked tail might just be a sign of confusion and a little anxiety. Remember, first she was in a home, then the shelter (where it’s pretty stressful) and now in a new home. That’s a lot of change for a dog. Give her some time and space and I bet her tail will be wagging like crazy.
What about those different tail wags? My Labradors have big thick tails and they are usually wagging all the time just because Labs tend to be big goofy, happy dogs. Their happy wag is just a big slow side to side wag and their tail is about even with their back. That’s the Happy tail wag.
If the tail dips lower and wags a little faster – that’s a bit of a mix between happy and anxious. Tail tucked is fearful or anxious.When we first got our Maggie, her tail was always tucked. I’m happy to say, she wags almost as much as Jack now!
A stiff tail either straight up or straight back can be a sign of aggression. When Jack is chasing the crows off the front yard, his tail is straight up. I could always tell when our dog Tino had a critter because his tail would be stick straight and wagging like a pendulum.
You are right to read your dog’s tail wag – it is a barometer of how they feel and can help you work with them.
Best of Luck – keep us posted!
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